Sunday, 10 March 2013

Masquerading seablite a gourmet delicacy


So I sez to Zoë, wots this succulent on me plate. Samphire she says, from the sea. Looks more like a pigmy pig-face I sez. Call the chef!

Zoë searches for creator of the plate. Zoe returns. Not samphire, true. It's Sea Blight - S-E-A, B-L-I-G-H-T - I'm told. Sean put it there and he knows. Bring Sean over I sez, and she does.

Well mate, he sez, we wanted samphire but there's none to be found in this town for luv n' money. I got this here Sea Blight from a mate I know... Where ya from? Me?, sez me, the botanic gardens. Well he picked it there, sez Sean. 

Of course he didn't, but I blocked my ears just in case. Sez Sean, I woz gunna crumb and fry the samphire. Not that we do much of that at Ladro but that woz wot we planned. But (as we all knowed b' now), there woz none about. 

And so on. This is all close to the truth, except for the dialogue. In fact it was all done in the very best Melbourne brogue, or whatever we call this local dialect. It was at a rather swish lunch with Lynda, in aid of StreetSmart Australia, called the Front of House All Stars.

We all paid a goodly amount of money for some fine wine and food from various Melbourne restaurants (Longrain - the hosts, Cutler and Co, Union Dining, Izakaya Den, Ladro, Ezard and Libertine), with the proceeds going to charity (i.e. StreetSmart). The restaurant folk all donated their time and produce.

And it was enjoyable. From a botanical perspective there was plenty of plant diversity on the plates, including the debated succulent. It clearly wasn't samphire, which looks like this (from a dinner I ate a few months ago in Chios, a rather charming Greek island...). Samphire is the olive-green seaweedy thing draped over the top...


The plate in question today was Venere e Nettuno risotto con sashimi misti e panna acida alle ostriche. As you would all know, and can see in the picture at the top, clearly black Venice rice risotto with raw fish and oyster infused with sour cream.

Missing from the descriptor is the Sea Blight. Maybe it didn't add to the mystique to add con ruggine mare (and that's direct from Google Translate so it must be linguistically correct...).

Sea Blight, or Seablite as its more commonly writ, is Suaeda australis, a common plant on Australia's coastline and described as having the taste of 'lightly salted asparagus' when cooked lightly. Sounds about right.

I should also add that Zoë Ladyman from Libertine and Sean Kierece from Ladro were charming and exceedingly helpful hosts. They speak proper like and dealt with the inquisitive botanist delightfully! Here in this picture are just a few more of the other chefs milling around the kitchen, ready to meet our every gastronomical and botanical need.


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