Poor Rufus nearly choked when I told him that the ‘secret’ ingredient in the mash was seaweed.
The occasion was that Irish-themed dinner party of mine and the mash in question was a union of three card-carrying Irish ingredients: potatoes, butter and dillisk.
Dillisk (or dulse) is a purple/reddish seaweed found on the shores of the North Atlantic (or, for those further inland, in health food shops, packaged here in Ireland by Carraig Fhada Seaweed, among others). It boasts very high levels of iron and protein and has a wonderfully savoury, spicy flavour.
Now, I will freely admit that, for years, my knowledge of edible Irish seaweed more or less began and ended with carrageen moss. That changed with Prannie Rhatigan and her superbly informative Irish Seaweed Kitchen, which opens wide a door into the edible treasury of the Irish seashore.
Not only did I become acquainted with dillisk, so eminently edible all by itself, but I discovered a new partner for potatoes. As quoted in Prannie’s book: “Just throw dillisk in with spuds and you can’t go wrong.” Very sound advice, as it turns out, very sound indeed.
Potato Gratin With Dillisk
As Prannie Rhatigan notes in Irish Seaweed Kitchen, the possibilities for combining potatoes and dillisk are practically endless. Soften some dillisk in a little water, then chop and add to mash or potato salad or any number of other potato dishes. Here, I’ve added it to a garlicky potato gratin.
The recipe is a slight adaptation of Richard Olney’s Potato Daube from his classic book, Simple French Food, and simple this undoubtedly is. Sliced potatoes, seasoned here with dillisk, moistened with salted garlicky water and a drizzling of olive oil, and then baked.
It’s entirely satisfying on its own, though it would reside happily beside a nice piece of fish too. I quite fancy having it with some tuna steak, myself.
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 500ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- approx 4 tblsp olive oil
- 1kg potatoes, preferably waxy, thinly sliced (peeled or unpeeled as you prefer) and patted dry
- small handful of dillisk (about 8g), finely chopped
You’ll also need:
- An ovenproof dish – mine was about 30cm x 22cm and 5cm deep.
- Preheat your oven to 200C
- Add the garlic, water and salt to a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, scoop out the garlic pieces and rub them through a sieve back into the cooking liquid.
- Rub the base of your ovenproof dish with 1 tblsp of the olive oil. Layer about one third of the sliced potatoes into the dish, sprinkle with half of the chopped dillisk, repeat with another layer of potatoes and dillisk and finish with the remaining potato slices.
- Pour the garlic water over the potatoes (it should just about cover them) and drizzle over the remaining olive oil
- Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until nicely browned on top and the potatoes are tender right through. Enjoy on its own or perhaps along with a nice piece of fish – I quite fancy having it with some tuna steak myself.
- To revert to Richard Olney’s original recipe, put 3-4 bay leaves in the middle of the potato layers instead of the dillisk .
- Around 4-6 servings of gratin (depending on how much, or how little, you are serving with it).
Somehow, I wasn’t expecting sea weed when I got here, but I’m just gonna go with it!
I guess its deep brininess *would* marry well with mellow, earthy potatoes. I’m sold. I guess. Okay, yes!
And now I know the answer to the trivia questions: “What is the most niche cookbook in the universe?” Irish Seaweed Kitchen, of course! One day, it’ll win me a beer, I bet! :)
Hey Jenni, I just like to keep you on your toes! And remember me when you win that beer, ‘k? :D
Oh, great to learn about dillisk! It must add such fantastic salty flavors to the potato gratin! I don’t know if I would be able to find dillisk here, but maybe I can try this with a different type of seaweed.
Hey Natasha, it certainly adds a salty something with a bit of umami thrown in. I suspect that it would be hard to find dillisk in the U.S. as it’s not found on U.S. shorelines as far as I am aware, though I would certainly be interested in trying out other seaweeds here myself. Will have to consult Prannie’s book for even more ideas on what might work!
Looks great. Raised on dillisk (father from Sligo) as a young lad but have never cooked with it before. Must try that out next time I’m heading west.
Hi there Ken. Dillisk is fairly new to me, as there wasn’t much seaweed in Kildare when I was growing up :) But it’s a happy new discovery, especially where spuds are concerned!
Seaweed mash: what an idea! Sounds mad on paper but actually makes good sense. Recently got my hands on a packet of Kombu seaweed and have been playing around with it. Steeped it in the wine cooking liquor from mussels then removed it, juilenned it and added it all to a base that included smoked rashers. Turned out awesome! Then a week later I read David Chang’s Momofuku and see that he does a version of dashi with smoked bacon which he cooks clams with.
Goodness gracious – this looks out-of-this world amazing. My children will eat a potato any day. I’m not sure I can say the same for seaweed, but if stick the seaweed IN the potatoes, then I think I might have a winner on my hands! Gorgeous photos and wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing.
Farlo: Thanks so much for stopping by! Funnily enough I used some kombu for the first time today myself – I just threw it in as a base for some veggie soup I was making, but I’ll definitely be trying it in other things too :)
Patty: Hey there, thank you! I realise that eating seaweed can take a little bit of mental adjustment for some but adding it to spuds may indeed be the way to go :D
This does indeed sound delicious, I am now wondering if I can find dillisk here in SF, and if not what makes a good substitute.
It’s the new surf and turf! My experience with seaweed has not gone far beyond the scope of Japanese nori and Filipino latô but if ever I have a chance to try dillisk, I would love to broaden my seaweed-eating world. 8-)
OysterCulture: I don’t know that you would find dillisk in SF (mind you, having said that, there’s probably not a lot that you can’t find somewhere in SF!). As far as I know, the dillisk that we get in Ireland isn’t found on Pacific coasts, though I think the California coast may be home to something quite similar. I’ll update if I find out more.
Tangled Noodle: Surf and turf – I love it! I’m really only starting my own seaweed-eating adventures, but I do hope to explore more myself in due course.
If you look at the first picture, dillisk is also known as dulse. I’m not sure about everyone, but dulse is available in many grocery stores, including my local whole foods and asian markets.
Hi JK and thanks for the update re: dillisk/dulse, whole foods and asian markets definitely sound like good places to check.