Nobody really eats dulse, or any other seaweed, in England these days, though they used to. It is a pity because I do like the stuff. It seems to be popular still in Ireland though; my friend Evelyn often brings back a bag of it whenever she visits home and I like to steal a few pieces.
Dulse had been eaten for over one thousand years in North-Western Europe, the ancient Celtic Warriors of old ate dulse as they were marching and during the seventeenth century, and British sailors used it to prevent scurvy (although it was actually originally used as an alternative to chewing tobacco).
Its popularity in Ireland as well as Scotland led to dulse becoming liked in the USA too when they immigrated over the pond, although none of my American friends seem to have heard of it.
The Dulse Gatherers by Willaim Marshall Brown, 1863-1936
The dulse industry has obviously died a bit of a death in England and the rest of the UK and Ireland compared to days of yore. Charles Dickens, writing in 1858, reminisces about childhood holidays in Aberdeen where there were often over a dozen ‘dulse-wives’ selling dulse:
[O]f all the figures on the Castlegate, none where more picturesque than the dulse-wives. They sat in a row on little wooden stools, with their wicker creels placed before them on the granite paving stones. Dressed in clean white mutches, or caps, with silk-hankerchiefs spread over their breasts, and blue stuff wrappers and petticoats, the ruddy and sonsie dulse-women looked the types of health and strength… Many a time, where my whole weekly income was a halfpenny, a Friday’s bawbee, I have expended it on dulse, in preference to apples, pears, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, wild peas and sugar-sticks.
He recalls a conversation:
A young one would say: “Come to me, bonnie laddie, and I’ll gie ye mair for yer bawbee than any o’ them.”
An old one would say: “Come to me, bonnie laddie, and I’ll tell what like yer wife will be.”
“Yer dinner ken yerself.”
“Hoot aye – I ken brawly: she’ll hae a head and feet, an mou’, and eyen, and may be a nose, and will be as auld as me, if she lives as lang.”
“Aye: but ye gie me very little dulse for my bawbee.”
“Aye,” replies the honest woman, adding another handful, “but sic a wife is weel worth mair siller.”
The dulse-wives exploded into laughter, when the woman suggested some one like herself, as the ideal wife which youth is doomed always to pursue and never to attain.
Oh! those dulse-wives.
Anyway, enough prattle, time for the recipe:
It could be easier, really. First, scrub and then boil some potatoes in their skins without adding any salt. Remove the skins and mash them. Next, crumble the dried dulse and fry it in olive oil – you’ll need a quarter of an ounce of dulse for every pound of potatoes used. This takes just a few seconds. Add the oil and dulse to the spuds and mix, mashing in some extra olive oil if need be.
Serve with lamb (as I did), beef, chicken or fish.
#307 Mashed Potato with Dulse. Well this was good mash, but there wasn’t much flavour of dulse in there. It did give the potatoes an attractive green colour though. I thought it strange that the recipe asked for olive oil rather than butter – olive oil was not used that much when English Food was first written in 1974. It would have been most likely found in chemist’s shops, where it was used to remove ear wax. 5/10