All posts filed under: Blog

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 …

Bribery and Buttermilk

It’s all very well for me to really “dig” fermented food caught up as I am in the good news of pre-digestion, nutritional optimisation, detoxification and consumption of friendly bacteria but I have to accept that the children in the house have an all together different view on the matter. L., who is eleven and nu. 3 in the pecking order of 4 calls me an “old hag” for offering her fermented dairy drinks. It is easy to understand why. Unless you’re used to drinking fermented dairy products every morning, as was the case in the past, then kefir, yoghurt or buttermilk may well, indeed, seem like the stuff of nightmares. To be fair, I too would have probably ran a mile to avoid drinking soured milk when I was a child/teen-ager and it was only when reading Nourishing Traditions a few years ago, when in my thirties, that I began to buy buttermilk. The first few slugs were, well, challenging. I was doing it on the basis of “this stuff is so good for …

What no letter X in the word tradition? Next!

What has become blatantly clear as I write Master in the Kitchen is that for a new approach, idea or thought to break out of the periphery and enter the conventional the concept requires oodles of sex before those controlling the gate-way to the mainstream will even consider endorsing the view. Traditional food… well lets face it – it’s just not sexy. It is not even vaguely sexy. The word traditional does not contain the letter X. I picture Simon Cowell sneering at me with folded arms, hissing me off stage. Perhaps he would prefer the word Tradix since it sounds vaguely like Matrix? Or he would rather I called my book Mistress in the Kitchen rather than Master in the Kitchen. Mistress in the Kitchen conjures up all kinds of visions none of which remotely resemble sauerkraut, beetroot or kefir. I was most unpopular over the past summer holiday when I removed a heavy pebble from a traditional sauerkraut croque which was being used to weigh down some grated and salted cabbage, radishes and turnips. …