Considering I didn’t even know samphire existed until I came across it in the Jersey fish market this summer, it suddenly seems prolific on restaurant menus and a hot topic for food writers. If you like the taste of fish, the fact that samphire is now in plentiful supply can only be a good thing as it brings out the flavour in most seafood due to its saltiness.
In case you haven’t heard of it, samphire is an edible plant that grows in coastal areas, typically on shorelines and in marshy shallows. Named after the French saint of fishermen ‘Saint Pierre’, samphire is sometimes aptly called sea asparagus and is at its best in July and August.
The main reason I’m dedicating a whole post to samphire is because I recently enjoyed once of the tastiest starters I’d eaten in the while, which had samphire as the star.
The starter was a product of The Wet Fish Café – a small atmospheric brasserie in West Hampstead. It was a very simple dish consisting of fried chorizo with cloves of cooked garlic and lots of lovely samphire, all served with warm crusty French bread.
As soon as I saw samphire on the menu I was interested to try it, but I had worried my choice would be too salty, with each dominant flavour conflicting with one another. Thankfully, I was pleased to find that the overall effect was deliciously well balanced and I finished wishing it had been my main course.
Now I’ve discovered samphire I’m keen to start using it in my own cooking, even if it’s just a simple risotto or pasta dish. As it happens, I’d even hoped to use it in my prawn linguini this evening, but clearly others are cottoning onto my new favourite vegetable, as there was none to be seen on the fish counter. I suppose I’ll have to start keeping my mouth shut about it…
The Wet Fish Cafe, 242 West End Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1LG