Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dilleasc Bread – wet ankles optional!

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A little slice of heaven...

If you want to watch Europe’s last sunset splash down in the Atlantic every evening simply book a ticket to Achill on Ireland’s West coast. The play of light in the skies is breathtaking as the weather shifts minute by minute.

Watch Europe's last sunset about to splash down in the Atlantic

Achill is the place for edible seaweeds and you’ll see bags of Carrageen Moss and Dilleasc for sale throughout the island. Just don’t make the mistake of telling the locals that you actually paid good money for the stuff.  There is an ancient saying directed at such rash behaviour. It goes something like “Hahahahahahha – what sort of a big eeeeejit are ya!” Apparently the proper way to acquire seaweed is to “hitch up your skirts” and get your ankles wet. Brrrrr. Way! Too! Cold!

Dried dilleasc - stone age crisps from Achill


I bought dilleasc (dulse) which is widely available throughout the world. Dilleasc has been eaten as a salty snack since ancient times. It contains beta carotene , a natural antiviral, and is an excellent vegetarian source of B12 and Iron. If you are not in a position to hitch up your skirts and harvest it from the shore with your own fair hands, you can usually buy it dried.
For dilleasc crisps, spread the dried seaweed out on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes at 180°C, until crunchy. Better still, whizz some of baked seaweed in a food processor with some coarse sea salt for a condiment with a peculiarly addictive savouriness.

Sprinkle on a taste of the sea...

I made a dilleasc yeast bread to go with smoked salmon. It tastes of the sea and is wonderful with chowder yet not too savoury to be made into toast and drizzled with honey.

For a 2lb loaf you will need...
250g strong white (bread) flour
60g wholemeal flour
70g oatmeal
1 teaspoon fine table salt
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
250mls fresh milk at room temperature
80mls water at room temperature 
1 cup loosely packed dilleasc (dulse)

Preheat the oven to 200°C at step 4
1.               Mix together the first six ingredients. Then, add in the sugar, milk and water stirring until there is no dry flour left and the mixture comes together in a soft sticky dough. Cover and place in a warm, draft-free spot for between 12 and 18 hours. It should smell beery and be full of bubbles and doubled in size.
2.               Meanwhile, soak the dilleasc in fresh cold water. After about 20 minutes it will be soft. Rinse, squeeze out any excess water, and finely chop.
3.               Sprinkle the chopped dilleasc onto the risen dough. Then, holding the bowl in one hand, use the other, lightly floured, to mix just long enough to distribute the dilleasc throughout the dough. The dough will deflate alarmingly – it’s supposed to. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured 2lb loaf tin. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise again for between 1 and 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place, until almost doubled in size.
4.               Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and put a deep baking dish on the bottom shelf. Carefully pour boiling water from the kettle to a depth of about 2cm. It will evaporate as the loaf bakes, creating a crispy crust.
5.               Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Turn it out of the tin and check that the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. If not, pop it back in the oven for a further 5 minutes (without the tin) then test again.
If you make the dilleasc condiment I mentioned earlier, you could sprinkle a little over the top before baking.
Note: I’ve adapted my recipe to Jim Lahey’s ‘no knead’ slow fermentation method because it uses less yeast than the usual quick rise.  
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