A whole pumpkin made enough for two weekend lunches. Saturday topped with roast beetroot and goat feta and Sunday topped with crispy bacon.
Some words just sound tasty, like ‘molten’, for example. Other words do not get most people reaching for a fork; ‘lacto-fermented’, for example. I know this to be true because since I’ve started dabbling in fermenting, whenever I talk about it, people give me a look that is somewhere between confused, blank and horrified. Which is exactly how I probably looked, when I was introduced to the term about a year ago, through working with Helen from Nourish-ed. Let’s face it – ‘lacto’ and ‘fermented’ are not particularly appealing independent terms… together they sound really scary.
So why is this jar of lacto-fermented vegetables now sitting in a cool dark spot in my kitchen, patiently waiting 3 days to be opened? The honest answer is that I was worn down. There’s only so many times you can hear how fabulous something is, how it will change the health of your gut (and therefore your whole body), possibly even change the world, without becoming curious. I must add at this point that no-one was actually physically standing on my doorstep, like a Jehovah witness, trying to convert me. No, nothing like that. It’s just I was editing a blog series we ran ‘Diary of a Barefoot Healthfreak’ for the clinic and there was just a whole lot of fermented stuff being credited for some small miracles. Then we had a clinic educational session during which some lacto-fermented carrots were passed around (wow – that sounds more illicit than it actually was). By this stage I was intrigued… I was also suspicious. But you know what, they tasted OK. Not good enough to have me reaching straight for the grater but good enough to get me thinking about reaching for the grater, and thinking about different combinations that would work.
With me, once I get curious, I start reading. The best thing to read, if you’re curious about fermented vegetables, is Sally Fallon’s ‘Nourishing Traditions’. Some people see it as a kind of bible, but she’s a bit down on sugar so I take it all with a large pinch of salt. No one’s going to be talking me out of my chocolate habit any time soon. Anyway, I digress, the point is that after hearing a lot about it, trying it, and reading up on it I came (albeit rather slowly) to the conclusion that lacto-fermented veg is a really good thing, with a really rubbish name.
I also came to the conclusion that whilst there is a bit of an underworld out there of fermentors, trading special, secret, fermenting knowledge then regular people can do it too…with a couple of spoons of sea salt…Shall we just call it preserving and move on?
If you want to follow a recipe then get hold of ‘Nourishing Traditions’. I’m not so good with recipes so here’s how I do it;
Sterilize a jar – like the one in the photo ..needs to be glass, with an airtight seal. Get a pile of vegetables (preferably organic) and grate them. Today I used carrot, beetroot, courgette with a fresh chilli (for kicks) and some parsley (because I’m drowning in it). If you have an electric grater of some kind then this will be easier. Make sure the pile of gratings is about 2 – 3 times the size of the jar because you are going to pack them down. Add 2 tablespoons of salt per jar (assuming you have litre jars as per the photo). You can also use a salt / whey mix, but I go with the easy salt only option. Mix the salt around and then give the veg a bit of a bashing with something. I imagine there is a kitchen gadget that is perfect for this, but I have successfully bashed with a variety of kitchen objects (bottom of clean cup etc). Once you’ve got a bit of juice coming out of the veg then scoop it into the jar and bash it down some more until the juices cover the gratings. Leave a little gap at the top of the jar, seal it and put it in a cool spot on the bench (out of direct sun ) for 3 days. Then it’s ready to eat – you can keep it in the fridge , for an eternity.
If you’ve read this post and you’re intrigued, then take a look at the Nourish-ed website. I’m just a converted skeptic, having a go..trying to make it sound a bit less intimidating…because it really will change the health of your gut for the better (maybe not the world though).
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying most kids don’t really like beetroot. Of course, kids are strange and unpredictable creatures, and there are probably some who do. I certainly don’t live with any. So when I pulled a nice fat beet out of the ground, at the community garden yesterday, I assumed it would be consumed by the adults of the house. Then I bumped into Dave, the school caretaker. We got talking about the blog, and kids, and food. We talked about creating recipes that would get the kids excited about the community garden produce. Now, if you read my kid-food-wisom page, you see I believe inspiring kids to like adult food, rather than creating specific kid recipes. But talking to Dave got me thinking. Specifically thinking about beetroot and chocolate cake. Let’s face it – chocolate cake is about as exciting as it gets. It seemed like a sign. Me holding the beetroot and Dave talking about trying to come up with some recipes that would get the kids into the garden produce.
I started by putting about a half cup of pitted organic prunes in a little water to stew with the beetroot (peeled and cut into chunks so it would soften quickly. Over the top I melted about 70g of dark chocolate, 50g cubed butter and a couple of spoonfuls of chia seeds.
After about 10 minutes I caught the prunes / beetroot just as they were beginning to boil dry – the ‘boil dry’ is never a good idea, I only mention it to illustrate the point that there wasn’t a lot of juice in the mix. I put everything in the little blender and buzzed it into a very think, absolutely gorgeous deep red chocolate-y paste.
Putting the paste to one side I whisked 3 eggs together with half a cup of granulated sugar, 1 and 1/2 cups of ground almonds, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 tsp gf baking powder and 1/4 cup of brown rice flour. Then whisked in the chocolate paste and poured into a cake tin. Once again I failed to register the baking time, but probably around 25 minutes.
Finished with icing. Made with a few squares of milk chocolate and a spoonful of greek yogurt. Can happily report the community garden beetroot was shared by the entire family – including the youngest who reached out and swiped some of my slice while I wasn’t looking.
Picked up a whole pumpkin this week for $2. Been looking at it, trying to summon the energy to hack the thing up. I have heard of people roasting it whole and scooping out the flesh afterwards, but I had a nice tray of caramelized chunks in mind, so baking it whole didn’t seem like a good plan. Got Jake to chop it and we were away. Roasted with whole garlic gloves, whole chillies (frankly just wanted to use some up and was intrigued as to whether roasting would make them hotter or mellow them out …mellowed them on this occasion, but chillies are like kids – you can’t expect consistent behaviour. ) Covered in rosemary leaves, from the garden, rubbed in olive oil (the olive oil stops the rosemary burning) coarse sea salt and pepper. Oh, and a big chopped beetroot.
Covered a large plate with chopped cos lettuce, shaved courgette and slivers of pear. Piled on about a third of the pumpkin (the rest will be soup for tomorrow) and everything ele from the roasting tray – crumbled over some goat feta, and dressed with more olive oil, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.
For those of us who live on Wellington’s rugged South Coast, where the wind is relentless and the soil is quite frankly a bit rubbish for growing stuff in, then cooking with freshly picked produce is a rare pleasure. Our own little garden has not exactly provided bountiful suppers, and so it was a real reat to discover Houghton Valley Community Garden this afternoon.
J sat contentedly on the camomile lawn surveying the bulging beds below, while the very friendly locals explained the basics of community gardening… there are no rules , no chiefs – muck in, take what you like and enjoy the garden. The sun shone, there was hot tea and they didn’t laugh when I mistook the silverbeet for rhubarb. So this is the first in what I hope will be many posts inspired by produce from the community garden.
I was planning on making a risotto for dinner, and even had ideas of simmering and stirring it slowly adding the stock ladle by ladle.. but then we spent too long out enjoying the Autumn sunshine and arrived home to the clock ticking rapidly towards bedtime and the kids demanding food with some sense of immediacy.
Put aside thoughts of ‘proper’ risotto and went for the lazy girl’s version instead. Start with a nob of butter and a few chopped garlic cloves then add a mug of risotto rice and about a pint of fresh chicken stock. Cover it, bring it to the boil and then turn it down to simmer. In a separate pan cook some chopped streaky bacon with silverbeet. The silverbeet was so fresh it was literally alive (had to carefully wash off a few spiders – luckily just the little ones!). While everything cooked I shaved the garden fresh courgette and beetroot with some chunks of avocado and crumbled feta.. oh and not forgetting the 3 cherry tomatoes from our own garden. After about 20 – 25 mins put some frozen peas and grated parmesan in the risotto – then after a couple more minutes it’s cooked. Dish it up with the bacon and silverbeet on top of the rice – squeeze of lemon over to help absorb the iron from the silverbeet (and because it tastes good) and the salad on the side – dressed with a little olive oil, apple cider vinegar and more lemon juice.
This is a great Friday night supper on a number of levels. For a start it’s roast chicken – always a winner , smells great while it’s cooking and as easy as putting the chicken in the oven to roast. You can get a bit flash with sticking things in the cavity (lemon / garlic / herbs etc) but if you can’t be bothered I reckon even just slamming the bird on a tray in the oven with a bit of salt and pepper still gets a fine result.
You can make the salad in advance so that when the pre-dinner slump hits and all you can think about is a large glass of wine then you can kick back with your large glass of wine, put the TV on for the kiddos and smell the chicken roasting. Sweet. Also, all that raw veg in the salad is super-healthy so you can treat yourself to an extra wine safe in the knowledge your brightly coloured vegetables are busy de-toxing your liver for you while you drink it.
To make the salad, grate up whatever vegetables are to hand. I used my lovely swirly grating machine (which for those of you feeling like your life is incomplete without one (I did get that comment this week so I know the sentiment is out there!) is a Tefal fresh express – got it from Moore Wilsons for about $90 I think. I used courgette, carrot, beetroot and celery – also put some grapes in because I wanted to crumble in a little blue cheese at the end and grapes and blue cheese are a very happy pairing. The ‘super grain’ part is a mix of white, red and black quinoa and amaranth that you’ll find from Ceres in the organics section (you can get it ready mixed all in one bag). I feel healthy just writing it and it has a nice mild nutty flavour that seems to go down OK with the kids (it’s gluten free as well). You just simmer it for about 15 mins in boiling water and then cool it for the salad (you can rinse it in cold water using a sieve if you don’t have time to let it cool on it’s own). I put some olive oil, apple cider vinegar and lemon on to dress the salad but it would carry any dressing well.
If you’re looking at the salad photo and thinking it might be a bit of a hard sell to the little guys then it’s easy to cut them some sticks of the vegetables with maybe some mashed avocado to dip them in and to give them a serving of the super-grains on the side. That’s how my little dudes like it but all kids have their own strange ways.
The final hurrah of this fantastic Friday supper is that you get a chicken carcass, and maybe even some leftover chicken if you have a slightly less greedy (or smaller) family than mine. You can put it straight on to boil for stock and then you’ll have a lovely batch of stock to cook with over the weekend. You can also make the salad bigger than you’ll need as it’s a great BBQ accompaniment or pizza side which make Saturday’s meals a bit easier.
Poached a whole chicken with some lemon and slices of fresh ginger (which I seem to remember seeing Donna Hay do). Bonus – got a couple of batches of chicken stock!
Roasted up a tray of beetroot coated in olive oil and honey with a few gloves of garlic. Steamed some broccoli, chopped up a nice ripe mango, cooked some thick rice noodles and rinsed them in cold water. Shredded the chicken, mixed everything up (except the garlic which I crushed into a dressing with olive oil, sesame oil, honey and mint)
Roasted kumara and beetroot plain with a little salt and olive oil (so good to puree up for J). Huge fillet of salmon roasted with a couple of lemon halfs squeezed over and thrown in and some salt and pepper.
Salsa verde (chopped flat leaf parsley from garden, zest and juice of a lemon, grated glove of NZ garlic (the chinese garlic is rubbish at moment) chopped capers and olive oil.
First day of term. Difficult dance class. Fractious kids. Colds popping up all over the place. Wind starting to get up. Big dinner required.
Roast chicken. Mashed potatoes with crumbled feta and parsley from the garden. Roasted chunks of pumpkin and beetroot in a mix of honey and olive oil with rosemary leaves. Broccoli and peas and some of the lovely red pepper sauce that Mike gave us at the weekend on the side.