All posts filed under: Blog

Local Food Market for World Food Day

Last Saturday The Guardian featured some beautiful photographs of fruit and vegetable stores across the globe – from London to Cairo, from Bangladesh to Russia. It was a piece sponsored by Origin Green Ireland and was run in conjunction with World Food Day.  It was such a cool idea I decided to take some pictures of our local stall holders who every Saturday, come rain or shine, set up shop so that we can enjoy their first rate fruit and vegetables! First up Maarten and Karen, (above) who run their own organic farm “De Levensbron” in Attenrode and who have been selling their fresh produce every Saturday at our local market for a number of years. I regularly use their fruit and vegetables in my dishes. They are so popular in the summer the queue can be long and it can take a while to be served. It’s worth the wait. Next up,  Linda. We were really pleased to see the return of this market stall in this September. The lady who ran the stall before her decided to stop in June citing (amongst other …

An Urge to Preserve

It is hard to imagine that a mere two generations ago most (if not all) households up and down the European continent were busy bottling and preserving the summer and early autumn glut of fruit and vegetables for winter consumption. In the dark, cold days of winter nothing much grows in Europe – how else were populations supposed to survive? Self sufficiency was not a fashionable past-time for the middle-classes seeking the good-life. Earlier generations needed to preserve food, not because they had an overwhelming nostalgia to do so, but because they had to. It was less a case of “An Urge to Preserve” and more “A Need to Feed”. How old-fashioned food preservation seems in today’s world of fossil fuel possibilities. Easy access to cheap energy has transformed our age-old understanding of food. What are five or six decades in the history of food? A mere speck. Yet, it was only fifty years ago that my German grandfather grew enough food in the garden to feed his family and my German grandmother spent the …

Back from the holidays with an over ripe sourdough starter?

Some of you may have come back from your long, relaxing summer holidays to find your sourdough in a bit of a state. But whatever you do – please do not ditch the sourdough! No matter how smelly or disgusting it may look to you it can still be saved from the brink. Honestly. These things become family heirlooms and could potentially last forever. Nor, critically, do they “go off” and become a lethal poison. They simply get riper. My sourdough “Freya” looked the worse for wear when we came back last week – as if she’d decided to go out on a bender and was now suffering from a fiendish hang-over. She even smelt of alcohol. That’s what happens when you leave grain to ferment too long. It turns a little bit alcoholic. Freya, was indeed more than a bit miffy – both literally and figuratively. She was showing signs of neglect and was not happy we’d failed to feed her fresh carbs over the course of two weeks. Before we left G. had given Freya …

Yahoo – and the peculiar tale of the missing Ginger Beer Plant

From what I have read ginger beer plants were very common in England at one time.There must be someone who still has it growing. I’m sure one will be found eventually. : -), Bruce Stordock, Yahoo GBP Group, September 2004 What a mysterious organism this GBP is, I wonder what happened to them all and where they came from in the first place? Beau, Yahoo GBP Group , September 2004 The ginger beer plant MUST be found!, Yahoo GBP Group You’d have thought – wouldn’t you? – that the ginger beer plant, common amongst home brewers in Britain for hundreds of years would have been sourced and found within a matter of months. Wrong. The ginger beer plant was, indeed, very common in Britain probably up until the 1970’s. To this day everyone in the UK still remembers an uncle, a grandmother, a friend or a neighbour brewing their own ginger beer. No children’s picnic was complete without lashings of the stuff. Most homes had a stone bottle of ginger beer in their pantry or cellar. …

KA POW – the explosive power of fizzy ferments!

In the same week that Putin annexed Crimea my home-made kvass detonated. Kvass, a typical Russian beverage, entails soaking dark rye bread in water overnight, straining the juices, adding sugar and leaving it to ferment. The recipe I used was a more modern interpretation of this ancient beverage and called for the addition of cultivated, packaged yeast and not the traditional sourdough starter. This combination – rather like modern Ukrainian-Russian relations – was explosive. We were away on holiday so thankfully no one got hurt. Had someone been standing next to our fridge they would almost certainly have been seriously injured or worse. The build up of carbon created by the mixture of sugar and cultivated, packaged yeast tore the glass apart at high velocity, which in turn forced the fridge door open and out shot small, sharp shards of glass. Every available surface area in the immediate vicinity was covered in a sickly brown liquid. Our Ukrainian baby-sitter, alone in the stillness of her bedroom above the kitchen and already nervy about events in …

SCOBY-doby-do and the origins of the mysterious symbiotic!

If you’ve never heard of a SCOBY fear not –   it’s not like they’re up for sale on super-market shelves, displayed behind counters in the corner shop or neatly aligned on tables in the local farmer’s market. SCOBYs are part of the collaborative economy and are passed on or shared between friends rather than being big commercial bruisers capable of making the Big Bucks, big time. Health food gurus, fermentation fans and food bloggers may be familiar with them. The vast majority, however, may be forgiven for thinking that a SCOBY is a Scooby-dooby-doo typo. SCOBY is, in fact, an acronym standing for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast” and SCOBY’s are an essential element in the fermentation of some milks, tonics and foods. Harry Marshall-Ward a Victorian botanist was the first to identify and classify them through the study of the Ginger Beer Plant. To recall most wild fermented foods and beverages are fermented either by yeasts (such as wine) or by lactic acid bacteria (such as kimchi). In the case of a SCOBY …

Jamming to the rhythm of Summer

This year the summer fruits are real show-offs. A mild winter, sunny spring and warm wet early summer has gifted us prize fruit. The berries are in berry heaven and flaunting their assets with the flirtatious zeal of a confident wannabe celebrity. Floozies the lot of ‘em not unlike the pin-up models popular with GI’s in the 1940’s – pouting juicy, ruby red lips that look so seductive they positively incite us to take a bit out of their plump, fleshy bodies. It’s the warm sun that has ensured the high fructose and nutrient level in these little beauties and boy are they cheap! Last week-end I bought 22 kg of strawberries at EUR 1.50 per kg. How about that for a good price? The cherries were more expensive at EUR 6 per kg but that did not deter me from buying 6 kg since they looked this early in the season like perfection. In any case cherries are always more expensive than strawberries and as the farmer told me – it’s still not, technically …