This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Herb de St Pierre

I was beginning to despair -  here we are, almost to the middle of August,  and we haven't had any samphire (local pronunciation samfer) yet.    That salty, seasonal treat which grows freely along the mud flats,  not too far away from here.  

Today we managed to get some - hurrah!

I added an assortment of red and yellow tomatoes from the garden and a beautiful piece of salmon fillet to a generous portion of samphire, a drizzle of dressing and found I had a meal fit for a king.

The salmon was simply pan fried, the homegrown tomatoes were oven roasted and full of flavour, both went perfectly with the wonderful green and salty samphire.     It was a simple and delicious meal, my kind of food.

If you have never had samphire/Glasswort/Herb de St Pierre you are missing out on a delicious treat.

It is a peculiar looking, dark green succulent plant with many branching thick segments instead of leaves.  It is at its best in July and August, after that it is best used for pickling as the structure becomes rather woody with age.

You don't have to go down to the mud flats to pick your own, I bought mine from our greengrocer in a small market town.  He obtains a small supply every year.   I stop by frequently, checking to see whether it has arrived yet.    It wasn't there on Monday but yesterday my daughter managed to get some for me.

To prepare: wash it in many changes of water, you need to get rid of all the sand and any bits of algae.   It is worth doing this thoroughly, you don't want sand in your samphire.

Then simply bring some water to the boil, add the samphire, put the saucepan lid back on and let it cook for a few minutes.  You could also steam it.

When cooked, the fleshy part will easily pull back from the ribs of the plant.   Do not add salt!  It is already naturally salty.   I don't even bother to add butter or vinegar, but you could.   Just don't drown it in vinegar!

In a restaurant one eats with more decorum and it is served in much smaller pieces, but traditionally it is eaten by holding the root end of the cooked plant, then simply stripping the fleshy parts from the ribs...with your teeth!  No need for cutlery!

However you choose to eat it, I hope you enjoy this salty seasonal delight.


  1. this is one of my favourites. Eat it like artichoke dipped in unsalted melted butter, yum. It grows where my parents live, along the cliff line. Makes the cat sick! lol

    My favourite is boil it slightly and then chop 1 inch lengths and then add it to omelette mix.

    Have you tried Fiddle Heads? This the fern twirls in the new seasons growth. They do something similar in Canada. I havent seen them on sale in the UK. I did once in the South of France, but a cook for the restaurant in the village we were staying in, took the whole box. We ate at that restaurant, that night. They were in a soup and as a side dish to steak and a ham dish which I cant remember. tastes like the smell of fresh meadow cut and asparagus straight from the garden. Really fresh really green. Yum

    1. Hello Sol, I managed to obtain another fresh supply yesterday so we'll be enjoying some more again today.

      I haven't tried fiddleheads yet, although I have heard of them. They sound lovely, especially if they smell good too. That is the one downside, for me, with samphire which definitely smells slightly fishy as it is cooked, even though it doesn't taste fishy.

      My sense of smell is both a boon and a great disadvantage, it landed me in 'hot water' many a time as a child who was super-sensitive to smell and who lived, for the first seven years of my life, in a fishing port...

  2. I saw some recently on sale in a local supermarket. I'm going there today so might well buy some; I haven't eaten any for ages.

    1. Hello Cro, Seasonal treats! They make summer dining so much fun. I cooked some for Poppy, yesterday. She was very polite and enthusiastic, but I honestly don't think she was impressed. She is going to cook a Chinese meal for my daughter and her husband, tonight. He is very keen to add a few authentic Chinese dishes to his culinary repertoire; my daughter leaves most of the cooking to him as he enjoys it so much...Max, however, scarcely knows how to find the kettle!

  3. oh yes! Look at this beauty. I'd totally forgotten about Samphire... so glad you reminded me. It's incredible stuff... I may need some for a forthcoming local village event... or maybe not...

    1. Hi Dom, Alas, I won't be entering any bakes etc this year as I know the judge. I'll still be making cakes for the refreshments stall, though and doing a thousand and one other jobs over the weekend. Fingers crossed for lots of entries and good weather to encourage everyone to pop along for the auction.x

  4. Do you live in Norfolk? I always think of it as local to us. We buy it from the fish stalls here.

    1. Oh, I just noticed, it appears you live in Lincolnshire. Oh well, just around the corner on the Wash. My mother used to gather samphire and was horrified to see it being sold in the later years of her life. I came to your blog from Cro's. I wrote the first comment while I was in bed this morning so didn't look to see where you live!

    2. Hello Rachel, Funnily enough it was Norfolk where I first tasted samphire - about 50 years ago, while on a family holiday. It grows in abundance just a few miles down the road but we just haven't had the time to pick our own. Some friends always pickle the samphire they pick - in my opinion that turns a delicious treat into something disgusting. Yes, I am a Lincolnshire Yellow Belly - came close to marrying a Norfolk man, way back in my youth! Nice to meet you.

    3. Hello. How do you cope with 2 blogs and which should I follow I think to myself! We dont pickle it either, it is best of all fresh from the coast. Do call into my Norfolk blog, you are more than welcome. It varies in content!

    4. Hi Rachel, I'll definitely call in and say 'hello'. As I am sure you know, blogging becomes something of a habit! I have written various blogs over the last five or six years and had a lot of fun with them. These two are much smaller, quieter, less demanding. I am enjoying them enormously which is quite funny because when my previous blog posts were plagiarised, on a large scale, I swore that I would never blog again.


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