Simple Sauerkraut

No doubt you’ve all heard by now how good fermented foods are for you, for your gut health, which science is now discovering plays an incredibly significant role in your overall health and wellbeing.
Looking into the types of fermented foods that are espoused by Those In The Know, I considered sauerkraut to be the easiest one to attempt myself (besides natural yoghurt… which I already make… But my sourdough bread attempts haven’t been ultra successful) :/
So, Googling in my usual style, I discovered the basic elements for homemade sauerkraut. And they are cabbage and salt. Yep, that’s all folks. Of course you can add things in for variety and taste – like other veggies, herbs and spices, even extra probiotic cultures – but on the whole I usually stick with the basics.
It’s ridiculously easy. The hardest part is waiting for it to become edible: waiting out the fermentation period.Food Fervour

You can buy special equipment for the process (this can ensure better success) but I literally began with a 1 litre glass jar. An ex-coconut oil jar (pictured right). No frills whosoever. (Except that it had to have a mouth that I could fit my hand into; that’s imperative …you’ll see why.) Food FervourIf, however, you end up liking and wanting to continue production after your first test batch, I’d highly recommend at the very least purchasing a jar with a proper rubber seal, such as the one pictured left.

Food FervourLuckily for me, a very inventive friend made a couple of purpose-built jars (equipped with beer brewing parts that allow oxygen to escape but not enter, for a more sterile environment) and gave them to me (pic right) so I can make ‘kraut til the cows come home 😛

For a 1 litre container you’ll need 1kg of cabbage (about half of a large head) and 1 tablespoon of salt (I opt for Celtic sea or Himalayan for the higher trace mineral content). When I remember, I pop a bay leaf in too. Note: if you’re trying this for the first time and fear failure (don’t worry, I often do too) simply halve the amounts and the jar size. That way there’ll be less to throw out if (1) it fails or (2) you decide you don’t like it!

Step One: Peel off some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and set them aside… don’t discard, we’ll be needing them later.

Step Two: Simply shred the cabbage and place into a very large bowl. You can finely chop with a large knife on a large chopping board, in batches. Or using a food processor if preferred, and also in batches (I have done it in my Thermomix, smaller batches, a few seconds on Speed 4-5)

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Yes, ALL of this does eventually fit in that jar…and easily!

Step Three: Add the salt (*and any other herbs or spices you’d like to include) and now you gotta git yer hands dirty! So make sure they’re clean. You need to get both hands into the bowl and massage the salt though the cabbage (et al). Really squeeze it, crush the life out of it! Food FervourThis is important to release the fluids (predominantly water) in the vegetable so that – combined with the salt you added – a brine can manifest. Give it a good couple of minutes… the longer, the better.

Step Four: Let it rest. Wash your hands, set the timer for 15 minutes and go have a cuppa or something. The magic happens here: the salt continues to draw the fluid from the cabbage, increasing the amount of all-important brine.

Step Five: Grab your jar and (with clean hands of course) begin stuffing the cabbage mixture in. Take a break when you think it’s lookin’ kinda full and start squashing the cabbage down to the bottom of the jar. As hard as you can. You are squeezing out as much air as possible and you’ll probably notice all of a sudden the brine is coming to the top. Food FervourYeah! Keep going! Chuck more of that stuff in and keep pressing it down. Eventually you’ll reach the end and you should be lucky enough to have all of the mixture well below the level of brine.

 

Step Six: Those spare outer cabbage leaves you kept at the start? This is where they come in. Choose one and push it in, down below the brine, as level as you can, across the top of your original ‘kraut mixture. Again, you’re trying to get as much of the air out from underneath that baby as possible. Food FervourI often do it with a couple of pieces to make well-and-sure that my mix is well under the waterline. When you’re satisfied, tightly cap the jar. (Professional home-sauerkraut makers buy special weights to ensure the sheltering cabbage leaf stays down but… I’ve never felt the need…)

Step Seven: Date your creation (I pop little stickers on the lid, see pic below) and store for at least one week, maximum two, in a cool dark place (the back of the pantry is ideal). Food FervourAfter one or two ‘explosive’ experiences (not really as scary as it sounds, just pressure build-up..) I decided to sit the jar in a little bowl just in case there’s a Great Brine Escape (leakage).

When you’re ready to open it, discard the top cabbage leaves (and the excess brine if you like) and keep refrigerated. I’ve had opened jars in the fridge for up to 4 months!

Now I must stress this is not the most hygienic way to make sauerkraut (as I said, there is proper equipment available out there in the marketplace) but of all the batches I’ve made (I’d guess nearly a dozen?) in the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had one batch that failed. And I knew it simply because it just didn’t smell right. Trust your nose, People. Science tells us there is no better apparatus to recognise bad food, than our own noses.

If you’re wondering whose sauerkraut recipe inspired me, take a look at The Healthy Chef (Teresa Cutter)’s Polish Sauerkraut. If you’re not exactly sure what to do with your sauerkraut once it’s ready open, check out some of the meals I’ve used it in:

https://foodfervour.com/2014/11/25/a-probiotic-toastie/

https://foodfervour.com/2016/01/18/an-eclectic-rainbow-salad/

https://foodfervour.com/2014/12/11/asparagus-sprouted-lentils-with-avocado-sauerkraut-mash/

 

 

 

 

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Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise Stew

With Winter smacking us in the face this week, I felt the need for a nice thick, warming stew. But having had (what I considered to be) too much meat for some days prior, I wanted something plant-based… that would satisfy me.

Knowing how damned good legumes are for us (very high fibre and plant-based protein) and having a bag of mushrooms in the fridge that I knew needed to be used up, I began the search for a recipe but as usual, nothing I found comprised a vast array of veggies. So, true to form, I ended up adapting; fusing two different recipes together: one Thermomix Lentil & Veg Stew with a Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise recipe on taste.com.au.

While I chose to make this using my Thermomix, it could be easily replicated by non-Thermie cooks because it’s a one-pot recipe. But a word of warning to Thermomix users: the quantities I used brought the bowl contents right up to the maximum (2 litres) so if you’re a little reticent, perhaps halve the quantities. It will still result in a decent amount of stew.food fervour

Grab the following:

35ml extra virgin olive oil, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 large carrot, 1 stalk celery, 2 potatoes, 170gm uncooked brown lentils, 200gm button mushrooms, 2 tablespoons Thermomix vegetable stock paste + 600gm water (non-Thermies use 700-800ml vegetable stock), 2 bay leaves, 400gm passata (or entire contents of a 400gm tin of tomatoes)

Thermomixers: Add the onion (quartered) garlic cloves, roughly chopped carrot and celery to the bowl and chop for 5 seconds @ Speed 5. Scrape down sides then cook for 3mins @ 100ºC on reverse Speed 1. Meanwhile, dice the potatoes and roughly chop the mushrooms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, stock paste, water, bay leaves and passata (or tomatoes). Stir gently before locking the lid in place and cooking for 45 minutes @ 100ºC on reverse Speed ‘Stir’, with the MC off and the basket (or a light dishcloth draped) over the top to catch splatters.

Stovetop Cooks: Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, then warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the veg and cook for 3-5 minutes (until onion has softened) stirring occasionally while you dice the potatoes & roughly chop the mushrooms. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, stock, bay leaves and passata (or tomatoes) to the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil before reducing to a simmer, partially covered for approximately 40 minutes.

Allow the stew to rest for at least 5 minutes (ThermoServers are the perfect receptacle) before serving so that the some fluid may be further absorbed by the lentils. It’s a perfect meal on its own, or with spiralised zucchini noodles, but you could add some pasta if you feel that you need “carbo-loading” 😉

Kangaroo Bolognese

Some people can’t understand how I (or anyone) can eat our ‘national emblem’. The vegetarians’ and vegans’ opinions are justified but any other carnivore (or omnivore, for that matter) cannot complain about me eating ‘Skippy’ if they don’t think twice about eating ‘Daisy’, ‘Babe’ or Nemo!

Kangaroo meat is higher in protein than beef, naturally lower in fat as well, and provides the haem iron I choose to include in my diet. Added to the fact that it is considered ‘Game’ (wild caught) and therefore likely to be a much ‘cleaner’ source of animal protein to consume than the chemical-laden animals being farmed for bulk consumption.

From an anthropological perspective, humans evolved thanks to these kinds of meats: hunters (physically active people) originally had to chase down highly active creatures in order to eat. Daisy wasn’t docilely ‘grazing in the fields’ back then. It was suggested by one of my favourite fitness/nutrition/neuroscience gurus Paul Taylor that “you are the animal you eat”…

On with the story…

I picked up a kilo of kangaroo mince on sale and since I find the ‘mini-chore’ of divvying up individual portions kind of onerous, I decided to create something immediately to lighten my workload. I’m not usually a pasta fan, but somewhere along the line I’d bought some gluten free macaroni and since I’ve been trying to get rid of it (and cannot simply throw it out – wastage is a Sin!) for a while, “spag bol” came to mind.

Straight to the Thermie. Too. Easy. I literally walked in the door at 1:15pm and was eating by 2pm.food fervour

I threw 1 garlic clove, a roughly chopped brown onion, carrot & celery stem in the bowl and almost pulverised them (which ultimately resulted in a very smooth bolognese consistency) for 8 seconds on Speed 7. Then I threw in 20gm of olive oil, the 400gms of Skippy mince (instead of ‘Daisy’ & ‘Babe’) and various herbs (basil, nutmeg, parsley & a bay leaf) and set it on to cook for 10 minutes @ 100ºC, Reverse Speed 1.

In this time I apportioned the remaining kangaroo mince, put away the rest of the groceries and the already-used-ingredients, and pulled out the ones I had yet to use: red wine, tomato paste, tamari, the gluten free macaroni and parmesan cheese. And a zucchini, which I chopped up finely. (My usual bolognese recipe includes more vege – like capsicum & mushrooms – but I didn’t have my Thinking Cap on today. I was more interested in Time-Saving.)

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While the bolognese simmers away in the Thermomix, the Magic Bullet pulverises the parmesan…

Finally, I added the zucchini, 80gm red wine, 60gms water, 2 tspns tamari & about 300gm tomato paste, set the time to 16 minutes, again @ 100ºC, Reverse Speed 1 then set to work on the other elements:

Since I’m not yet an expert at multi-skilling with my Thermomix alone, I prepared the pasta to cook on the stovetop, boiling the electric jug first (ala Jamie Oliver-style) not just to speed up the process but also to minimise electricity usage a tad. Once the GF macaroni was bubbling away, I pulled out my handy little Magic Bullet, threw a chunk of parmesan in and grated that up in seconds. Everything was ready. I had time to begin the clean-up!

The alarm for my pasta went off literally seconds after the Thermie signalled she was done. Perfect timing. A heavy-duty meal – enough to feed four – complete within 45 minutes… Brilliant!