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.
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 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!