Samphire has seen a massive rise in popularity in recent years. Favoured by chefs for its salty yet fresh flavour, it adds bite to restaurant dishes and is abundant in the UK. Most supermarkets will now stock samphire on the fish counter when it’s in season, between May and August. Not to be confused with marsh samphire, rock samphire is also known as glasswort; the name coming from its use in the glassmaking industry in the sixteenth century. Fresh samphire should be vibrant, green and crisp. Avoid any that looks limp and dull. Samphire will keep happily in the fridge for two or three days, but keep it covered with a damp cloth for freshness.
Always give samphire a good wash before cooking to remove any sand or dirt that may be attached. Remove any roots and tough stems, as these are not good to eat. Break up any large pieces to ensure even cooking.
The most common way of cooking samphire is to quickly blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water, but steaming works just as well. Don’t be tempted to add salt to the blanching water as the samphire is salty enough as it is. After blanching, try tossing in a little melted butter or olive oil for extra flavour and richness.
Samphire is also really great when fried in a batter as tempura – simply prepare a tempura batter, dip in the samphire and quickly deep-fry.
As it has a strong salty flavour, the obvious pairing for samphire is fish and shellfish. Try Dominic Chapman’s mouthwatering Crab ravioli with crab sauce or Simon Hulstone’s luxurious Fillet of brill with lobster sauce for a truly luxurious dinner. For something a little simpler, try Frances Atkins’ Seafood stew with mussels and shrimp.
Samphire doesn’t have to be limited to seafood, however; it complements salt marsh lamb particularly well, too. Try Nuno Mendes’ Lamb belly with amaranth and milk skin, or use samphire to add saltiness like Galton Blackiston does in his New potatoes with bacon, samphire and broad beans.