Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 4 December 2015

Serendipity, Independence and Fermented Foods

Tweeted talk opportunity from Corsham Bookshop

Life's been in the doldrums of late, so I'm glad serendipity came to my rescue via my local independent bookshop.

I've wanted to learn more about fermented foods such as kefir and kimchi for quite a while, and here was an opportunity to do so (quite literally) served up on a plate. Did I tweet back immediately? You bet I did.

Nice tweeted welcome prior to the talk

Then cheery messages from both the bookshop and the author, set up my anticipation nicely for a good evening. And all this happened before I found out there'd be cake.

Charlotte Pike talking about her book, Fermented
Charlotte explains her book to Corsham TV - with tasty goodies to hand

It was so civilised to sit with wineglass in hand and listen to Charlotte Pike explain what her book Fermented is about. Beforehand I thought I knew nothing, completely forgetting I've made yoghurt and sourdough bread before.

There's still lots to learn. For instance the possibility of fermenting fruits and vegetables beyond just sauerkraut opens up a new way of dealing with my allotment gluts.

The mysteries of various drinks using kefir and kombucha were explained, alongside the fieriest of fermented vegetables, kimchi. The probiotics found in these and other fermented foods might offer some answers to mine and NAH's health problems.

Then came the tasting, and the bookshop's owners excelled themselves by making a wide selection of treats from the book beforehand to show Charlotte's recipes are easy to make and delicious. From the vegetable and preserves sections we tried cucumber, carrots, cauliflower and beetroot. All provided plenty of crunch and a variety of flavours from the accompanying herb and spice combinations.

Next came saj from the sourdough section, a wonderful flatbread to make if you haven't got the patience for the full sourdough making experience. These were spread with a savoury version of the labneh (drained yoghurt - similar to cream cheese) from the dairy section and a fantastic quick mango chutney from the preserves chapter.

And finally there was cake. Three of them in fact - a raspberry lemon yoghurt loaf cake, the tastiest stollen ever, and a labneh cheesecake. My neighbour particularly enjoyed the latter as it's a gluten-free option, with the base layer formed from nuts instead of the usual crushed biscuits.

Charlotte cheerfully answered a barrage of questions, including a few of mine. Can I use the liquid from labneh making for my sourdough? Yes. Can I combine sprouted seeds with fermenting? Not recommended. Could I use my stash of jam jars to make smaller quantities? Yes, as long as the liquid in the jar doesn't come into contact with metal.

With such an enthusiastic author, and so many goodies tasted and sighed over, it's no wonder nearly everyone bought a copy of her book!

We also gained a fascinating insight into how recipes are developed as Charlotte confessed it took 9 attempts before she was happy with one of hers. Then it's handed over to a number of recipe testers to make sure it works in a variety of kitchens before making its way onto the printed page.

If Charlotte ever needs another recipe tester, I'm sure she'll find plenty of willing volunteers in Corsham.

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If the labneh cheesecake sounds familiar, you might remember the rhubarb cheesecake I made after my cookery masterclass at Yeo Valley. I still have my sourdough starter from that time too!

17 comments:

  1. Local bookshop events are the best :) Labneh is still on my 'must try' list. One day I'll get round to it. Glad you had a good time, looks like a wonderful evening was had by all.

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    1. I thought of you whilst I was writing this Emma, it would have been right up your street :)

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  2. I bet that was really fascinating, I'd have loved to have gone and learned a bit about fermenting. I really like fermented foods but I'm a bit scared of giving it a go. As you say, it will be brilliant for an allotment glut. The book sounds excellent, and really well researched and tested. I hope it does well for Charlotte.

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    1. This is a really practical book for starting fermenting CJ with lots of recipes for the produce. It's exactly the book I've been looking for :)

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  3. Now I've just read a review earlier this evening of another book on the very same subject over at Jo's 'The Good Life' blog' VP. I've come across some recipes in Alys Fowler's 'Abundance' but I've not experimented as yet. Maybe I'm too wary of all the gurglings already taking place in our utility room arising from himself's brewing activities. Cake might tempt me into action though. Thanks for your review. It sounds as if you had a stimulating evening in good company.

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    1. Aha Anna, I'll also be reviewing that book very soon...

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  4. Fermented food does seem to offer a solution to many of todays health problems.I have always been put off having a go at sour dough bread because it seems such a long and complicated process. Perhaps I should look out for this book.

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    1. TBH I found it quite a long process for a one-off loaf, so it's probably better for regular bread makers. However, I like the flatbreads from this book, which cuts down a lot of the effort. Whilst a loaf isn't the result, the flatbreads are delicious and I can see them forming a regular component for our lunch, or to accompany our weekly curry.

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    2. I do like flat breads, where can you purchase the book, I couldn't find a link on the post?

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    3. Hi Brian - the link is where the work Fermented appears under the photo of the author. Here it is again Fermented , so you can find it easily. Note I'm not linking to Amazon - this company is usually cheaper AND they pay their UK taxes. NB It's not an affiliate link either.

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  5. A tempting review to follow up on what sounds like a very tempting evening. Tempting for me as I feel the urge to pop this book onto my Amazon wish list. I love to explore my options for preserving any excess and I've never been very sure what exactly kimchi is! Local bookshops are brilliant at hosting this sort of community evening - it would be a sad day to lose them.

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    1. I thought of you during the evening Caro, it would have been right up your street. Congratulations on making the GMG finals :)

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    2. Thank you. I was away with sporadic mobile reception at the time of the awards so it was your tweet that alerted me when it popped into my email inbox a couple of days later. It was a very lovely but totally unexpected surprise. :0)

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  6. It sounds as though you had a very interesting evening, we will all be waiting to see which vegetables you will be fermenting!

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    1. I think it'll be carrots first Pauline as I need to clear them out of one of my raised beds!

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  7. It’s interesting that food like this now is becoming popular here in Britain. I am from Norway and was 35 when moving over here, I grew up on sourdough bread, kefir, sauerkraut and a long list of ‘new’ food :-)
    I followed links from here and ended up reading a recipe on how to make homemade labneh, never knew it was that easy – I think I will have to try that :-)

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    1. Hi Helene, Charlotte has drawn on the traditions of many countries for her book and thank you for telling me about yours. I'm so glad you followed the links - I didn’t know I was making labneh at the time. It's very easy to make and utterly delicious :-)

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