Beyond sushi: ‘Nature’s Chef’ shares tips, recipes for cooking with seaweed

Beyond sushi: 'Nature's Chef' shares tips, recipes for cooking with seaweed

It can be nerve-wracking when seaweed grazes your leg during a morning swim, and smells unpleasant when it’s washed up on the beach.

But it can also be a solid substitute for vegetables on the land.

Chef Tom Kral, also known as ‘Nature’s Chef’, specializes in wild food. He especially likes working with different types of seaweed.

He says his interest in the marine plant came naturally. “It was the call of the wild,” he told All Points West guest host Kathryn Marlow.

Tom Kral, also known as ‘Nature’s Chef’, specializes in cooking with wild foods. (Submitted by Tom Kral)

He says that bull kelp, the long seaweed with an onion-like bulb at the end, is his favorite for cooking.

He likes the flavor to green pepper and says it goes well with tomatoes, making it a great addition to salsas and other sauces.

The best way to harvest it, he says, is to just swim or paddle toward it — and grab it. To dry it, he suggests hanging seaweed on a clothesline or somewhere in the house.

“It will be nice decorations in your house,” Kral said.

Once dried, it can last up to 10 years, he added.

Here are some of Kral’s favorite ways to cook with seaweed:

Bull Kelp Cannelloni

Cannelloni (sauce below):

  • 12 pieces fresh bull kelp leaves, about 10 inches long
  • 4 cups packed borage leaves (substitutes: lamb quarters, nettle, or spinach)
  • 1/2 lemon, grated
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add the kelp leaves for about 10 seconds and run them under cold water to cool them down. Drain the leaves and place them on a baking tray.

Place the borage leaves in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, run under cold water and drain as well. Squeeze as much moisture as possible from the leaves and then chop them finely.

In a bowl, add the ricotta, borage leaves, lemon zest, egg, salt and pepper and mix well.

Take the ricotta filling, put a large scoop in the bottom of a kelp leaf and roll it up into a cannelloni. Do this for each leaf.

Place the cannelloni in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes.

Lentil bolognese:

  • 2 cups sprouted brown lentils
  • 12 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 250 ml canned tomato paste
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp chili flakes

In a non-reactive saucepan, gently cook onions in sunflower oil over medium heat.

When translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for five minutes.

Then add the garlic and cook for another two minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for half an hour until the lentils are soft.

Chef Tom Kral shares his recipe for bull kelp cannelloni, one of his favorite ways to cook with seaweed. (Submitted by Tom Kral)

Bull Kelp Pickles

  • 1 fresh bull kelp stalk (stalk)
  • 2 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp pickling spice
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced

Place vinegar, water, salt, sugar, pickled herbs and garlic in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil to form the brine.

Cut the bull ankle stem into rings. Blanch each in boiling water for about 30 seconds and immediately shock into cold water. Place the kelp rings in jars.

When the brine boils, pour it into jars to cover the kelp. Place the lids on the jar, but leave an opening to allow the brine to cool.

Bull kelp pickles can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks, or canned like regular pickles.

Bull kelp pickles can be stored for weeks, just like other pickled goods. (Submitted by Tom Kral)

Sea Olives

  • 1 cup freshly picked feather boa kelp pods
  • 1 liter of water
  • 40mg salt

Place the water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cut a small hole where the pod attaches to the stem to allow liquid to flow in.

Blanch the kelp in boiling water for 10 seconds, then quickly shock it in cold water.

Transfer the kelp to a jar. When the water and salt, or brine, come to a boil, pour it into the jars to cover the kelp.

Remove the lids, let the brine cool and refrigerate.

The sea olives can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Sea olives, made from boa kelp pods, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. (Submitted by Tom Kral)