The Benefits of Ferments

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from Happy Gut, Happy Mind: How to Feel Good From Within by Eve Kalinik.

As research into fermented foods gains traction, Eve Kalinik explains how to easily include them in our diet and reap the healthful rewards.

Some might say the benefits of fermented foods are anecdotal, but they have been eaten for millennia for their health-giving properties. You could look at them as a demonstration of a long-standing give-and-take relationship with our microbial world. We feed microbes their preferred food, depending on the ferment, and they reciprocate by producing positive substances. These include compounds such as organic acids that can help us by supporting energy, detoxification and the production of neurotransmitter chemicals that benefit both gut and brain.

Fermented foods are also higher in both concentration and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, biotin, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. The fermentation process also means that proteins are, to varying degrees, ‘pre-digested’, including casein in milk and gluten in bread, which can make them easier to digest and absorb. This is why fermented dairy in cheese and yoghurt can often be better tolerated if someone has issues with straight-up milk, and why sourdough can be easier on the gut than non-fermented bread. Fermented foods also contain prebiotics, which has a positive feeding effect on our existing gut microbiota.

Probiotics a la carte

The other, more obvious benefit of eating fermented foods is the ingestion of a high source of gut-boosting microbes. Think of them as probiotics in food form. In addition, fermentation increases lactic acid production, which makes it tricky for many other microbes to thrive, therefore the beneficial acid-loving bugs win out, which is a quid pro quo for our resident gut microbiota.

Last, but by no means least, there is a depth of flavour in fermented foods, derived from their natural umami. Once you foray into fermentation, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner, and how the simple addition of a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi can elevate the simplest of sarnies.

Sourdough depends on a live culture starter. Baking destroys most of these, but transforms the bread into a prebiotic, feeding microbes in our gut.

Kim-cheese toastie

Turn lunch into a main event with this easy recipe taken from the book ‘Happy Gut’ by Eve Kalinik.

Ingredients :
2 slices sourdough bread
Organic butter, to spread
Few slices hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Manchego (try to get unpasteurised if you can); 2 tblsp kimchi

  • Toast the bread on both sides. Spread with butter.
  • Lay the cheese on one slice (don’t melt it), top with kimchi and the second slice of toast. Cut into quarters and crunch into the goodness.

Iced Chocolate Parfaits

Recipe courtesy of Hello Magazine many years ago.

Use rubber muffin moulds as the parfaits will pop out easily.

Serves : 6

Iced Chocolate ParfaitsIngredients :
600g (1 lb 5oz) dark cooking chocolate, melted
3 egg yolks
9 tblsp caster sugar
3 egg whites
375ml (13 fl oz) double cream
Few drops of vanilla extract
250g (9oz) crème fraiche

To serve :
Chocolate sauce
Ice cream
Mint sprigs

 

Step One : Brush the inside of six non-stick large muffin moulds with a thin layer of melted chocolate and chill until set. Repeat twice more. If liked, a little melted white chocolate can be brushed alternately on the moulds with the first layer of dark chocolate.

Step Two : In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half the caster sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are standing in stiff peaks. Whisk in the remaining sugar and then fold into the yolk mixture.

Step Three : Whip the cream, vanilla and crème fraiche together until stiff, and fold into the egg mixture. Pipe or spoon into the muffin moulds and freeze until firm.

Step Four : To serve, pop the frozen parfaits out of the moulds and serve with chocolate sauce, ice cream and mint sprigs.

Grilled Peach with Ginger Cream and Walnut Praline

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (May 2019)

A perfectly ripe peach is hard to find.  In this recipe from Vegan for Good by Rita Serano, you can use peaches that are not entirely ripe, which is just, well, peachy! You’ll need a ridged griddle pan or panini maker.

Serves : 4

Grilled peaches

Ingredients :
350ml Coconut yogurt
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
Pinch of salt
60ml maple or brown rice syrup
6 ripe but firm peaches, halved and stoned

For the praline :
100g walnuts
2 tblsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt

Step One : In a  bowl, combine the coconut yogurt with the fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), vanilla and salt.  Set aside.  (You can do this in advance and refrigerate).

Step Two : Roast the walnuts in a dry non-stick or cast-iron pan over a medium heat until golden brown.  Stir frequently and, after 3-4 minutes, add the maple syrup and salt, stirring to coat all the nuts.  Leave to cook for a further minute.  Tip the walnuts out of the pan and spread them on baking paper to cool.  Once cool, chop them roughly.

Step Three : Now, set your griddle pan or panini maker on high.  The pan must be very hot before you grill the peaches.  Lay the peaches cut side down on the pan and grill for about 3 minutes, or until grill marks appear.  Serve the peaches with the soured cream, maple or brown rice syrup and the walnut praline.

Speedy Gazpacho

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine and taken from the book The Doctor’s Kitchen – Eat to Beat Illness by medical doctor Rupy Aujla.

This is the quickest dish in the book and is best enjoyed on a hot day. He discovered it when he was staying in Bristol, teaching the UK’s first culinary medicine course. ‘Elizabeth Thompson, a clinician at Bristol Medical School, make it from locally grown ingredients while they sat outside in the balmy July heat.

Speedy Gazpacho.jpg

Serves : 4

Ingredients:
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
6 medium tomatoes (heritage variety, if possible)
15g basil leaves, stems removed, plus extra to serve
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped, plus leaves to serve
1/2 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method : Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add some water to loosen the soup, if needed, then divide it between bowls and drizzle more olive oil on top, to serve.

Honey-Roasted Pear, Crispy Parma Ham and Dolcelatte Salad

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (August 2019) and taken from Summer Every Day by Acland Geddes and Pedro Da Silva.

Honey roasted pear

Serves : 4

Ingredients :
4 pears (any type will do, but make sure they are fairly firm)
2 tblsp clear honey
50g butter, melted
6 slices Parma ham
150g Dolcelatte cheese
150g wild rocket

Step One : Preheat the oven to 200oC, gas mark 6. Core the pears and cut them lengthwise into eight wedges. Toss them with the honey and melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake them on a non-stock baking tray for about 15 minutes : you want them to have begun to turn golden and caramelised, but not to have lost their bite. This is why medium-to-firm pears are essential; if they are too ripe they will fall apart in the oven.

Step Two : Place the Parma ham slices on a wire rack and roast in the oven for eight to 10 minutes. Keep a vigilant watch over them, as they can go from pink to black faster than you think. They should be rigid and deeply coloured, but not burned. Allow to cool on the rack.

Step Three : Mix together the rocket, roasted pears and crispy ham. Scatter the Dolcelatte cheese over the salad as best you can – it’s a sticky cheese, so it will resist being broken up. If you’ve had a bad day and can’t be bothered with wrestling with an uncooperative dairy product, you can always opt for the more accommodating Roquefort or Stilton – the results are just as good.

Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (August 2017) and taken from Syria: Recipes from Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi.

Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality. Bread is considered a sacred gift in the Arab world, and it’s a sin to waste it even after it has gone stale. That’s why ‘fetteh’ – literally ‘breadcrumbs’ – is so popular and it can be made with chickpeas, aubergines, chicken or lamb.

IMG_1811

Serves 4, as part of Mezze

Ingredients:
3 aubergines
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
2 flatbreads or pittas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tblsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped, to serve
Handful of pomegranate seeds, to serve
50g pine nuts, toasted, to serve

 

Step One : Heat the oven to 180oC / 350oF / Gas Mark 4. Cut the aubergines into quarters lengthways, then slice them into 1cm chunks and place in a baking tray. Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, then roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until the aubergines are soft.

Step Two : Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until nice and crispy. Then break it up into pieces. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.

Step Three : When the aubergines are ready, take them out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl, then pour the yogurt mix on top. When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.