Fermented foods are good for your gut. Great! But how do you get more of that into your day? And more importantly, how can we enjoy more of those friendly microbes, while still eating things that taste great?
We think we can help. Here’s our crib sheet to some of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to become a fan of fermented stuff this year. Don’t worry, we’re not going to ask you to start burping crocks of cabbage on your kitchen bench (yet). We’re talking about getting to know some new friends like tempeh, kefir and kimchi, and saying hello again to some older ones like sauerkraut and miso. Your tum will possibly thank you (and your taste buds too).
(Nb, fermented foods are all about adding diversity into your digestive fora. As with anything new, go easy at the start. We recommend having a little bit at a time and seeing how you feel before adding more).
Get to know our fermented friends
Tempeh is made by naturally fermenting soybeans into a loaf-like form. It has a nutty, earthy taste that stands up well to strong spices, smokey flavours and things that are sweet or salty. Try slicing it and glossing it in a marinade of kecap manis and grilling it before using it in the place of bacon in a BLAT sandwich, or crumble it and stir fry it along with pork mince, shallots and water chestnuts for a filling for san choy boy. Or put it to work in this new meatless Monday staple; sweet potato, black bean and tempeh chilli. Just don’t forget the guac on the side. Recipe here.
Sauerkraut: You don’t need to be fermenting your own cabbages to get the benefit of sauerkraut. There are some excellent ones available in the refrigeration section of the store these days, with a variety of flavourings. Sauerkraut adds a zippy punch that contrasts well with rich foods. Try folding a few tablespoons through your favourite fresh cabbage slaws as a way of introducing yourself to the flavour and then serve them with crispy fish fillets or schnitzel. Or you could add a spoonful on top of your smashed avo and eggs for a bit of extra cut-through, or embrace your inner Alsatian and serve it with sausages, thick cut ham, cooked apples and mustard for a rustic take on choucroute.
There are few things more useful to have on hand than a tub of white/shiro miso paste. These sweet and deeply savoury pastes is are an instant head start to a tasty meal. Made from fermented soybeans, miso comes in a variety of shades. The darker the miso, the saltier it tends to be. White or shiro miso is a good place to start. Try adding a teaspoon to a cup of boiling water and having a mug of miso in place of your afternoon cup of tea and biscuit. It’s a great base for noodle soups and works well as a marinade for fish, eggplant slices and meats. It also adds a great kick to salad dressings. Try making a miso-mustard dressing by combining 4 tbsp white miso paste, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp dijon mustard, 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp water and ½ tsp finely grated ginger and place everything in a jar. Shake until well combined and dress fresh greens, avocado, radish and diced chives. You may have just found your perfect summer salad. Or if you’re wanting something a little more sustaining, try it in this nourish bowl with adzuki beans, greens and seeds. Recipe here.
Kimchi: A staple in a Korean kitchen, kimchi is a delicious (and often spicy) ferment of cabbage, radish and gochujang chilli paste. It’s just the thing to funk up your summer hot dogs. Take a good quality pork sausage or frankfurter. Add to the bun a good dollop of finely chopped kimchi and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise. Add a fine grating of parmesan cheese for some unexpected extra umami and it’s a hot dog that’ll make every other bun seem boring. Or else add some to stir fries, finely chop some and combine it with wilted spinach as a filling for an omelette, use it as a side dish for dumplings or take inspiration from LA’s Roy Choi and add some to your fried rice, along with tomato sauce, garlic, grated carrot and diced spring onions. (Nb it’s also fantastic on a good old bacon and egg roll).
Kefir is a fermented milk drink, that has a taste that is similar to Greek yoghurt, but contains a dazzling quantity of beneficial bacteria and good strains of yeast. You can add some to smoothies, drizzle it over fruit salads or use it as a savoury salad dressing. Try mixing 100 ml of plain kefir with 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 double handful of chopped green herbs (parsley, mint, chives all work well) and use it as a dressing for potato salad, or blanched greens. Alternatively, blend it with some of the best fruits of the season for an easy breakfast on the go, like in these mango and chia kefir pots. Recipe here.