Hi everyone and welcome to my first blog post of 2018! I have been extremely busy redecorating the house since the new year, it's just what I felt like doing and once I started I couldn't stop!!
Sometimes we have to just go with the flow and do what we feel like doing, rather than what we feel we have to!
I have decided that I want to be more creative this year and develop a mindfulness and meditation practice and of course spend lots of time with Bruce our VW Camper Van exploring our beautiful country and going to lots of festivals!
So that's my plan, hope everyone has some fun things planned for this year!
Which brings me back to the purpose of my blog which is to spread the word on the power of food and nutrition to heal us and keep us well so that we can enjoy our lives to the full!
I succumbed to the flu type virus that was doing the rounds over the festive season, which brings into sharp focus how awful it is to be unable to do the things we want and spend quality time with our family and friends.
I'm not a fan of taking drugs and think in a way that by taking drugs at the slightest sign of symptoms, we are basically telling our bodies that we don't trust them to heal us. Our immune systems do an incredible job for us, fighting viruses, bacteria and all manner of other ills, if we support them with healing foods and let them get on with it.
So my plan was to rest in bed for a few days, and boost my immune system with shots of pineapple, ginger, lemon and turmeric, which worked great to suppress my cough, lots of healing soups and fruit to boost my vitamin levels and harness the awesome power of garlic and onions to fight the infection, which I'm happy to say they did!
It just brings into sharp focus the power of food to heal us on every level! Food is the original medicine, drugs are the new kids on the block!
Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Its usage predates written history! Sanskrit records document the use of garlic remedies approximately 5000 years ago, while the Chinese have been using it for at least 3000 years.
Hippocrates and Aristotle cited numerous therapeutic uses for garlic.
Its multifaceted in its healing power. It's antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal & anti parasitic. It can clear heavy metals from the colon, fights infection due to colds, flu, strep throat, pneumonia and viral related cancers. It can lower blood pressure, protect the heart and lower cholesterol. Not bad for a lowly garlic clove!!
Many of the therapeutic effects of garlic are thought to be due to the many sulphur containing compounds it contains. It is also an excellent source of Vit B6, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, calcium, potassium and iron.
There are 27 known active ingredients in garlic and dozens more that work in ways we haven't discovered yet! Many of these compounds work synergistically in the body to fight infection.
Many serious bugs, among them MRSA and staphylococcal strains of bacteria, have developed resistance to most antibiotic drugs, but not to the awesome power of garlic, due to the chemical complexity which these superbugs can't fight!
The other interesting thing about garlic is it only kills bad bacteria and leaves all the good guys unaffected, whereas antibiotics wipe out most of the good ones as well as the bad ones, leaving your immune system compromised and your gut microbes decimated!
Not good on any level for your health!
Which brings me back to another of my favourite topics, Fermentation!!
Now bearing in mind all the benefits I have just told you about, you can take garlic and boost its power by a large degree by simply fermenting it in a salt brine for a few weeks and then keeping it in the fridge, to use whenever you like! I add it to all my dips and dressings for a real flavour and health boost! It's definitely best used raw to preserve all the probiotic bacteria but you add it to any recipe requiring garlic at the end.
This simple process increases the vitamins, makes them more bioavailable and adds lots of beneficial lactic acid bacteria (the good guys!) So this is indeed a win-win situation!
Additionally the strong flavour mellows out during the fermentation process and magically doesn't linger on your breath!
The only drawback to making fermented garlic is the number of cloves you have to peel first! However, in my positive world, I see this as some time out, sitting comfortably, listening to some nice music and usually with a nice glass of wine or a lovely coffee, depending on the time of day!!
Mindfulness in action right there!
If you really don't have the time to sit and peel a massive pile of garlic, you can try putting your separated cloves into a big pot, putting the lid on and giving it a good shake! Apparently it works but I haven't tried it myself!
Also if possible, buy organic garlic! Best to start with the best quality ingredients you can find!
So all you need is a clean glass jar, enough garlic cloves to fill it, some salt water and a few black peppercorns (optional) and some patience! Bearing in mind it takes at least 2 weeks but preferably nearer 4 to ferment, then it's really worth making a lot. It will keep up to a year in the fridge!
Firstly find yourself a decent sized glass jar and give it a good wash in hot soapy water then rinse it well to remove any traces of soap. Then the hard bit,
peel loads of garlic, enough to almost fill your jar. Add the peeled garlic cloves to your jar, add some peppercorns if you like! Then make up a 2% brine solution using a good quality sea salt without any additives or anti caking agents! This is simply 20g of sea salt dissolved in a litre of water. It depends on the size of your jar how much brine you will need. If you are using a smallish jar then just make up 500 mls brine with 10 g sea salt.
Pour the brine over the garlic cloves and make sure they are totally covered. Leave at least 2.5cm of headspace at the top of your jar. It's a good idea to add a weight of some sort to keep the garlic submerged. A small ziplock bag filled with extra brine works well or a large cabbage leaf or a small glass gu pot. Put your jar out of direct sunlight but at room temperature for at least 2 weeks. I left mine for 6 weeks. You should see small bubbles of carbon dioxide which is a sign that the fermentation is proceeding normally. Once fermented you can store it in the fridge where it will keep happily for up to a year!
Occasionally some of the garlic cloves turn blue, which is just due to the sulphur compounds and nothing to worry about!!
You will find endless ways to use your fermented garlic! It tastes like a cross between raw and roasted garlic and adds great flavour and amazing health benefits to any food you add it to!
..... your health in your hands.....
I bought some great bargains at Holland and Barrett yesterday, among them, two bags of lovely dried Lerida Figs!
I absolutely love fresh figs but dried ones are also delicious and perfect in chutneys and this fabulous Fig & Olive Tapenade.
An intense sweet and salty at the same time, totally versatile, delicious, packed with nutrition and containing two fermented products, olives and apple cider vinegar, this is well worth making and its so simple.
Just remember to buy preservative free olives. I used black Kalamata from Aldi and green olives from Lidl, both delicious and a great price but if you want to push the boat out and splash out on some more expensive deli olives, then go right ahead!
Olives are a great source of monounsaturated fats, minerals, vitamins, fibre and various powerful antioxidants. I think we are all aware that the Mediterranean diet is an extremely healthy one, olives and quality olive oil are consumed in large amounts, along with plenty of seasonal colourful veggies and locally caught fish. Not forgetting regular consumption of red wine which we all know has various benefits for our health!!
Figs are a brilliant source of calcium and magnesium for strong bones, fibre which provides a laxative effect and balances blood sugar, and lots of other trace minerals.
This is a great wee accompaniment to tapas style food and pairs particularly well with goats cheese on toasted sourdough bread or to accompany a cheese board.
It has a really intense flavour so a little goes a long way.
This would make a lovely gift, in a nice glass jar with a hand written label!
On that note, this is so good I'm off to make another batch!!
Here is the simple recipe.....
FIG & OLIVE TAPENADE
.....your health in your hands....
What can I say, where have the last two months gone? I have been neglecting my blog and I do apologise!
But I have been having so much fun fermenting stuff and working on my workshops, which are going from strength to strength! This is seriously addictive, I have been researching, buying books, joining Facebook Groups and experimenting like a mad scientist, in the kitchen! Well I actually am a scientist and some folks would say I am mad, especially my family, who have to live with me and all my weird concoctions!
My fridge is full of jars of ferments, sourdough starters, kefir, kefir cheese, whey and coconut kefir and numerous bottles of kombucha!
I have a scoby hotel with spare kombucha scobies ( you will have to come to a workshop to find out more about these amazing cultures, they look a bit like slimy aliens but they create the most delicious, probiotic, health affirming drink!
Kefir grains are similar microbial and bacterial cultures but they look like wee mini cauliflowers and magically convert organic milk into one of the most probiotic foods on the planet. Home made is way superior to anything you can buy and its so much cheaper, once you have the cultures, they just keep on growing!
So I think I am justified in calling myself a Fermentista..., someone who ferments things! I rather like that!
So for my first blog post in quite some time, and since we are in BBQ season I thought I'd share a really simple recipe for Sweetcorn Relish but this isn't standard run of the mill, full of refined sugar relish you buy from the shops! Oh no this is totally different and actually has no added sugar at all and its fermented so its packed with beneficial probiotics too!
You can use frozen or fresh sweetcorn but if you are using fresh try and use the freshest you can. The longer corn sits on the shelves after harvesting the more the natural sugar turns to starch and the big appeal of sweetcorn for most of us is the delicious natural sweetness!
Frozen sweetcorn is generally frozen directly after harvesting, as are peas, so the majority of the vitamins are preserved and the sugars should be relatively intact!
Aldi and Lidl stock delicious supersweet frozen corn, which is a great price too. I always have a bag in the freezer! There is less waste since you just use what you need, rather than opening a tin and only using half of it.
Anyway back to this delicious summer relish! It incorporates a rainbow of colours from red onion, red pepper, courgette and fresh green coriander as well as vibrant yellow corn!
Every colour contains different phytochemicals all with amazing power to heal us and keep us well.
The process of fermenting harnesses the power of the natural lactobacillus bacteria (LAB for short), present on all fresh fruit and vegetables and these guys are among the toughest bacteria out there! Given the right conditions they will destroy any pathogenic or harmful bacteria leaving a fantastically powerful ferment full of these health affirming wee guys!
Magic happens when you ferment foods, problem compounds are broken down, vitamins are made more bio available meaning they are easier to digest, vitamins are formed especially B vitamins and Vitamin K essential for strong bones!
These probiotic foods are so powerful, we should all be including them in our diets.
The main thing to remember with fermenting veggies is to keep the veggies submerged in the brine solution. This creates the perfect environment for the lactobaccillus bacteria to work their magic and keeps moulds and yeast at bay! So wee mantra to remember when fermenting veggies
Under the brine and all is fine!!
The easiest way to do this is to use a small ziplock bag, press it down onto the top of your ferment then fill it with water or brine solution (2tsp salt per 500ml water) to act as a weight to keep the veggies under the brine. If you use brine solution, if your bag leaks, the salinity of your ferment won't be compromised! Remember to put a plate or bowl under your ferment to catch any leaking brine. As the fermentation progresses, carbon dioxide is produced which can build up if not released, so don't tightly screw the lid on your jar. Just seal the ziplock bag and cover loosely with the lid. Also its important to leave a bit of headspace in your jar so don't fill it right to the top. You need room for the ziplock bag! All the supermarkets, Aldi, Lidl, Home Bargains sell Kilner jars which are perfect for fermenting but any large glass jar will do. We save all our jars, especially large ones, olives and coconut oil are our favourites for fermenting. Once your relish is ready, you can transfer it to smaller jars where it will keep in the fridge for around a month.
So go have some fun and impress everyone at your next BBQ with your homemade, refined sugar free, probiotic relish!!
So here is the simple recipe..
Fermented Sweetcorn Relish
I am a big fan of all things fermented and brew my own kombucha, make coconut kefir, ferment veggies and most recently bake my own sourdough bread. That is almost like another wee family to look after, these are all living organisms and need to be fed and looked after if they are to thrive and multiply.
That is pretty much the complete spectrum of naturally fermented foods and drinks and I am sure my gut bacteria are plentiful and happy and I reap the benefits!
The wonderful thing about all these cultures is that they grow and multiply, if they are looked after correctly, so you can give some away and what a gift to give someone!
I have shared kefir grains with many people who are now happily making their own and given a few Scobys to those brave enough to brew their own kombucha! Scobys are rather horrible looking things but they make the most delicious, health affirming drink from sweetened green tea!
Happy Kombucha sell a wonderful range of all things for fermenting your own foods and drinks and I'd highly recommend them for kefir grains, scobies, equipment, bottles and everything else you need. You can find them here
I was talking at The Good Food Show last week on all things fermented and had a lot of interest in fermented veggies, the easiest to prepare yourself, since no special cultures are needed, its just sea salt, veggies and flavourings!
I had a few requests for a good Kimchi recipe, which is the Asian equivalent of sauerkraut.
Napa or Chinese Cabbage is the main ingredient which have more delicate leaves than other types of cabbage and lend themselves well to Kimchi!
Kimchi has way more flavour than sauerkraut, its spicy and delicious, flavoured with ginger, garlic and chile pepper flakes but not for the faint hearted!! You can adjust the amount of chilli if you prefer less spicy food!
Traditionally vegetables were fermented to preserve them, in the days before fridges, freezers and chemicals! Magic happens when veggies are fermented naturally, the vitamin C content shoots up markedly, beneficial bacteria are produced, gut healing compounds are formed and the immune system is given a tremendous boost!
When you compare how the food industry preserves food, it invariably involves heating to high temperatures, which kills any pathogenic bacteria but also all the beneficial ones!! Next is a wide array of chemicals, none of them with any benefit to you whatsoever and most of them are detrimental to your good gut bacteria and are linked with all sorts of allergies and health issues, so we essentially end up with a food which is less healthy than we started with!!
It just makes more sense nutritionally to go back to the way things were done traditionally when preserving foods resulted in a healthier and more nutritious product.
All we need to preserve food naturally is salt and some patience! A lot of the so called advances in food production are about speeding up natural processes since time is money and if we want cheap food, there is plenty of choice, but at what cost to our health.....?
Killing off beneficial bacteria is extremely detrimental to health, and, as mentioned previously the use of chemicals is further depleting our good gut bacteria, resulting in a huge increase in chronic disease, gut issues, digestive problems, skin problems, allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancer and pretty much every other health issue you can name!
So at Nourished by Nature, natural processes are followed, using the best quality ingredients, preferably organic, free from chemicals and using traditional health affirming methods!
For anyone seriously interested in fermenting vegetables I can highly recommend the book
Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten & Christopher Shockey.
Its a great book with recipes for Krauts, Kimchis, Chutneys & Relishes, using every vegetable imaginable!
Traditional kimchi involves an additional brining step which makes it a much longer process so I prefer this simpler but equally beneficial method. You need to use napa or chinese cabbage, not the hard white variety, which is used for sauerkraut. Try to eat a spoonful every day, its great on a wrap or sandwich or as a side to any hot dish!
It's the best form of medicine, packed with beneficial bacteria, gut healing compounds, anti inflammatory and antibacterial benefits from the ginger and garlic, tons of minerals from the seaweed and loads of vitamin C to boost the immune system!
So here is my favourite Kimchi recipe
1 head of napa or chinese cabbage, chopped
3 carrots, grated
1 large daikon radish, grated or a cup of small red radishes, finely sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup of dulse seaweed flakes (I use Mara seaweed flakes)
1 tablespoon chile pepper flakes (or less if you prefer it less fiery!)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons good quality sea salt (himalyan salt is good)
1 teaspoon of tamari sauce (or fish sauce if you are not vegan)
1. Simply mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes.
2. Pack the mixture into a large glass mason jar or 2 smaller jars. Press it down firmly.
3. Top with a water filled ziplock bag to keep oxygen out and keep the veggies submerged under the brine.
4. Put the lid on loosely and set aside to ferment for at least 3 days. Taste it after 3 days and decide whether it tastes sour enough. Its a matter of personal taste so just keep trying it until you like it!
5. Once you are happy with the flavour you can store the kimchi in the fridge where it will keep happily for months, if it lasts that long!!
. .....your health in your hands.....
A healthy lifestyle blog with green living tips, plant-based recipes and natural health magic.