Seakale á la Polonaise – or Polish crambe

I’m not sure I have ever seen seakale for sale, I’ve had lots of kale, and seaweed when I can, but I’ve had to look up seakale to see what it is I have a recipe for in my little 1930’s National Mark Calendar of Cooking.

Crambe maritima, which the recipe naturally calls seakale, apparently is also called just crambe… well I have never, in all my reading and eating food, have come across crambe. As far as I can tell, most seakale is now grown as ornamental plants; it is a type of halophytic flowering plant in the brassica family. In its natural state it grows wild all along the coasts of Europe and right round as far as the Black Sea; however if you live County Antrim or County Down, or in some parts of Norway, you better not get your hopes up of gathering any from your lovely sea shores because it very rarely graces your coastline. People in other parts who were lucky enough to have it growing near them, would bank up shingle round the plants which would blanche the lower stems and make them tender and no doubt delicious. It became popular as a garden plant throughout the nineteenth century, but seems to have fallen out of fashion now, as a herbaceous addition to your borders or as a vegetable.

If you do come across any, here is a recipe from the National Mark:

Seakale á la Polonaise… or perhaps more properly, Chignon de Mer á la Polonaise

  • seakale
  • lemon juice
  • hard-boiled egg
  • butter
  • breadcrumbs
  • parsley, very finely chopped
  1. cook the seakale in the usual way ( I guess boil briefly in salted water, the recipe does add at the end to add a little lemon juice to the water)  drain and dry and keep warm
  2. mix the egg yolks and parsley
  3. arrange the seakale in a dish and sprinkle with the egg and parsley mixture
  4. melt the butter and add the breadcrumbs, fry until golden
  5. spread the breadcrumbs over the seakale and serve

This sounds rather dry to me, I think I would prefer it with a white or cheese sauce, forget the egg and after putting the breadcrumbs on the top, pop under a grill for a few minutes! Constance Spry recommends a Hollandaise sauce, Eliza Acton a white sauce or gravy!

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