Mixed Gut Feelings

I love my gut (the inside, that is). But I also hate it. I love that I can usually rely on it for instinct (for some scientific reasoning on that, I urge you to read ‘Gut‘ by Giulia Enders). I hate how many pain signals it sends far too frequently to my brain. I love how happy it is when I feed it something healthy. I hate that there are SO many food things it cannot cope with. And finally I love it because if it had been a standard omnivorous gut (with acid and bacteria like a vulture’s which can kill anthrax), I would never have ventured down the route of alternative eating habits. So what doesn’t my gut like? Ah, well, that depends on the day. On the season, on my level of tiredness. At any given time it can be ALL gluten. Or just wheat gluten. ALL dairy. Or just cheese and milk. And definitely ALL sugar, ALL the time. Ah yes, and pulses. Most of the time.

And this is where Sarah Wilson comes in. If you are interested in the subject above, I can recommend her book Simplicious. It’s all about giving your gut some much needed TLC.

My latest obsession (and apparently a growing trend) is fermented vegetables. HOME fermented vegetables, as it will have used bacteria particular to your own microbiome to ferment, and therefore be good to your gut. Or so the theory goes. For more info on on why fermented vegetables are good for you, go here.

I love sauerkraut (mmm, the caraway!), but I have always wanted to try kimchi (or kimchee), the Korean staple and, depending on who you ask, a delicacy or a weapon of mass destruction. The few times I have tasted some I was very underwhelmed: flaccid pieces of Chinese leaf covered with granular chilli powder and brine. But then I met Tanya, a local Canadian mum who happens to have lived in Korea (South) and LOVES kimchee (and who is even taller than me. So I don’t argue with her). So the challenge was to make my own and get the Tanya stamp of approval.

My first attempt was much better than anything I had tried so far in restaurants, and Tanya gave it a big thumbs up. I made another batch at my parents’ house and they loved it as well, although I had gone a tad over board with the salt.

But I wanted to perfect it. And what better way than to have a Kimchee workshop with Tanya: we would make an Indian Kimchee with Turmeric, a more traditional one with beetroot and my unorthodox ‘Kimchee UN-Stylie’.

All kimchees (except the last one, but more on that later. Much later) seem to follow a pattern of:

  1. Grating the various vegetables
  2. Adding seasoning
  3. Adding copious amounts of excellent quality flaky sea salt
  4. Massaging all this together for as long as necessary to extract enough liquid to cover the solids
  5. Covering with a large cabbage leaf weighed down with something to keep it covered by liquid
  6. Leaving the whole thing to ferment at room temperature (preferably over 20C) in an OPEN jar / bowl (close the lid at your peril) for 4-5 days, as long as it takes to ferment. Some white froth might appear. Or not. But you will start to smell the sugar turning into lactic acid, especially if like me you leave it in your living room (it can almost pass as an art installation, non?)

 

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  1. At this point I like to transfer the finished product to smaller jars, both for giving away and because an unopened jar will last longer than one where you dip a spoon all the time

What you use kimchee for? Well, sir, the uses are endless. As topping on the of-the-moment Goodness/Buddha/Abundance Bowls, in toasted cheese sandwiches, in pita bread with hummus, in Asian inspired soups or omelettes…

Now, for ingredients. Remember, these are household staples, devised to both taste good, do good (for your gut) but also use up the glut of the harvest and avoid waste. So ingredients are just an inspiration.

Yesterday for the Indian Kimchee we used:

Equal parts Carrots and Mooli / Daikon (1 kg of each), adding 1 tbsp mustard seeds, a 7 cm piece of turmeric (grated) and 2 tbsp of flaky sea salt. See the finished result (in the jar and on my fingers) below:

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For the Red Kimchee we used:

A total of approx 2 kg of assorted vegetables: beetroot, radishes, carrots, winter cabbage, etc; 5 cloves of garlic (grated), a large piece of fresh ginger (grated), 1 large red chilli (go for whatever heat you can take. This was rather timid) and 3 tbsp of flaky sea salt. Proceed as described above. This time, Tanya got to bloody her hands…

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The fermentation has hardly started yet, so the final result (and Tanya’s stamp) will have to wait until the end of the week.

The 3rd version? What 3rd version? Ah, some of you have been following, I see. Well, that’s another story entirely. One best told on a Monday.

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