It’s an infinite topic, all the interconnections of climate and weather, food,  tradition and diet,  worries and hopes.  And everyone is going to have specific stories, part of the human story of where we are going as People.  I find this short film moving in its particularity in Bangalore, and then imagining that the experience this narrator describes can be written anew all over the world.  Facing up to it seems the most important thing.

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IMG_20180816_101206.jpgTwo fun things, and they both have to do with tortilla chips.  Perhaps this is because, as a taco fiend, I often have broken corn tortillas calling for rescue.

Watermelon Pickle, well, the rind at least, the green skin carefully pared from the white pretty flavourless bulk that contains the precious sweet pink flesh. You’ve heard about it this pickle… you’ve wondered.  You don’t see the point in vinegar really as you identify more as a fermenter.  You look up fermented watermelon rind and find a recipe that suggests you make a brine. You kind of decide not to make a brine– there’s so much water itself in the watermelon. Instead you pack the pared rind that you’ve saved by insisting everyone puts them in a special bowl, and a teaspoon of sea salt, and you pack it down in a jar, and observe it getting wetter and wetter, creating it’s own layer of brine.  It occurs to you to add some hot pepper, in this case a yellow jalapeño.  This was a good idea but you could use any herb or spice or flavour as watermelon rind is really so very mild and passive. “Do with me what you will,” it said.

You realise quickly it’s not going to keep a bite or crunch very easily, so you surrender. After several days you taste it, and you are like, wow, THIS is fermented watermelon rind pickle.  Here we are, this is it. And you get the urge to chop it up with spring onions and the jalapeño, and loads of fresh coriander, and make a salsa.

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Other salsas:

Fermented Orange Salsa; 

Fermented Gooseberry Salsa

Fermented Chili Salsa

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IMG_20180722_113707.jpgKIMCHI FAUXRITOS, 

or,

last time I ate spicy cheesy Doritos, along with, admittedly, red wine, I got such a killer migraine that I’m afraid to eat them again but do miss the whole experience so decided to try a DIY, perhaps healthier version:

Had some rather pungent kimchi in the fridge which I dehydrated in a very low oven.  It took a while….

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When it felt really dry,  I pulverised it as much as possible, mixed it with oil

two ways:

Fry the uncooked (corn) tortilla scraps in the spicy oil, or

Toss the broken pieces (or proper triangles) in the dried kimchi and oil and bake in the oven.

I made two batches of each, one with nutritional yeast (for a cheesy note) and one without.

Comments: These are really nice snacks, fun to make, serve and eat.  They didn’t have that WHAM of Doritos, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.  I might add extra chilli powder next time.

 

IMG_20180616_164137.jpgI knew that Rhubarb Ketchup was a thing, as I gazed upon all those stalks growing madly in the raised bed and asked them, what shall I make with you? They said, if you make a standard ketchup, you’ll have to sterilise the jars, and do you really have the energy to do that? Or would you rather make something probiotic and alive, naturally tangy, and furthermore….  why not use your vinegar from underripe green grapes, the vinegar that started life as a verjus, knowing it is ill-advised to jar, as in many vinegar preserves, with an unknown Ph.?

So Fermented Rhubarb Ketchup happened, and it’s wonderful.   It an EXTRA fruity tangy ketchup, or catsup as one used to enjoy saying as a child– and would be marvellous at a barbecue or with anything chicken or duck, kind of like hoisin.  My intention though is to use it as an ingredient in a BBQ marinade, for tempeh.

Are you all right with my giving loose recipes?  It’s how I like to cook.  Because I cook this way, I feel more empowered and creative.  If it seems challenging, refer back to proper recipes.  Feel free to play with your own spice combinations– Pam Corbin in The River Cottage Preserves book uses cumin and coriander for instance, others use bay leaves; I am a junky for warm, spicy cloves as a go-with for rhubarb.  Here’s how I made mine:

  • 12 skinny or 6 quite fat stalks of rhubarb
  • a loosely chopped, large red onion
  • a few garlic cloves, being aware you could over-do (which you might want to do!)
  • five cloves or a teaspoon of clove powder (I like lots, you might not.)
  • a big handful of brown sugar
  • a small American measure 1/2 teaspoon of salt (add more to taste)
  • a mixture of cider vinegar and sauerkraut brine to equal about a quarter cup, but really the proper amount to thin the mixture to what feels ketchuppy to you.  (I used a scrap vinegar from green grapes and a brine from a lactofermented cauliflower/ giardiniera.)   Some people might use whey here.

Roast the rhubarb, onion and garlic until soft. It might have been nice to add a little orange juice, and maybe I will next time.  I did sprinkle a bit of seasalt here to get the juices flowing.  The rational for roasting in my thinking (vs raw fermented rhubarb) — a) most fermented ketchup recipes start with tomato paste/ puree which of course is cooked and b) when I discovered world traditions of beginning fermented aubergine/ eggplant recipes by roasting, steaming, or boiling, ferments that had been meh became YEAH!

When cooled, puree the rhubarb mixture; I did this in my trusty food mill which makes for a very smooth texture and removes scratchy bits.  Add everything else, combine, and pot, which for me means a jar with a rubber gasket that I will burp; others prefer airlocks.

I’m excited to smother this over stuff, and have it as an element to play with in my larder.

LATE CHIPOTLE ALERT!  

I decided a spicy Chipotle Rhubarb Ketchup might be something I’d be more likely to use, as a marinade and ingredient in sauces.  As remedial action, I softened three (dried) chipotle chilis in a little fermented brine (water, juice, vinegar would have been fine too) and repureed them through the ketchup.  Clearly one could just add the soaked chipotles to the original mixture! You could control how hot you want this.  I find fermenting lessens spice (does anyone know why?) so you can often add more spicy than you think you like.

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Invite me to your sunny picnic, this is what I’ll make to bring!  Fresh and spicy, sweet and sour, savoury, crunchy, moreish, yum!

You all know I would never be strictly prescriptive in these salads that combine fermented elements with fresh fruit and vegetables. This one is simply

  • grated beetroot,
  • chopped apples,
  • a few tablespoons  of  Rhubarb Kimchi, pureed, mixed in with:
  • a vinaigrette of olive oil and orange juice
  • dash of toasted sesame oil
  • a sprinkle of toasted pecans

Add anything else– goats cheese, feta, other nuts and seeds, carrots, fennel, cabbage, herbs, wild greens, lettuces or leaves….  Whatevah!

You can always use cabbage kimchi in salad dressings too.

The rhubarb kimchi, pureed, is also a wonderful salsa / raw chutney with goat’s cheese and crackers.IMG_20180514_141627.jpg

And of course, scraps from the beetroot, apple, and orange, and a new stalk of rhubarb from the raised bed in the garden, make a wonderful kvass!  And nothing’s been wasted.IMG_20180514_141609.jpg

My old friend Lee Ann Brown wrote this poem about Polk Salad in her book In the Laurels, Caught.  She wrote it from notes jotted on a day with the herbalist Mary Morgaine Thames, in North Carolina, learning about wild plants.

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POKE SALLET

is cooked not raw

stay ahead
              of the red

Eat in spring
cook when 6 inches or less

lymph cleanser

2 boils

Do Not drink the potlikker

Eat the berry

1 on the 1st day
2 on the 2nd day
3 on the 3rd day

How far do you
spit out the poisonous seeds?

become a dynamic accumulator
bringing up minerals from below

Children in a school near here used poke ink
It was that with which they wrote

any daughter paints her arms

the way to play the plants

on paper the unfixed juice goes from bright magen-
ta to a dried blood color

the man who built our house

first dreamed of a pokeberry sky

but after a hot day of crushing berries
and smearing the boards, gave into Benjamin Moore

it’s “hard to fix”

that color more bright than cochineal


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BREADLINES is a new and very compelling internet publication exploring food justice in the UK.

“To unravel food justice in the UK – one of the world’s most impactful global empires – requires deep reflection, reconstruction of the systems that support injustice (with which we are complicit) and more shared conversation and collective action.  We hope that the content of this journal will focus on that awareness raising as it relates to the UK, but it will also draw connections with related issues and movements in other parts of the world.”

You can read the very first issue here with articles about food banks, the vulnerability of traditional public markets, land ownership, participatory work in practice, Nyeleni + 10, and much more.  It’s a deeply political and change oriented food journal, concerned with EVERYONE  having access to good food.

The work comes from an approach of “community centred knowledge” and activism. You can read about some of this, and access many resources, here.

 

IMG_20180304_121548.jpgLots of people don’t like the straight shot of ferments just on their own.  Integrating them into salads is a great way to ensure the health benefit in your diet, with sour and salty flavours softened.  I made this wonderful salad yesterday, and thought to record it here.

  • Brown Rice (leftover)
  • Seaweed Kraut (white cabbage, dried kelp)
  • chopped coriander leaf (cilantro)
  • pumpkin seeds roasted in Garlic Turmeric Oil, inspired by delicious Burmese salads.

I’m not into recipes so much as approaches.  So in this there’s the template of grain plus ferment or pickle plus green or herb plus garnish.  The dressing is intrinsic really, the oily seeds and the brine of the ferment, but you could add other or additional. Possibilities are endless.

Have a look at similar approach to Root Vegetable Salads that include ferments.

I’ve learned so much listening to podcasts on A Sustainable Mind through the years.

This interview with Mallory O’Donnell, whose blog How to Cook a Weed is a favourite, struck me. The discussion reflects an approach to foraging which isn’t so much about wild food as trophy but instead gathered plant as relationship– with nature, with gardened landscape and feral escapees, with one’s own process of learning and self-education. I find this moving and hopeful. Have a listen.  And there’s loads to learn and recipes to inspire on the blog.  Looking forward to Mallory’s book!

How to Cook a Weed

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I had the great pleasure earlier this month to be interviewed by Marjorie Alexander for the incredible A Sustainable Mind podcast. Marjorie highlights people who are doing some truly inspiring work around issues of ecology, food waste, reusable energy, sustainable living and a myriad of other matters that all relate very closely to the issues that are close to my heart. I feel honored to be included amongst these folks who are contributing in a much more direct way to facing and resolving what is one of the great crises of our times.

It is my firm belief that living more simply and in greater harmony with nature is one of the most important and personal steps we can take in life. I urge you to think about the sustainability of your actions every time you collect wild food, to understand and acknowledge the relationships of the plants and wildlife around…

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IMG_20171125_185538.jpgHope you like the picture of my cranberry sauce, the one made with the the recipe that used to be (still is?) on the packaging bag– cranberries blended with a whole orange, and sugar. This year I made it in advance with a little kombucha to enliven, in the hopes that it would keep longer without fermenting alcoholically… and be a bit probiotic.

Every year I celebrate Thanksgiving here in Britain, as a touchstone with my kids to the traditions I grew up with. For a decade now at least I’ve made a discussion of the history of the colonisation of the Americas part of what goes on– exploring the myths and lies of the holiday, and the shared experience of native peoples there.. I can’t really sit with the historic (and contemporary) violence without acknowledging it. When I read Anna Brones’s piece below, it was so spot on, I wanted to share it here on my blog.

As people in Britain increasingly celebrate this holiday, feeling grateful and loving with friends and family, enjoying the seasonal foods of autumn, gathering to feast, I hope there will not be here the same mistake as in the US– feeling grateful for everything we have at the expense of what people have lost, often horrifically, to make that happen for “us.”

anna brones

For many of us, our associations with Thanksgiving are mostly about food. Cranberries, pumpkin pies, stuffing and all those other things that turns the food media world into a seasonal frenzy of recipes and roundups. It’s a holiday where we’re encouraged to gather with our friends and family and be thankful, showing gratitude for what’s on the table and the people we share it with.

These are admirable ideals, however when we talk about Thanksgiving, share iconic recipes, gather around the table, we avoid the harsh reality of a holiday with a dark past, one of slavery, plague and massacres. At its core, Thanksgiving is a story of genocide, and instead of facing that reality, it’s a holiday that we have chosen to mythologize, erasing real stories and people along the way. Instead of the truth, the false narrative around Thanksgiving allows us to focus on the easy stuff…

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Social Media really can widen one’s awareness of what goes on in the world.  So lucky me, on Instagram, happening to follow some fermenting accounts located, at the time of the Hurricanes, in Puerto Rico.

Of course as the storms bore down I wondered what my friends’ experience would be with their fermented foods, as a kind of disaster-proof preservation, through the violence of the storms: no electricity, no problem! But I did find myself worrying about them a little, especially with long radio silences that ensued.

(Well, it’s been pretty bad, as we all know, and I personally like to shout loud and clear the words CLIMATE FUCKING CHAOS as “weather” events keep getting wilder and more destructive.  CLIMATE ACTION NOW!  Let’s hope something radical happens in Bonn.)

The rebirth of the ancient arts of fermentation in the past decades have sprung from different sources including culinary creativity with diverse cultural influence, an interest in raw foods and nutrition, deep need for microbiome healing, an awareness of the mega-problem of food waste and the fantastic resource that is home-grown, glut-prone produce.

There has also been a kind of prepper strain– make that sauerkraut for the end of the world! As the end-of-the-world seems to be popping up here and there all over the globe for lots of people (and thankfully then beginning again), it’s a gift to our fermenting movement that Feast Yr Ears on Heritage Radio Network interviewed Brittany Lukowsky of @preservadovieques, an Instagram mate.

Have a listen to Brittany interviewed by Harry Rosenblum of The Brooklyn Kitchen (and author of the very useful and inspiring new book Vinegar Revival). They discuss many topics, paint a picture of life on the island before and after the hurricanes and a sense of the abundance and ease that fermented foods offer in a crisis situation.  Was disturbing to hear about how bees lost all their natural forage.  But inspiring to hear of the delicious curries Brittany was making.  It’s a close-in look at what surviving a hideous natural disaster might be like. Do listen:

FERMENTATION PRESERVES LIFE IN VIEQUES AFTER HURRICANE MARIA

 

Meanwhile, the heroic chef  Jose Andres has been organising amazing kitchens and networks of chefs to feed people throughout Puerto Rico, one part of the puzzle, and you can be inspired here.

Here’s a foundation to donate money to help rebuild Puerto Rican agriculture with an emphasis on local food security and food sovereignty . I learned about this through @eldeparamentodelafood and read about some of this work here.  There’s the worry that because the agricultural (and horticultural) sectors have been so utterly destroyed, this might be a shock doctrine kind of moment for export agriculture, when what is needed and wanted so hopefully is the opposite– the rebuilding of an agro-ecological way of growing that can meet food needs locally.

In New York City, there’s the @queerkitchenbrigade, cooking and pickling and sending delicious, healthful food to home islands where people really need this good nutrition.  They can use our help!

 

 

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