Unobvious sea delights

Faroese langoustines, sea cucumbers, starfish. Experimenting with uncommon salty creatures

Starfish gonads can be boiled, dried, roasted or f

Starfish gonads can be boiled, dried, roasted or fried and eaten. About 2/3 of the surface of the planet is salt water, and the diversity of edible species waiting to be discovered or rediscovered is enormous

What about the oceans? About 2/3 of the surface of the planet is salt water, and the diversity of edible species waiting to be discovered or rediscovered is enormous. During the last month or so Nordic Food Lab had the opportunity to explore the delights of the salt water world, working with fishermen and suppliers to help them promote the best, which is often not the most obvious.

So from collecting periwinkles and limpets (perhaps the abalone of the north) along rocky shorelines, to hand dived artic urchins, and Faroese Langoustine we are presented with a host of luxury ingredients. These are very difficult to improve on, through processing and more often than not are best served raw or almost raw very simply allowing the true character of the ingredient to shine through.

Faroese langoustines

Faroese langoustines

A north Atlantic delicacy, Langoustine, a sweet and delicious treasure when it is in premium quality can so easily arrive to chefs long dead and far too long frozen. The small archipelago of the Faroe Islands, half way between Northern Scotland and Iceland is perhaps the home of the world’s biggest and best Langoustine. Peeled raw, from a living specimen provides what must be some of the sweetest sashimi it’s possible to eat. Its only really possible to peel them raw if they are still alive, otherwise a quick dip into boiling water will be necessary to bring the membrane away from the meat making peeling possible. Here we have served the tails blanched for 15 seconds with oyster and tarragon emulsions and chive sprouts.

Uni in Japanese, sea urchins, are delicious and also very interesting from a pharmacological point of view. Many species of urchin contain the cannabinoid, Anandamide, which has been shown to produce feeling of both bliss and hunger: could urchins be a perfect start to a winter meal? Searching for new or unusual things to eat is a favourite pastime of ours and enjoying our urchins so much we had to wonder what else might be there in the same family.

Urchins are Echinoderms, a phylum of species which includes sea cucumbers and starfish. Sea cucumbers are harvested for food in pretty large numbers especially in South East Asia where they are considered a delicacy – although one must be careful to prepare them properly not to ingest the poisonous parts. We got pretty excited about working with starfish. Again, starfish are eaten – but the only record I can find is in China and it appears they have more novelty value, being sold alongside fried scorpions and other such oddities. 

Uni, sea-urchins

Uni, sea-urchins

However, do starfish offer another abundant source of good food? In our preliminary trials we found that both the gonads and the digestive apparatus of various different species can be eaten, and some species seem to taste better than others. We’ve now boiled, dried whole, dried separate organs, roasted, fried and eaten raw a number of different species and we will be continuing this investigation throughout the year to see how these various species change through the seasons. However, a word of advice, many species in the Echinoderm phylum contain toxins which can be fatal - take your time, and do your research properly before you put anything in your mouth!

Nordic Food Lab

The most interesting experiments held in the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, housed, since 2009, in a boat moored in front of René Redezpi’s Noma


Ben Reade

Born in Edinburgh, head of culinary research and development at the Nordic Food Lab, he spends his time navigating the world through his nose and mouth

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