Samphire is one of those rare things that are still very much seasonal and not available year round. When it is available it’s a delicious treat. It grows wild here in Wales, in the salt marshes and has a natural affinity with both fish and lamb (salt marsh lamb!), both of which are particular favourites of mine.
It has a delicious delicate flavour, and needs only simple treatment. I usually steam it for a few minutes over some boiling potatoes. Dress it with just a little butter and lemon juice. It really sings of the sea!
It also makes a delicious risotto, but keep it simple so that you don’t overwhealm the delicate flavour of the Samphire.
For two people you need :
1 tb olive oil½ shallot
½ clove of garlic
1 stick of celery
1 cup of risotto rice
2¼ cups of very weak vegetable stock (assuming you are making it with stock cube/granules)
4oz (approximately) or so of samphire *
Juice and zest of a small lemon
1oz (approximately) knob of butter
As always with risotto, finely chop the shallot, garlic and celery and sweat gently in the olive oil for 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the rice to pan and stir around in what juices there are, and then add the stock. You could stand at the stove and add the stock bit by bit until it is absorbed or do what I do – add it all in one go and stir from time to time. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer gently, stirring from time to time. You may need to add more boiling water if your rice has absorbed the stock too quickly so keep the kettle hot. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of rice you are using (Arborio, Carnaroli or Nano) but the risotto should cook somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes.
While the risotto is cooking rinse the samphire well in plenty of cold running water, it can be quite gritty so keep going until it is all rinsed away.
The consistency you are looking for with the risotto is what the Italians call All’ Onda (with a wave) – it should be creamy and liquid enough so that when you draw your spoon through the pan the space fills up quickly, but it shouldn’t be sloppy. If your risotto seems at all dry simply add a little more boiling water from the kettle and stir it through until the right consistency is achieved.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the samphire and give it just 2 or 3 minutes cooking. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, lemon zest and juice and stir through.
* If you can’t get hold of samphire then you could use shredded mange tout (snow peas) instead. If you do that they will need only a minute or two of cooking at the very end.