The unusual and unfamiliar taste and texture of Laver is something that should be enjoyed at its very best the first time you try it. This, I think, is it. First you need to make your laverbread. It takes an extraordinarily long time to cook, anywhere between 5 and 10 hours depending on species and time of year, but the process can be speeded up enormously if you use a pressure cooker. Place your well-washed Laver in a heatproof bowl, cover it with an upturned heatproof plate and sit in 4–5 cm water inside a pressure cooker. Cook for about an hour. This is a long time in a pressure cooker and is best done in two stages to prevent the water boiling dry and the aromatic calamity that would follow. When the Laver is cooked, transfer it to a clean saucepan, then heat and stir until the excess liquid is reduced and a coarse, sticky purée is formed.
If you are determined to follow tradition and cook for the whole 5 to 10 hours the best pot to use is a thick-bottomed preserving pan with a lid. Stir occasionally and then reduce the cooking liquor until a sticky consistency is reached. Whichever way you use, there is a considerable investment in time and energy so it is worth cooking a large quantity and freezing whatever is not needed immediately.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 100 g laverbread
- 6 rashers of best streaky bacon
- 20 or so Venus Clams or 40 Cockles
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 4 large slices of warm toast
- Once you’ve made your laverbread, chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces, then gently fry in a dry frying pan until just crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a warm plate and keep warm.
- Carefully add a little water to the pan, then add the shellfish. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook until the shells steam open, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and take the shellfish out, emptying any juice back into the pan. Shell the Clams and keep them warm.
- Throw the laverbread into the clam juice and bacon fat, stir and gently fry, reducing to that sticky consistency again. Towards the end add a little lemon juice. Spread the laverbread on toast and top with the bacon and Clams.