Today, as a special pre-father’s day treat, the Croxii drove 23 miles westwards to the charming village of Stiffkey where we dined at the Red Lion, the sauce source of unarguably the finest steak frites in the entire world in space.
After that we walked it off on the nearby saltmarshes. Canis croxorum was in golden-retriever heaven – lots of new and amazingly pungent sniffs to sniff, ducks to chase, and extremely stinky creeks to swim in.
The saltmarshes at Stiffkey, earlier today.
While she was doing that, the rest of us were collecting samphire.
Samphire (Salicornia europaea) or glasswort is a saltmarsh plant which is not, as I thought, an alga, but a green plant distantly related to magnolias. It is something of a culinary prize – it grows only on saltmarshes, and only for a few short weeks in June and July. At this time of the year it is the vegetable-du-jour for all self-respecting knit-your-own-tofu Guardian readers, who pay £££ for it in the delis of Islington. It’s all over the Stiffkey marshes like a cheap suit, ready for the Croxii to take their pick, absolutely free. The plants are very small – only two or three inches tops – but are very easy to recognize from their vivid green colour and somewhat prehistoric appearance. Here is one, just before I picked it.
In no time we’d collected more than enough for a teatime feast.
Once home I cut the stalky and stringy bits off, and steamed the plants for no more than a couple of minutes above the pan in which Mrs Crox was hard-boiling some eggs newly laid by the flock. Here is the final result, with oven-baked potatoes.
Samphire done al dente has a delicious crunch, and is great with butter and a little pepper. It is, however, fearsomely salty, as one might expect from its habitat. It could be that we should have boiled it in lots of water, rather than steaming it, to remove some of the salt. For all that, served with homegrown eggs and not-homegrown spuds – a meal fit for Captain Birdseye Extraordinary.