23 September 2009

Coralline Seaweed and Yen

Coralline seaweed Corallina officinalis (fresh and dried)
and leather kelp Eklonia radiata

Like many other algae and seaweeds, Corallina officinalis has a history of uses, including (dried and ground) as a remedy for indigestion. In 1780, it was part of the Compendium Pharmaceuticum of Jean François Coste when he was director of the French medical corps in General Rochambeau's mission to support General Washington and the Continental Army. Coste was such a stickler for the health and welfare of the common servicemen that he requested as part of their victuals against scurvy: salads and cherries.

Today we have other, less beautiful remedies for indigestion, so the seaweed has been recruited for a far more important use: the cosmetics industry, this being a typical claim —
"Corallina Officinalis (Red Seaweed) Extract helps firm skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines."
Beauty naturally, a matter of bringing out your inner stone
"The coralline group . . . is noteworthy because all its members extract lime from the sea-water and build it up in their tissues, which become hard and, in fact, stony. . . The most common corallines of plant-like form . . . are small and very neatly branched algae, each little branch looking as it made up of a series of joints, with jointed sub-branches and so on. The fronds really are jointed — no other description will fit the structure. Often when they are dead (from exposure to hot sun during low tides in midsummer) these seaweeds stand out conspicuously, lime white in appearance, because practically nothing but limy substance is left."
— from pg 142 of my favourite book about seashores, W.J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores, fully revised and illustrated by Isobel Bennett, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1987

I don't know about you, but the sight of both the fresh and dried coralline gives me a powerful yen for beets.

Morta Di Fame's Beet Ginger Cake with Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting
gives instant relief to the eyes (those pictures of the raw beets and batter!) but the cooked cake doesn't retain that gorgeous colour and texture, though it would be scrumptious. This blog and recipe are great examples of how good cooks are great compounders. MDF is not afraid to adjust to taste, and not intimidated by what anyone else calls "good taste".
(In that spirit, here are my changes: substitute cardamom for the cinnamon, add a half teaspoon cloves, and substitute a whole lime smooshed in a blender for some of the milk and all of the citrus zest [but I'm an acidhead], and use a lighter oil— grapeseed—that I often use in cakes, instead of olive oil. And I would take off those orange sections there, as central decorations in cakes don't work for me unless they're big enough for everyone and outrageously gorgeous or funny, but then that's my taste.)

Of ‘Maa ka Pyar’ and Gaajar ka Halwa ( And Beetroot, too) is like having a live-in chemist/cook who compounds just for me — or a mythic mother? This is an utterly delightful post in an always enjoyable, heartwarming, and often funny blog, an outtake from this post being: Every Hindi film protaganist talks about the love for his mother and her “gajjar ka halwa”.

As to the recipe and picture, feast. The colours! The textures! Even the harmony of those grated slivers of coconut! It's the picture of above, turned into food. The only thing I would add is a thin ribbon of pure tamarind paste or for those who find that too tart, tamarind chutney.

No comments: