whole*istic

Trying to live a holistic life in an unholistic world

Posts Tagged ‘food

Water Kefir: Stage 1

leave a comment »

IMG_20121210_221055

Lately I’ve become interested in fermented food products, probably a result of being surrounded by hundreds of kinds of kimchi and also learning how my friend, Hiromi, makes her own miso.

The earliest record of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent—and nearly every civilization since has included at least one fermented food in its culinary heritage. From Korean kimchi and Indian chutneys to sauerkraut, yogurt and cheese, around the globe cultures have crafted unique flavors and traditions around fermentation to avoid spoilage in times of abundance, so it could be savoured in times of famine.

Traditional lacto-fermentation utilizes the microflora present on vegetables and a lactic acid bacteria starter culture. However, in large-scale food manufacturing practices, vegetables are washed in diluted chlorine solutions to destroy or inactivate existing microflora, and acetic acid (which, along with water, is a main component of vinegar) is used instead of lactic acid. Of the few commercially available pickles that are lacto-fermented, most are heat processed or pasteurized to create a sterile product. Others are “desalted” or rinsed, likely removing any beneficial bacteria that may have been present.

More incentive to make your own kimchi or fermented products.

The health benefits of fermented products are quite impressive; restoring balance to the levels of proper bacteria in the digestive tract, cleaning the body of antibiotics and reducing acidic levels, the good bacterias help fight off pathogenic microorganisms (ie: viruses), improves the immune system and metabolism as well as boosting overall energy levels.

However, most importantly, fermented foods = full on intense flavour! Think of the strong flavours of sauerkraut, kimchi and umeboshi plums.

A rundown of common fermented foods:

Kimchi is a traditional Korean lactofermented condiment made of cabbage and other vegetables and seasoned with
salt, garlic, ginger and chili peppers. Most Asian diets include a daily portion of some kind of pickled vegetable. Lacto-fermentation occurs when sugars and starches are converted to lactic acid by the lactobacilli that are prevalent in vegetables and fruits.  The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.

Kombucha is a culture of symbiotic beneficial bacteria and yeasts which originated in China nearly 2,000 years ago. This culture is brewed with tea and sugar and fermented into a sweet and sour, slightly effervescent drink. Kombucha contains many amino acids and B vitamins in addition to its bountiful population of beneficial microorganisms, and is believed to be an excellent stimulant to digestion and the immune system.

Miso is made by adding an enzymatic culture to a base of soybeans and, often, a grain (usually wheat, barley, or rice). Salt and water are the only other ingredients of natural miso. Through aging, the enzymes reduce the proteins, starches, and fats into amino acids, simple sugars and fatty acids. It also contains lactobacillus bacteria which aid in digestion. Miso is used as a soup base but is also good in sauces, gravies, dips, spreads, dressings and marinades. Always use unpasteurized miso, and don’t boil it; high temperatures will kill the beneficial microorganisms. Miso is a superb source of easily-assimilated complete protein.

Sauerkraut is a cabbage that has been salted and lacto-fermented over a period of weeks. Latin American cultures make a version of sauerkraut called cortido.  The beneficial bacteria so abundant in sauerkraut produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. The main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora through out the intestine.

Umeboshi are salty sour lacto-fermented pickled plums (ume) from Japan. Umeboshi are highly alkaline and used to neutralize fatigue, stimulate the digestive system and promote the elimination of toxins. They are valued for their natural antibiotic properties and ability to regulate intestinal health.

Sourdough is a bread product made by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacilli.

Tempeh is an ancient Indonesian staple made from cooked, split, fermented soybeans bound together with a mold that makes soy easier to digest and provides many valuable vitamins. Tempeh is an excellent protein source for calcium and iron, and the mold produces an antibiotic to increase the body’s resistance to infections.

Pickles
A wide range of vegetables (and sometimes fruits, nuts, seeds, animal products and other ingredients) can be lactofermented using salt, temperature and a controlled environment for a period of time to make pickles. Most modern pickles, however, are made using vinegars and/or heat processing, which limits or eliminates the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that result from lacto-fermentation; check the label to ensure pickles are fermented.

Yogurt & Kefir
Yogurt and kefir consist of milk that has been inoculated with live bacterial cultures. These cultures convert the milk’s lactose sugar into lactic acid. For people who have difficulty digesting the lactose in milk, cultured dairy products may be easier to digest because the live, active cultures produce lactase, which pre-digests the lactose.

So, the above is yogurt kefir. Kee-fur. Like Kiefer Sutherland. Y’know, that dude from 24, Melancholia?? He was the bully in Stand By Me…

Anyway. Being partial to all things dairy, and the ridiculous amount of sugar in those tiny bottles of probitotics that this one ajumma near my busstop always tries to push on me (I’m a pusher Cady), some late night researching led me to water kefir.

IMG_20121210_204524

Water kefir, scientifically known as tibicos, is similar to yogurt kefir, except instead of feeding off the milk lactose, it feeds off sugar lactose. Now, I know this sounds like it seemingly contradicts what I said above about trying to avoid sugary probiotic drinks, however, the kefir crystals eat up most of the sugar, which is only 2 tablespoons to 3 cups of water. The resulting brew is definitly not sweet.

So what exactly is it?

Basically, it’s a bacterial yeast culture (mmm…sounds delicious) that looks like bath crystals. When added to mineral water mixed with sugar, the kefir grains eat the sugar producing strains of probiotic bacteria which carbonates the brew. If brewed correctly and in a stable environment, the grains will also multiply – allowing you to share the kefir love around.
I got my grains online from savvy teas, and if all goes well, I’m more than happy to share 😀
Once you’ve got the grains it’s so easy to make:

Water Kefir

Ingredients:
Water Kefir grains (2tsp dried grains or 1/3 cup wet grains)
3 cups mineral water (if using tap water, boil or set out overnight to remove/evaporate chlorine)
2 tbsp organic brown sugar
1/2 lemon – sliced
handful of raisins, banana, berries (encourages fermentation)

Method:
1.
Place the grains, sugar, water and fruit in a sterilised glass jar with either a screw top or flip top lid.
2. Place in an area out of direct sunlight. Some suggest wrapping in towels or ‘burping’ the jar every now and then as the carbonation can build up and lead to some horror glass smashing stories. Also, avoid the use of metal spoons (pure stainless steel is ok) as this will affect the sensitive little grains.

IMG_20121210_221201Bubbles of carbonation one hour in!

Stay tuned for the next update: the second brew – experimenting with flavours!!

Advertisements

Alripe then, what to do with an unripe avocado ey?

with 4 comments

Mmmmmmm, I love me a nice pair.

An avocado that is.

In Australia, they are a-plenty, as common as fluro at a festival, on-road SUV’s and overpaid tradie bogans pairing overpriced designer threads with a cheap-ass attitude and designer mullet. After 10 years of house sharing, with no less than 15 different sets of housemates, a regular wasted staple in the fridge, was the browning, slowly rotting, half carcass of a plastic wrapped avocado. They are literally an epidemic in any Australian share house fridge, tossed aside, bought in a bulk 3-for-$2 type scenario only to suffer an undeserved, ill-fated composted ending, if they’re lucky.

Avocado goes with everything, and makes any dish distinctly Australian. Crikey, cut it in half and it’s even a dish of its own. Have spoon, have salt, ta-da!! Breakfast! True Aussie avo grub would be to spread it on a slice of toast, add tomato if feeling particularly healthy and sprinkle with salt and pepper, add slices between the beetroot and fried egg on a works hamburger or wedge it under the smoked salmon on your eggs benedict when indulging in Australia’s favourite weekend pastime, Brunch.

Similar in colour to a bright green chameleon, Australia being the magical multicultural country it is, we’ve also made the avocado as interchangeable as the incognito reptile:

El Mexicano: Smash it and mash it, add some lemon and lime, chilli and salt, now it’s holy-moly-guacamole!
Turning-Japanese-a: Slice it and fan it over basically a small piece of good ole’ chicken schnitzel and give it a fancy name like “Chicken Katsu” and you’ve got a truly ‘Jonglish’ bit of aussie nigiri there.
Italiano: Spread it, slice it or dice it under fresh mozzarella with some ripe roma tomatoes and basil on some crusty ciabatta, with a balsamic/olive oil reduction and hey presto, gourmet bruschetta.  Save the avo, laughing cow wedge and tomato sauce for the “I’ve-come-home-alone-drunk-at-4am-in-the-morning-noone-loves-me-and-I-am-destined-to-be-alone-forever-but-damn-I-don’t-care-I’m-a-culinary-genius-right-now-om-nom-nom” (Anyone who says om-nom-nom deserves to be single)
Moroccan: Whiz it up in a blender with some milk and oranges, maybe a few obligatory chickpeas and there you have a favourite hawker food Moroccan avo shake.

But here in the land of South Korea, the avocado is quite an exotic being. Found only in fusion Korean food, the rich, buttery texture doesn’t seem to pair well with the spiciness and characteristics of Korean cuisine. It pops up at the better run mexican restaurants or typically in a california roll at a sushi joint, and also makes cameos on burgers menu-wide as Seoul is still in the (diminishing) throes of a burger show-down. All, at a price of course.

But, as I do like quite simple food, and tasting the individual flavours of ingredients, I longed for a fresh, perfect ripened avocado. I gazed longingly at them in the supermarkets, caressed them, only to then curse at myself for even contemplating paying ₩5,000 – ₩6,000 for one single avocado, and placing them back on the shelf. Only of course to get home, and feel unfulfilled with everything I had bought.

It’s not that I’m a tight ass, quite the contrary actually (figuratively, not literally, I do my squats and lunges), but it’s more the logistics of where that avocado has travelled from and how long it has been sitting there. As I mentioned before, they’re not really popular here, and therefore I doubt they have a high supermarket turnover.

They are also as hard as a rock. Which I am used to, you seen these rocks?!(mmm, an altercation that occurred in Seoul some time ago, but kinda went viral) but these ones are sitting in the chilled section, and well, they shouldn’t be. Once an avocado has been chilled, it is harder to get them to ripen, if at all.

But, anyway, my desire for an avocado became so overwhelming that I threw caution, and hard-earned ₩ to the wind and caved against all my better judgements. I proceeded towards the downward descent to avocado disappointment.

I put it in a paper bag. I put it in a dark corner of a cupboard. I impatiently waited, checking on the dear thing daily, waiting for telltale signs of redemption to ripeness, yet, *sigh* to no avail. After waiting a week, I decided this little baby wasn’t going anywhere so it was now or never.

As soon as I cut it, and the knife struggled, making a slight crunching sound, I knew it was doomed to fail. It was like slicing through butter. When I eventually pried it in half,  I did the whole “attack-the-seed-with-knife-and-one-miss-could-sever-my-hand-trick” only to have the knife brutally stay in the seed, laughing at me, all sinister like and shit.

So, after retreating the knife and entering submission, I cried and wailed at my loss. What could I do with this unripe avocado?

Well, the only thing I could do was turn it into some sort of mashed up spread/dip/guacamole concoction, but I could hardly scoop the bloody thing out, let alone mash the friggin thing.

So, I had a brain wave, that perhaps the micro waves could help soften the blow. And voila, it worked, however it did make the whole thing turn an unappealing baby poo green/brown colour, but it tasted amazing and most importantly, was not a waste.

Unripe Avocado Dip

Ingredients:
1 unripe avocado (of course this will work with a ripe one, but then just eat it in all its simple glory)
1 red chilli
1 tsp hot sweet chilli sauce
sprinkle rock salt
squeeze lemon juice

Method:
With avocado still in skin and seed in place (I couldn’t for the life if me remove it, it was that unripe) microwave on high in 30 second increments until it becomes pliable. Mine took 3x 30 second increments.
*It will brown slightly on the exposed edges. Mine was for my eating purposes only, so I didn’t care too much.

Attack seed with knife and remove.

Add all ingredients into blender and pulse the crap outta it.

Spread on toast, crackers, falafel topped with plain yogurt and sweet chilli or roll up in cabbage leaves with homemade hummus and vegetables. Recipes for these to follow soon.

Written by ayearinpatissiere

September 13, 2012 at 16:54

Meet Ricotta, I’m sure you’ve never met….

with 7 comments

Like anything in life; gin, men, beef, to name a few, there’s the usual, the standard, the ordinary and then there’s top shelf.

I’ve never been a Ricotta connoisseur. Back home in Australia we are blessed with a myriad of cheeses; both imported and locally grown soft, oozy Brie, Camembert and stinky Livarot to hard Parmigiano Reggiano and aged, bitey Cheddar. And who can resist fried Haloumi wedged between lamb or simply dressed with a splash of lemon or the nutty, velvety texture of a sweet Emmental. Then we have a range of Feta cheese ranging from hard, crumbly and salty Greek Feta to creamy Danish Feta.

But Ricotta. It was always a hard, dried out cake-shaped catastrophe in the deli section of the supermarket or a watery mess in the pre-packaged section. Never was it a thick, rich, creamy luxury that demanded to be spread on a crispbread or the highlight of a salad.

I understand this is slightly different, Ricotta Salata, but with this is the general understanding of Ricotta Cheese in Australia.

And then I moved to South Korea, where dairy products run second to soy-based products, I’m guessing due to the high incidence of lactose intolerance. However, locally produced Korean cheese is predominantly produced as ‘Pizza Cheese’ which can be described as a fluorescent yellow, greasy, plasticy atrocity. Consequently, a decent, quality imported cheese ranges anywhere from ₩10,000 to ₩34,000. I’m not sure why, but imported food products have ludicrous taxes and markups here. Don’t even get me started on fruit. That’s a whole other post.

But, I digress.

Due to an intense craving for Feta cheese, albeit refusing to pay ₩10,000 for a mid-range quality cheese, I scoured the internet and stumbled across easy recipes for soft, white cheeses. Mainly Ricotta.

And, then, I found the Aston Martin of Ricotta. This Ricotta changed my life.

So, one Friday night, on the eve of a friend’s Saturday shindig, I decided to play cheese-god and forgo all social credibility to stay home and make cheese. And it is probably one of the best Friday night decisions I have made..

Never again will I even consider buying Ricotta, when it is so amazingly simple and quick to produce a batch with only 4 ingredients. Recipe adapted from here at Smitten Kitchen, via Salvatore Brooklyn. Be sure to check out this beautiful video as well from Salvatore Brooklyn to appreciate the entire process.

Photo’s of my cheese production will follow, both times I never considered I would end up blogging about my fucking cheese endeavours, hence no actual cheese making photos.

Stay-at-home-Friday-Night Ricotta

Ingredients (for 2 cups of Ricotta)
12 cups milk (I used skim 1.5%)
500ml cream
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup lemon juice (I used 3 lemons)

(You can halve or even quarter quantities, however once you’ve tasted it, you’ll also be trying to make as much of it as you can)

Method
1. Place milk, cream and salt in a large saucepan. Can fill very close to top as it will not boil and expand.
2. With a thermometer, heat milk to 88°C. This breaks down the proteins and whey in the milk.
3. Immediately take off heat and pour in lemon juice. Stir very gently twice.
4. Let stand for 10minutes and resist all urges to stir or poke around and see what’s happening! A thick layer of white curds should have formed on the top.
5. Gently pour curds and whey into a large, deep bowl lined with cheesecloth (alternatively I use a white t-shirt but stockings are ok too, just make sure they are light or neutral coloured, I used teal tights once with yogurt which produced an interesting coloured whey – yogurt was fine) I use a very large glass jar with the t-shirt secured over the opening with some rubber bands.
6. Let strain for 3-4 hours until you have a thick ball of beautiful Ricotta!

I realise photos are essential for the first-time cheese maker and will upload when I make some next, scheduled for the next 3 weeks.

I don’t eat bread, however spread this on my homemade gluten-free crackers (recipe to follow), vegetables, drop spoonfuls onto salad, eat as dessert with a handful of blueberries and almonds or use in hazelnut chocolate spread. I may or may not have indulged in it by the (tea)spoonful aswell. Hey, I live alone alright.

Written by ayearinpatissiere

August 3, 2012 at 14:42

I can’t believe it’s not Nutella…..well, that’s ambitious, but it’s amazing nonetheless.

with 3 comments

I do not deprive myself of any particular foods, rather practice theoretically try restraint and moderation combined with certain self imposed exiles, like limiting sugar, refined carbs (I once ate 60 mainly egg whites in a week) or not wasting calories on substandard food. All of which gets thrown out the window once intoxicated.

I do not however, purchase a majority of processed food. I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Pollen (author of the life changing book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) that if it comes in a box, can or jar, it should probably stay there.

My processed food exceptions are the highest of high quality dark chocolate, yogurt (for reasons I will soon explain, it became too difficult to continue making my own) and a bitey, sharp wedge of parmesan.

But that does not quiet the noise in my head from wanting, craving, desiring shitty excuses for food. It does, however, inspire me to experiment and create my own healthy options.

Nutella.
Holy shit.
image

The smooth, creamy, rich taste of hazelnuts and chocolate. It’s like the inside of a Ferrero Rocher ball, (because they’re owned by the same company) but best of all the label states it’s nutritious. Look at all that milk and cocoa!

After a recent trip to the supermarket, I decided I needed some of this nutty chocolate crack, however a quick scan of the nutritional info left me disgusted. I knew it wasn’t a super food choice, but the levels of sugar and fat (palm oil) was just appalling. Even moreso, as those Ferrero fuckers market it as a nutrionally sound, healthy spread for children. And apparently I’m not the only one pissed off, see here.

imageLook at all that sugar! 21 grams per two tablespoons. That’s apparently the weight of your soul, which you’ll need to sell if you ever ingest this sugar/oil loaded bomb again.

Anyway, make way for healthy “Nutella.” A decadent, rich, velvety spread that has the real taste of roasted hazelnuts combined with the bitterness of dark chocolate. The sweetness comes from my own homemade Ricotta.

The best thing about this nutella, is that you can make it as bitter, sweet (use a less intense chocolate, 75-85%) chunky, smooth, creamy and nutty as you desire.

image

Super easy, 4 ingredients, not saying it tastes just like Nutella, but it sure as hell satisfied my craving. But I’m also a bit of a freak like that and prefer things that aren’t so sweet and taste ‘real’

Not-Nutella

Ingredients
1 cup organic roasted hazelnuts (either bought organic, or if not, soaked and roasted yourself)
1 cup ricotta (recipe here. I cannot comment on how generic store bought ricotta would fare)
30 – 50grams 99% dark chocolate
milk

image

What to do
1. In a blender, pulse hazelnuts until you have a wet, hazelnut butter. You could stop right here and enjoy this on a multitude of things, apples, crackers, a spoon, your finger.

image

2. Melt chocolate, as it’s such a small amount I couldn’t be assed double saucepanning it and instead used the microwave. As I’m living in a country where I can’t find sugar free chocolate that doesn’t involve taking out a bank loan, I used 99% cacao. (*I’ve since discovered iherb.com and have Ghiradelli, organic cacao butter/raw powder and sugar-free chocolate on its way!) I love dark chocolate, the more cocoa the better, but even for me this is so dense and bitter I can only eat one square at a time. This is a good thing actually.

imageimage

3. Add hazelnut butter, ricotta and chocolate to blender. Pulse until mixture is combined. for a chunky, thick and drier butter, stop here.

image

image

4. For a smoother butter, keep on pulsing the crap outta it. It will more than likely begin to separate, so add a tablespoon or two of milk to emulsify. Any milk. Skim, full fat, no fat, soy, almond, whatever it is that gets you to sleep at night. Pulse pulse pulse until it is all blended and smooth.
image

5. Give half to a friend. Even though its healthy, it’s still calorie dense, and if you’re anything like me, I could devour this baby in one sitting.

image

Written by ayearinpatissiere

August 3, 2012 at 04:47