Mara Seaweed has won a string of awards and received praise from many top chefs – what’s been the secret of your success?
Mara Seaweed has had a good reaction from chefs because we help them problem solve.
We supply dried flaked and powdered seaweed products in a form that is easy to use, provides them with an umami source thus making food taste better, provides a lower sodium salt equivalent than table salt with added health benefits. Modern trends suggest that all this is something consumers value.
We continue to work hard with chefs encouraging them to showcase their skills whilst offering them a new food group to play with. Most seem very happy about this! We continue to work with the same top level chefs who support us and in turn we provide them with delicious new products to innovate with. They include Michael Smith, Brett Graham, Paul Wedgwood, Nathan Outlaw, Brett Graham and many others besides. The fact that it is a natural, native ingredient from Scotland and the UK is another strong selling point.
Where does the seaweed come from, how do you harvest it what happens after that to create the finished product?
Mara sources its premium quality seaweed from the cold clear waters of the Atlantic and North Sea. We harvest close to home in North Fife and have a few hubs dotted in and around the West Coast of Scotland. The seaweed is harvested sustainably and processed within the strict Food Safety Management Scheme and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Plan (HACCP) along with SALSA (Safe and Local Supplier Accreditation).
Mara is the first seaweed company in Scotland to gain SALSA accreditation – we are very proud of this as much of the company’s time and resources went towards achieving this. When we harvest in Fife we pick it seasonally and in rotation from specific bits of coastline where we have obtained permission from Crown Estate, who issue the license. The wet seaweed is brought to our production facility in Granton, where it is dried in as natural an environment as is possible, in order to preserve maximum taste and freshness. Our Production Manager ensures that each individual seaweed is dried to its optimum level. It is then smoked, ground or flaked according to which type it is. The finer details remains part of Mara’s IP!
For anyone new to using dried seaweed, what would your advice be about how to get started?
My tip to anyone starting out using seaweed would be to buy a catering tub or shaker tin of one seaweed, probably Dulse or Shony (our blended seaweed) and keep it close to the cooker, that way you will use it every day. Use it to season and flavour meat, along with other herbs and spices, marinades and rubs are a great way to let the seaweed do the work without you having to do very much. In the Summer you can use seaweed flakes to season salads using cucumber, tomato and peppers, or simply to toast nuts and seeds with as a super boost to dishes. I would also add it into dips, spreads, pesto, sauces and salsas.
In the winter I use seaweed to flavour soups, stews, casseroles and roasts. If I am making a vegetable soup or curry I put as much as a tablespoon of Shony or Dulse in with the sautéed onion and spices and then add in the chopped vegetables and other ingredients. You are adding in more flavour and giving a deeper savoury richness to your dishes. If you are pressed for time you could even mix some seaweed in with your sea salt in an egg cup and you are already doing yourself a favour! One of my absolute favourite ways to have seaweed is scattered over a poached or fried egg or tipped into my green smoothie in the morning. Simple but delicious.
What are your top tips for using your products in cooking? Any favourite recipes from your new book?
My top tip is not to be scared, salt is seven times saltier than seaweed, you cannot overdo it! Allow your instinct to take over, continually tasting your food. I believe in layering taste. Seaweed is not the only condiment or flavouring agent that I use, it is best in conjunction with other herbs, spices, fresh and dried and also citrus and ginger. It all adds to the greater whole. There are many ideas of how to do this in the book.
My favourite recipe in the book is probably fillet of beef marinaded with seaweed, barely cooked and eaten with a salsa verde with dulse. It is truly delicious. I love the minerally Chilled Alaria Soup too, but this is hard core seaweed!
If you could encourage the public to do one thing during the Fortnight what would it be and why?
During Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight I would challenge hungry punters to go out and find some seaweed – either on the coast at low tide (I dare you to have a munch, all seaweeds are edible, not all taste nice though), or buy a tin of Mara flakes and scatter them on a boiled egg. It’s simple and could be the beginning of a love affair with this unassuming superfood.
Any exciting plans over the next few months that you can share?
I am excited about launching the book. We are serving some interesting canapés which include the beef recipe, Shony toasted cheese balls, Dulse Cheese Shortbread and Prawns dipped in Smoked Dulse Mayonnaise. I am hoping that the seaweed will talk for itself!
The Seaweed Cookbook by Xa Milne, £16.99 Michael Joseph/Penguin
Please look at the Mara website for more ideas, information and inspiration and see our range of easy-to-use Mara Products.
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