A Tisane, A Tisane, We All Fall Down


I thought I'd played coffee pretty well. I didn't start drinking hot drinks until I was well into my thirties. While the rest of you suckers were slurping through jars of instant to get through your GCSEs, I was holding back on the caffeine front (if not the fags and booze). Then, as forty staggered over the horizon - yawning and rubbing its aching joints - I unleashed the caffeine.

Preparation had begun with suckling from buckets of decaf soy latte with sugar-free hazelnut syrup, which I now appreciate is about as many types of wrong as you can fit in one cup. Then we went to Crete and I wasn't about to ask a Greek for decaf so OHMYGODCAFFEINE! I CAN SEE SOUNDS! NOBODY TOLD ME! Ok, everybody told me and it's widely documented in popular culture, but I spend a lot of time outside, walking and gardening and thinking my thoughts, and I can be resistant to such things. Because I am a woman of extremes, I went straight to triple espressos - unsullied by milk or sugar - without passing cappucino. I swear, I got more done in the hour after my first ever espresso than in the previous three decades combined. And it involved a lot of caps lock. CAFFEINE IS AMAZING. 


At around about the same time I also stopped not drinking alcohol because, in a reversal of many people's use of black coffee to sober up, I found an evening glass of wine was sometimes helpful to counteract the caffeine jitters. While I love the taste, I hate the dopey, clumsy, soporific effects of alcohol but I hate not sleeping too. This didn't strike me as a wholly healthy way to achieve stasis, even though most people don't seem to think twice about it. I also hate being dependent on anything and after just a few weeks of having a triple espresso every morning, I went without one and immediately developed an almighty headache that even made my face, neck and shoulders hurt. NO-CAFFEINE SUCKS! I experimented to see how long it would last. On day five I gave up and had the damn coffee, after which the pain immediately dissipated. Using stimulant plant extracts to facilitate frenetic bouts of writing and creating is one thing, requiring them just to get out of bed is quite another. 


So I decided to put coffee back in its place and rediscover some other herbal infusions - ones I can also grow myself for free and fewer food miles. I had three different needs from them: the soothing ritual of making a hot drink, a stimulating alternative to caffeine for mornings, a calming counterbalance to caffeine for evenings.

I don't like black or green tea and tend to only drink mint and lemon balm which I grow in profusion and which are mildly enlivening/calming respectively, but I get bored of them so I bought Homegrown Tea for some inspiration. I also went to Plants with Purpose and The Secret Herb Garden for legendarily pacifying chamomile to go along with the borage I already grow, and the recommended more palatable versions of allegedly mentally stimulating sage (pineapple and tangerine) and thyme (orange).


I love my little moka pot and cafetière with knitted cosy, despite the latter being widely mocked by the teenagers of the house ('Most middle class item ever invented' apparently). Rather than making my tisanes in a tea pot, I experimented with infusing herbs in the French press and tougher, waxier ones in the espresso pot. Both seem to work excellently. The taste of the thymes and sages takes some getting used to as a beverage, but is not at all unpleasant.

As with puddings, I've never been a fan of fruit flavours other than citrus, and it occurred to me that my favourite flower flavours might translate to tisanes too. I have plenty of lavender now and am planting more roses this winter so it just feels luxurious rather than wildly extravagant. I think a lot of people might find it to be too much like drinking bath water, but I like it. Those associations are probably soothing too.


Liversidge suggests honeysuckle and I was immediately smitten. I bought two new honeysuckles last year to replace the ancient one I cut back to the ground, but that one came back with a vengeance - threatening to engulf the whole house. I also decided to try and train a white honeysuckle to grow from elder to elder next year, so honeysuckle should be plentiful enough to consume. How beautiful does honeysuckle tea sound? I like to have one floating on top for visual effect.

None of these cups of slightly scented water will facilitate five villanelles and a screenplay before breakfast but you'll probably sleep better. 

Sacred Bloody Blackcurrant Jam


This is the purpose of tart fruits: to be eaten with game and mackerel.
This is the purpose of sweet spreads: to be eaten in the pantry, alone, with a spoon.
But each year, my husband stakes a claim to all the blackcurrants from the garden
and makes them into horrible purple-smeary jam that he eats on toast, three slices at a time.
He gets sad if I give the horrible jam away to other people.
I am in charge of jar labelling so I write horrible things on the horrible jam to remind me not to.

Psychogeography and Stealth Photography

(Behind the scenes shot taken by my walking companion. No, I don't own a hairbrush and, yes, my calf muscles are as big as my thigh muscles because walking)

I constantly forget that not everyone walks everywhere. I have always done a few things that are considered quite eccentric - grown food amongst the roses in my front garden, had seagulls in my bathtub, not sent my kids to school etc - and people who don't know me are often amazed to discover that I have walked the eight miles to wherever we are, that I will walk the eight miles back home again.

It is the biggest luxury of my life that I have time to do such things. Occasionally I don't and will be forced to jump on a bus which I find mildly degrading. Some places I nearly always go by bus - at least one way - because they're far enough to make my forty year old joints hurt. Even if they're twenty miles away though, I need to have walked there at least once. How will I know where I am if I've never walked there?

Once I read that when you get a new dog - or stay somewhere new with your dog - the first thing you should do is take it out and walk the entire neighbourhood, so it can work out what this place is. And so the human. Walking everywhere is so completely and deeply ingrained in me, it's like eating and breathing. If you want to watch me go rapidly mad, take me to a house with no pedestrian access - they exist! - and leave me there. Ironically, one of the main reasons I live in the city instead of the middle of a hundred acres of Caledonian forest, is so I don't need a car. I never even learnt to drive. I grew up twelve miles from central London so who needs a car for that? As soon as I was in double figures I started following the little Thames tributary at the bottom of our suburban lane. By the time I was in my teens, I had realised it was wholly possible to walk all the way to my grandparents' house in Fulham and since I had walked from there to Trafalgar Square in an hour already, I only had to join the two routes. Then I found Regent Street which led to Regent Park and the wolf enclosure on the edge of London Zoo where my dad used to take me on the bus, then the aviaries on the canal path to Camden where I had been to the market with friends on the Tube. Walking joins up all these isolated locations, events, memories into a map, like neuron pathways.

When I moved to Edinburgh with a new baby, I strapped him onto my front and spent all day every day walking all over the city, working it out.  Large scale I mapped green spaces on the seven hills and the Meadows, water at the seaside and the docks, exotic flora and fauna in the zoo and the Botanics, but, just as importantly, on a smaller scale I noted every local shop, neighbour, tree.  Now I take for granted the intimacy I have with the many routes I walk regularly, the buildings, gardens and people I know only from seeing them day after day, year after year.

Off-road, in Britian at least, there is a camaraderie amongst walkers. Even in the middle of the city, you say 'Good Morning' to people you pass if you are walking on the Crags instead of Princes Street. You remark on the weather or the steepness or the wildlife. On the pavement this only tends to be facilitated by the presence of children, dogs or particularly adverse weather conditions. Although I am forever stopping to compliment and question anyone in the act of gardening and stylish women over the age of forty, but perhaps this is another eccentricity.

On the subject of both gardens and stylish women over forty: a friend and I decided to visit Redhall Walled Garden on the other side of town.  As I had recently walked most of the way there while accompanying a canoeing party of friends along the canal on foot, it seemed feasible to eschew automobiles. Historically, I have had to deceive friends and family into walking further than they had planned by use of the phrase 'Let's just go to the next bus stop...' which they now all know means we will never, ever be getting on an actual bus. No such coercion was needed on this occasion as I had a willing participant, enthusiastic about going off bus route entirely.

Pavement pounding has its own merits, particularly the discovery of new and delicious things to eat - all of my favourite places were found by chance, while walking past - but cities usually have ample opportunities to escape the road for at least a while, and sometimes you can even find food opportunities there.. Edinburgh has not only numerous parks but a network of old railway paths, the Water of Leith walkway and a canal path that starts in the city centre and continues all the way to Glasgow. The Innertube map beautifully illustrates 75km of car-free paths open to cyclists and pedestrians. They can be combined to create an infinite number of direct-as-possible routes or meandering rambles.


To get to Redhall, I started - on a grey day - at Portobello beach in order to pick up a lentil and red onion hand pie from Twelve Triangles. In case this sounds disappointingly worthy, I should point out that usually all I buy from Twelve Triangles are the amazing hazelnut, coffee or rose custard doughnuts which are basically just light, sugared shells cupping so much filling that you have to go face down in them over a plate in the privacy of your own home. They're not walk food.


After a mile or two of road, I met my walking partner and we skirted around Arthur's Seat, 


then out the other side, opposite Salisbury Crags.


We crossed a few roads to the Meadows - good for the Susie's Wholefoods Wagon - 




and a couple more to join the start of the Union Canal path where The Counter on the Canal sells coffee and cake from a boat.



Then it was a straight walk along aqua and ducks to the aqueduct. 


We descended to the Water of Leith Walkway at the visitor centre (cake! coffee! alert! again!), and went a little way along it to the walls of the garden...


...which is such a beautiful place. Redhall is a six acre Scottish Association for Mental Health project which provides horticultural skills and experience for over fifty trainees. It's full of herbs and flowers, fruit and veg, willow bowers and quiet corners to sit. They sell plants and as I'd forgotten to buy the echinacea seeds that my husband had asked me to grow this year, I couldn't help purchasing a large, fully grown plant and carry it the two and a half hours home. I was fortified by lavender chocolate from Coco in Stockbridge that I'd made a two and a half hour round trip on the railway paths and Water of Leith Walkway for the day before. Because once you start walking, you won't stop.

Gooseberry Chutney


I don't know what it is with you people and your gooseberries,


fools...compotes, jams. I'm having none of it.


This year it's wine for the whites and chutney for the reds. While I find these tart fruits - heavily sweetened - make poor desserts, I quite like them zinging up a savoury dish, like this late brunch of fish and spinach curry with chapatis and gooseberry chutney.

More Barnacles, More Bones

Barnacles & Bones have left their police box and are serving the best street food in Edinburgh for the duration of the Fringe (no, nobody pays me to say these things - YOU CAN'T BUY MY LAMB-LOVE).

They have fantastic lamb short ribs and chips with great chimichurri...


plus delicious crab and sweetcorn fritters and lovely little lobster rolls.


You can find them at RBS, St Andrew's Square, by the Caorunn gin bar, conveniently.

La Vinegar

Because I am a bona fide dirty hippy, I clean my house with cuckoo spit and sunshine. Well, vinegar and scrubbing. Vinegar does not smell nice though, hence I invented:

Lavinegar 


('French up your lav, with Lavinegar!')

It goes really impressively purple and even colours the water in the toilet bowl. I still wouldn't wear it as cologne but it takes the edge off the Eau de Chippy a bit. In the past I've used a huge amount of essential oil but I've recently come to realise that spending that much money on little, blue bottles when you've got a garden full of big, blue bushes cannot actually be considered essential. 

(No, I don't use organic cider vinegar to clean my loo either - I just decant the five litre containers of white vinegar I bulk buy for cleaning, into the empty little bottles I used for food, so they're easier to handle.)

Basic Redcurrant Jelly


Redcurrant jelly is your pumpkin spice latte of home-grown, home-made condiments. Redcurrants are easy and beautiful to grow, fiddly and tart in puddings. Until discovering the miracle lifeblood that is redcurrant wine, we made them all into jelly. Post-rosé, I thought we had worked our jelly for the last time, but it turns out that while it might not always be the first choice to serve with meat (spiced crab apple jelly) or cheese (quince jelly), redcurrant jelly is really useful in cooking and makes guest appearances in most of our gravies and stews. Also we had 14kg/30lb of redcurrants and only own eight demi-johns.


So the husband made another twenty jars. Then he got up the next morning, swished one around, swore a bit, poured them all back in the pan and cooked them ten minutes longer. Now I think you might need a knife to get them out. I don't give you recipes, I give you TRUTH.

Grounded Swift


Just as I found a sick magpie and injured crow the week after reading Corvus, so the day after starting my anniversary gift of Being A Beast (I tried not to read too much into it...) - in which Charles Foster attempts to live permanently on the wing, as a swift - I came across a swift fledgling on the pavement in the city centre. It's not like I only noticed it because of heightened swift awareness either, it was literally right in front of me, in the manner of syncronicity, which I do not believe in.

Having never seen a swift earthbound before, it struck me that this was a wholly wrong state of affairs. And even if it were being fed by doting parents, it couldn't possibly last long wedged between buildings and a busy road. Unable to find either any evidence of nests or safe places to secrete it, I carried it to the park. It was encouragingly cross about this, cheeping and fidgeting, whilst incongrously gripping my finger tightly with its feet. When we got to the park I realised there were dogs everywhere and I was forced to improvise other arrangements involving private property but we won't go into that.

In the dog-free, car-free space, I prised the swift off my finger and put him on the ground where he set about skittering around in a rodenty fashion and checking all his limbs and wings worked whilst muttering furiously. I couldn't quite see how his low-legged anatomy was going to enable him to take off from ground-level and was reminded of the fulmar my son found stuck in a fence down a side street from the beach. Showing no inclination to fly away once freed, it was dispatched to the SSPCA where we learnt that fulmars can only take off from the sea or high cliffs and it would need to be rereleased somewhere high.

And so the swift, I surmised. Some quick research confirmed this and also turned up the fact that swift fledglings are not fed by their parents but pretty much leave the nest and head straight to Africa, not even pausing in order to ask everyone they know to 'sponsor' them first.

Usually the RSPB's advice is - quite rightly - STEP AWAY FROM THE FLEDGLING, since so many perfectly healthy young birds are unnecessarily removed from their parents (not always visible) care every year. But on the matter of swifts, they are clear:

'once grounded, they are trapped and doomed to death. As such a young swift gets only one chance to become airborne. If all goes well, it will fly non-stop until it returns to breed.' 

Their advice for reflying a swift who has failed to launch required a two storey house and I wasn't willing to commit actual breaking and entering at this point so I had a chat with the bird and he agreed he'd have a go on his own from the garden wall and I'd check back later - after the appointment I was supposed to be on my way to and for which I had communicated my lateness by sending the above photo...people tend to expect this sort of thing from me by now - and pick him up if he wasn't halfway across Europe by then. I know, it's not Darwinian to intervene, but it's human. And it's not unproblematic, but still: one chance! How can you watch something so young lose its only chance at life and not want to give it just one more go? I've been given so many second chances.

Several hours later I was climbing the fence again mentally planning how I was going to build a nest box and mini gym for him and keep him in flies until he was strong enough to leave - or, ideally, transport him two hours to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue where they successfully rehabilitate numerous grounded swifts every year. But he was gone. I don't know where he went but I am telling myself that he was able to push himself off the wall and fly. Second time around.

Lavenders


My numerous lavenders are finally starting to reach a decent size, although I am clearly inept at pruning them as they're all a bit rangy and derranged. I look in other people's gardens and their bushes are so neat and tight. I spoke to a man trimming his with nail scissors once...


I've had enough to use around the house this year and I cut them according to that. The dark blue is my favourite (photo-bombed by a bumblebee) though I've no idea what it is because I hate little plant labels cluttering up the place.


The white did really well this year, although I am technically opposed to varieties that flout the colour of their name (see also: my pink and blue 'lilacs'.)


The pink had the good grace to turn lavender-ish with age.


The French is so stylish with its little flash of Hermès scarf  but not really up to the Scottish weather. We English just keep our heads down and brace for impact.

Rhubarb Forest


When I first discovered this house was for sale - and as yet unlisted - I peered over the garden wall and saw a huge rhubarb plant. I took this as A Sign and immediately put in an offer. I don't even like rhubarb, but I like gardens that grow food. 

The following year - when we had planted a couple of dozen fruit trees and bushes - we split the crown and started another ten rhubarb plants which all grew huge, even in the shade. Rhubarb is a great weed-suppressor and water-retainer and also makes the garden look like a low level tropical jungle. 

However, it also produces a great deal of, well, rhubarb. I just don't get cooked fruit puddings. Or dried fruit. Fruit, for me, is something you pick and eat - sun-warmed - standing in the garden. Try doing that with rhubarb. ('Ptooey' as I used to actually pronounce letter by letter before someone gently put me straight.) 

I have tried without success to find a local Crop for the Shop participant so we could sell our surplus (which is all of it, as far as I'm concerned, though the husband would disagree) like our friends in Dunbar do to the greengrocer a few metres from their garden. Most shops I contacted didn't even respond or seemed completely baffled by the idea of buying/selling garden produce. I find this strange and disheartening for companies marketing themselves on local and organic principles. But I've seldom found a place for myself in existing paradigms, so I simply said FINE THEN and started researching ways to make rhubarb edible - possibly even saleable - in savoury dishes via ketchups and chutneys. Then the honey fermented and home-brewing became a thing...


Twelve gallons of rhubarb wine. 

And frankly there could have been a lot more if we had more freezer space and demi johns. It's not as stellar as the redcurrant rosé but it's dry and white with a nice scent of summer and, very cold, it's delicious. Which is more than can be said of the dreaded puddings.

Lamb Chops and Ortolan


Ten years ago today, I met my now-husband for the first time on a blind date at the East Gate of the Botanics.

I was a newly-thirty, tattoed, divorced, single mother of a four year old, a ten year old and a bald, geriatric ferret with a protruding vulva. He was a nearly-forty, 6'7", bored civil servant in London - five hundred miles away - with an untended garden and a mouse-infested house, only visiting for the Edinburgh Festival. I was his Depressive Witch Nightmare Woman! JUST LIKE IN FILMS!

We had both been online dating, long before Tinder, on the Guardian Soulmates. I never tell anyone this because I a) cannot bear the term 'soulmates' and b) prefer The Independent. And despite a decade together, I have not written them a glowing testimonial because it's surely the non-celeb equivalent of a wedding spread in Hello! magazine ie the kiss of death. (Not that I think a relationship that doesn't end in one of you dying is a failure...)

I had the username Lambchops and his was Ortolan, a dish of which I was thankfully ignorant. I don't even know what he was thinking choosing something so utterly wrong; there is a wonderful Pascale Petit poem of the same name in Fauverie, which captures the horror of it. Luckily he is nothing like that man and would have been better named after one of his own signature dishes: Cheesecake.

We bonded over our shared love of local food: I took him to the legendary Mellis cheese shop in Stockbridge and he invited me down to London and took me to the best urban place in the entire world: Borough Market. Then he made me a pigeon breast salad so rare that it was practically still flapping and, reader, I ate him.

After three years of long-distance he moved to Scotland, we bought this house together and I started blogging about our garden, animals and food. We married in a diy humanist ceremony for which he cooked a double chocolate menu of venison mole and brownies, to feed a hundred.

Today we had brunch at The Gardeners Cottage again and a walk in the Botanics, followed by afternoon tea at Patisserie Madeleine, then home to rack some rhubarb wine and pull some pork.

But Look How Pretty the Pictures Are! A Tale of Two Tales


SEE THE KILNER JAR OF PRETTY CHARD!

Despite all the cooking and the jam, chutney and wine-making, we don't really do any pickling of vegetables and I'm keen to start. I once made nasturtium capers but now I have found a cream-coloured flower I like, I leave the pods on to self-seed. We started making kimchi and sauerkraut from bought-in cabbage and that proved very successful so when I read about Michael Pollan pickling his chard stems, I decided this would be an excellent place to start fermenting our own veg. I don't much like them steamed with the greens - and they always require longer cooking -  but the idea of them crunchy and vibrant  as crudités was appealing, so I found a recipe online and harvested a load of chard, and my husband set about making the leaves into soups for the freezer.


OOOH! RAINBOW CHARD! PRETTY!

All done, I set the big Kilner jar in the pantry, feeling legit Little House on the Prairie, then commenced swearing in a most un-Laura Ingalls Wilder fashion when I saw the de-chlorinated water I'd set aside, unused on a shelf. I'd forgotten it and used tap water by mistake. I drained it off, losing the spices in the process, and started again, using the de-chlorinated water over the stems and another batch of peppercorns, chillies etc. But this time, I had forgotten to make a brine first. My husband came over to see what all the yelling was about, and suggested I just add the salt to the nearly full jar and swirl it gently. I commenced shovelling salt in and - moderating his voice as carefully as possible, because he's been married to me for nearly seven years - he softly inquired as to whether the recipe had really called for that many tablespoons, not teaspoons. I am not always diligent about following recipes, I'll admit, and I couldn't remember whether it was teaspoons or tea cups so I ceased to pour any more in. Eventually. 


IN A LINE! LIKE A RAINBOW! PRETTY!

Nothing fermented in the Dead Sea surprisingly enough, and, not wanting to waste all the beautiful stems but about to go away on holiday, I moved the jar to the fridge anyway (unnecessarily since it had enough salt in it to mummify the veg for all eternity...), intending to drain and rinse the stems on our return and just cook them instead.


KEEP LOOKING AT THE PRETTY PICTURES! NO NEED TO READ ANYTHING!

But every time I opened the fridge they just glared reproachfully at me and reminded me of my ineptitude, so I left them there for a month, whereupon they had become sad, grey stalks in vibrant red liquid and I threw them away.

Dandelion Pizza

Completing the hat trick of delicious* dandelion-based recipes, following on from those timeless classics Fried Dandelion Buds and Grassy Pish Dandelion Cordial, and in the tradition* of Naples:



*ish

Pentland Hills - Hillend to Bonaly, Accidentally via Glencourse...

I'm really not a fan of taking photos. I prefer to look and write later, but the only barrier to that is my memory. Photos are a useful reminder but sometimes so is the absence of them. I noticed when my pictures of this walk uploaded, that the first seems to be of my peanut butter cup flapjack, just before I ate it. This would suggest that - unprecedentedly - I ate it quite early in the walk, before any photo-worthy viewpoints, which in itself would suggest that perhaps non-physical elements of the walk were proving quite trying. Only now do I recall how my teenage son experienced a harrowing accident shortly after disembarking from the bus, which was to leave him in the heartbreakingly dire situation of being stuck in the Pentland Hills with his family without his headphones in working order. Ikr! At least there was peanut butter confectionary at hand. 


The trouble with entering the Pentlands at Hillend is that you immediately go straight up 500m. Personally, I quite enjoy that, but I find that more - shall we say - reluctant walkers, need to be eased into the idea.


The first view I paused for was of Arthur's Seat from halfway up Caerketton, which is really quite steep. I was shortly overtaken by some five year old girls, but still a long way ahead of my teenage son, who was slumped at the bottom cursing me, hills, headphones, life etc.


I attempted to lure him on with a handful of blaeberries, like a baulking carthorse.


The route up Allermuir is a) blindingly obvious and b) signposted,


but, at the top, I got the map out to check which route we needed to take around Capelaw to Bonaly reservoir, and set off in that direction.


Unfortunately my navigating is a lot like my cooking: whilst in possession of all the necessary basic skills, I have a - let's say - creative tendency to resist instructions, and am easily distracted. Sheep!


Furry caterpillar!


Purple heather!


Bonaly reservoir! Oh wait...no, it's not...

Without really applying the map to the ground at any point, I had just decided that the body of water visible from Allermuir was Bonaly and walked towards it despite some minor landscape features like the entire range of hills, the by-pass etc suggesting otherwise. All my previous Pentlands walks have been circular so Bonaly, Balerno, Hillend, Nine Mile Burn, Flotterstone, Boghall etc are separate areas not joined up together on my internal map even though I'm familiar with them all in isolation. Also, I'm an idiot (this according to aforementioned teenage son). Anyway, it was a lovely few miles detour to Glencorse reservoir and back...though, admittedly, not all members of our party felt so and there were some acrimonious moments.


Using the actual map as opposed to my impressionistic internal one, Bonaly reservoir was finally sighted through the trees only half an hour later and good humour was returned with proximity to the fizzy drink shop.


I want to do a lot more linear walks across the Pentlands. And practise my map-reading.

Red, Brown and Green


Given that I love eating seaweed, am a fan of free, wild foods and live by the sea, you might think I foraged the beaches frequently. But no, not for food. Sadly city beaches are far too polluted to be able to gather seaweeds or shellfish safely and we don't own a car so getting to clean water involves a lurching bus ride or persuading someone else to drive me. And so it was that I found myself out of town and by the sea with my sister, a beautifully illustrated Ffyona Campbell guide, knife and string bag.


My favourite seaweeds to eat are the predictable dried nori/laver and dulse which I pay actual money for in the form of those little crispy snacks from Waitrose, and the delicious oatcakes and flakes sold at the excellent Breadshare bakery. So I was hoping for either, plus sea lettuce which is the easiest of all to prepare (rinse, eat).


What I came up with was - I think* - was lots of channelled wrack and gutweed and a few very long strings that I couldn't even identify with the help of my beloved John Wright (I'm sure he would have managed it in person...) nor the classic Richard Mabey, but eventually tracked down in field guides as probably sea lace/bootlace weed/dead man's rope. Despite the latter name, the helpful thing about seaweed around UK shores is that it isn't poisonous. As long as the water isn't polluted, seaweed isn't harmful, unlike a lot of other vegetation. I would never eat a land plant/fungus that I hadn't absolutely, positively identified, for that reason.


*If you're reading this and getting all: 'CLEARLY THAT IS, IN ACTUAL FACT, SMOKEWEED, NICERACK AND BLACKLACEAGADOO, YOU MORON' then I would like to point out in my defence that I can more accurately ID thirty-eight types of French patisserie, a lesser-spotted Pharaoh hound and a lying teenager at ten paces. So there.


I looked at a few recipes but ultimately decided the default option for dubious delicacies was best: deep-fry.


All I will say, is that deep-frying fresh seaweed - especially without a deep-fat fryer - is the potentially harmful bit of eating it. Even after a good spin-dry it spat so viciously and violently that half the kitchen was covered in oil and we had to duck at regular intervals to avoid third degree burns.


But it tasted lovely and looked stunning. The lace/rope in particular, curled into a spun-sugar-like sculpture. We didn't need to add any seasoning at all, but I think if steamed or boiled (for health and safety reasons) they would benefit from some Hebridean peat-smoked sea salt, chilli flakes and sesame oil maybe.