I have been having the best summer, enjoying all the lovely sunshine, going for lots of adventures with Bruce our old Vw Camper Van and generally fermenting everything!!
To say it has become an obsession is a bit of an understatement! I now dream about fermenting stuff!!
My fridge is full of all sorts of jars of starters, milk kefir grains, water kefir grains, seasonal ferments and my cupboard is full of various ferments bubbling away!
Now much as I would love to say I grow all my own veggies, that would be far from the truth! However I am a fan of seasonal eating and in the summer we have so much incredible produce to choose from!
Think juicy tomatoes, crisp green courgettes, shiny peppers, lush green herbs, colourful edible flowers, rosy pink radishes, rainbow coloured salad leaves! I could go on but you get my drift!
I do however grow lots of herbs and I have courgettes and tomatoes this year but none are ready yet! So I'm experimenting with all sorts of flavoured kombuchas, water kefir and fruit Kvass and making use of all my abundant herbs, mint, basil, lemon balm, lemon verbena, thyme, oregano, fennel, borage and nasturtiums!
I ran a workshop last week with my awesome friend Sonnda Catto, a Cordon bleu trained chef, pattisserie expert, nutritionist with the most developed palate I have ever come across! She creates the most amazing freefrom foods I have ever tasted! They may be glutenfree, sugarfree, grainfree, dairyfree but they are most definitely not flavour free!
Sonnda has a restricted diet because of her ME but she certainly makes the the most incredible food from the best quality ingredients! We will be collaborating again and running regular workshops so watch this space for details.
And I will be launching a new programme of workshops, covering all things fermented, details coming soon!
Anyway as usual I digress, I have so much to share with all you lovely people that I simply become overwhelmed and don't know what to share first, so end up sharing nothing!!
So I have decided to focus on tomatoes and give you two new recipes, both fermented, for awesome flavour and health benefits!
These are both really simple and all you need are your ingredients and a glass jar! No cultures or special fermenting equipment required!
Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which after fermentation becomes more bioavailable, which means your body can use it more efficiently! All sorts of magical stuff happens when you ferment food and its all good!! Lycopene has been associated with reduced risk of several cancers and it can also protect your skin from sun damage! Tomatoes are also rich in potassium which regulates fluid balance and are an excellent source of vitamin C, which also increases during fermentation!
So there you have it! Tomatoes, like all fruits and veggies, are extremely good for you, but fermenting them takes the health benefits to another level, as well as adding lots of gut healing lactobacillus bacteria, which just support every system in your body!
So no excuses, go and ferment some tomatoes!!
These are very aptly named and are indeed wee bombs of flavour with a delicate fizz on the tongue, that only fermentation can provide!
The recipe is so simple, you can hardly call it a recipe!!
CHERRY TOMATO BOMBS
So gather together some wee organic cherry or wee plum tomatoes, or better still use homegrown ones, about 500g.
Find yourself a large glass jar and give it a wash in hot soapy water then rinse it well. I used a large olive jar from Lidl but any glass jar will do.
Make a wee hole in each tomato using a wooden cocktail stick or skewer, pop them in your jar, add 3 or 4 bashed garlic cloves, a few sprigs of basil, any other herbs you have like flat leaf parsley, rosemary, oregano or thyme. Make a brine by dissolving a tablespoon sea salt in 1 litre filtered water then pour it over the tomatoes. Leave an inch or so headspace to stop the brine overflowing. I covered mine with a big grape leaf from my garden but nasturtium leaves also work well or a large lettuce leaf or cabbage leaf. The idea is to keep the tomatoes submerged in the brine. You can also use a ziplock bag then fill it with water to keep everything weighed down.
Put the lid on loosely and leave it to ferment for 4 or 5 days, at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. You should see bubbles after a few days indicating that fermentation is proceeding normally.
After 4 or 5 days you should have delicious probiotic flavoursome tomatoes with a gentle fizz when you eat them.
Transfer to the fridge and enjoy!
So at my workshop last week, we sampled all sorts of delicious fermented summer treats and this awesome fermented salsa was a big hit! Although so was everything else, but I'm focusing on tomatoes today, so here is the recipe, adapted from my favourite book The Cultured Club by Dearbhla Reynolds!
(Makes 1 litre jar)
This salsa just tastes alive, so delicious and the fermentation adds a lovely sour tang. This is a great way of using up tomatoes and who doesn’t love salsa with tortilla chips! Or on a slice of sourdough with avocado as a probiotic bruschetta! To be honest this tastes amazing as it is, so if you don’t have time to ferment it then you can still enjoy all the amazing flavours, you just won’t have any probiotics! It’s a fast ferment, only 3 to 5 days so not that long to wait!! Alternatively, just add a clove of fermented garlic, job done!
Oh and keep any remaining brine in a wee jar in the fridge, you can add a tablespoon to some mashed avocado for fermented guacamole or pour it over your salad with some of your favourite oil! My current favourite is avocado and walnut oil!!
This is so easy. Simply mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, then pack into a clean 1 litre jar, leaving 2.5cm headspace at the top. Pack it in tightly to expel any air and bring juices to the surface. You can omit the chilli or add more depending on how hot you like it! I'm a chilli wimp so only add a wee pinch of chilli flakes.
Close the lid and allow to ferment at room temp for 3 to 5 days. Taste it after 3 days, it should have a wee fermenty fizz and zing. You can leave it for another day or so, if the flavour isn't to your liking, but don't leave it much longer or you can end up with an alcoholic tasting salsa, which isn't very nice!!
Put a bowl underneath it to catch any escaping juices. Transfer to the fridge, it will keep for around 6 months but it will be long gone by then!
I hope everyone survived the last week of snow! It was becoming ridiculous and quite scary how food supplies in the shops dwindled so fast. It's always bread and milk that go first and thankfully I bake my own delicious sourdough bread and had just stocked up on lots of organic flour from Waitrose, at 25% off! I can't resist a good bargain! It did make me very grateful that I can bake my own nutritious bread from only three ingredients and I actually consider it a life skill!!
Wee plug for my upcoming workshops, where I share all my knowledge and tips on how to make sourdough, kefir, kombucha and fermented veggies so you can go away and make your own fermented goodies! It could be a life saver the next time there is a food shortage!!
I only have one place left on Sat 17th March and one place on Sunday 25th March so contact me asap if you want to join the fun!
Here is the link
Anyway we could survive for at least a month. Our cupboards are well stocked with every type of pulses, grains and beans and I have a massive jar of fermented garlic in the fridge along with dried mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and loads of onions! I also have lots of fermented veggies, packed full of probiotic goodness!
My freezer is full of kale, spinach, frozen fruit and Alastair has a fish drawer full of fish!
I only buy dairy milk for my kefir grains and can easily make milk from almonds, oats, cashews or rice, all of which I have lots of.
It does make you think though how fragile our food system is and how long it would take for us to run out of food completely?
Anyway I'm so glad the snow has gone and the sun is actually shining today and the sky is blue! Hurrah spring is coming! My favourite season!
So I've been meaning to share this recipe for a while. I posted a photo on Instagram a few weeks ago and lots of people commented on it.
It's one of those recipes that you can vary endlessly according to what veggies, lentils or beans you have available.
I have made a few variations myself. The star of the recipe is good old Linda McCartney Veggie Sausages, a staple in our house, and only £1 per pack at Home Bargains! I always have a few packs in the freezer for weekend breakfasts and brunches!
However they work really well in this hotpot/casserole and make a really delicious and healthy dinner!
I love using up whatever veggies I have in the fridge, which I did a lot of last week, when we were snowed in, and I had a great time looking through my many cookery books for new ideas!
Anyway this recipe I just made up so its simple but rather versatile and works great with a big pile of creamy mashed potatoes and steamed greens or with pasta, rice or couscous. Any leftovers can be eaten cold for lunch.
You essentially cook the sausages in the oven for 15 minutes while you get on with making the sauce. Its a tomato based sauce with onions, carrots, peppers, mangetout, frozen peas or green beans with flavour from cumin, smoked paprika, mustard, and some tomato ketchup for a bit of added sweetness.
I have made this with the addition of puy lentils, which I cooked separately then added to the sauce with the cooked sausages and also with kidney beans and I had a bag of cooked quinoa and bulghur wheat to use up so just added that too. You can essentially just use frozen peas, carrots and onions and a tin of kidney beans and tomatoes but be adventurous and add whatever veggies you have. Celery and mushrooms would work well too and any cooked grains, lentils or beans. Also spinach stirred in at the end is always a good addition and a great way of boosting your greens for the day!
So here is my basic recipe..
SMOKY SAUSAGE & BEAN CASSEROLE
Ingredients for 6 people
.....your health in your hands....
I've been experimenting a bit with options for our Christmas dinner and I've decided on this rather delicious dish!
I came across the idea on the rather fabulous plant based blog mygoodnesskitchen and the simplicity of this appealled massively!
My criteria for any recipe really, festive or not, is flavour, simplicity and nutrition and this one ticks all the boxes!
Plus it looks great too and is sure to impress your guests!
We stick with vegan options for Christmas although Kathryn always requests a veggie lasagna which isn't festive at all but it's her favourite so we make a separate one for her.
We tend to have lots of options and a table full to overflowing with festive fare but we all love cooking and have the time to spare but food is a priority in our house.
The saying there are those who live to eat and those who eat to live and we definitely fall into the first category!!
We love food!!
So back to this really simple but elegant dish. The most difficult part is cutting holes in the butternut squash! I have a really good plain round cookie cutter which worked really well. I also tried a fluted option which although more difficult to cut through, left a lovely flower shaped hole, although the hole is filled with stuffing mix so just go with the plain option!
Cut slices about an inch thick and buy a butternut squash with a long neck end so you can cut a good few slices out!
I decided also to try the stuffing mix with portabello mushrooms and it worked really well and was simpler and quicker since the mushrooms don't need pre cooking prior to adding the stuffing and you don't have to cut a hole in them! You just give them a wipe with a damp cloth, put them on a lightly greased baking tray and spoon generous amount of stuffing mix and a wee drizzle of oil then bake them for around 20 minutes or so!
Doesn't get much easier than that!
Okay so the stuffing has a lovely festive flavour from the cranberries, chestnuts and herbs. If you can't find chestnuts then you can replace them with walnuts or hazelnuts. I used Merchant Gourmet vacuum packed cooked chestnuts from Waitrose.
Another time saving tip is to use a can of cooked lentils! Then its simply a matter of frying an onion, garlic, herbs then adding the other ingredients and heating it through.
I am going to make up my stuffing mix and freeze it so I'll be good to go on Christmas day.
If you have fresh sage, rosemary or thyme in the garden then add a good chopped spoonful of all of them. Alternatively you can use dried herbs.
I served a slice of squash and a big mushroom with a delicious gluten free, extremely healthy mushroom gravy, which is made with cooked brown rice, mushrooms, stock, herbs, garlic, tamari or balsamic vinegar and optional nutritional yeast flakes!
All you do is simmer the mushrooms, stock and cooked rice for 10 minutes then add herbs, garlic and seasoning and blend the lot into a delicious vegan gravy. No faffing around with lumpy flour and butter for me!! The recipe is included at the end of this post.
On a health note, cooked and cooled rice, potatoes and pasta have way more benefits for our gut bacteria, due to increased amounts of resistant starch, and everyone knows how much I go on about these wee critters! Its a symbiotic relationship on a massive level, with huge benefits for us, their hosts!
So do yourself a favour and provide your gut microbes with a festive feast this year and they will repay you with enhanced health on every level!
A feast to these wee guys is fibre, lots of it from different sources, so veggies, fruit, wholegrains, lentils, seeds, nuts, beans and pulses is the way to go!
If you decide to make this delicious dish your festive choice then you will be doing your health, your taste buds and your gut microbes a huge favour!
Whatever graces your festive table this year, enjoy it and have a wonderful Christmas...
Here are the simple recipes..
FESTIVE STUFFED SQUASH
Ingredients to serve 6
VEGAN MUSHROOM GRAVY
🍃 Health educator🍃