Flourless Black Bean Chocolate Cake

A page from the Sweet chapter of my book, available to add to your veg order here.

Flourless chocolate cakes are not just great for the coeliacs in your life, they are simply lovely cakes – somewhere between a brownie and a chocolate truffle – and incredibly delicious! The lack of flour means they are naturally rich and fudgy. The bitterness of the dark chocolate makes what would otherwise be quite a sweet and heavy cake, something quite sophisticated and moreish. Perfect served with some whipped coconut cream and a mug of coffee! I wrote this recipe with nut and gluten allergy sufferers in mind, but you can substitute the sunflower seeds with ground almonds if you wish. The recipe illustration above is from my book which is available to add to your veg box order on our website. The recipe video can be found on our Instagram @greenearthorganics1 or at the end of this blog on our YouTube channel. Liz x

Ingredients

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a loose bottomed cake tin with a circle of baking parchment.

Pulse the sunflower seeds in a food processor or large blender until they come into a course flour. Careful not to process for too long as that will turn the seeds into butter!

Add the tin of black beans to the blender – including all the aquafaba (that’s the viscous liquid that the beans were cooked and sitting in) from the tin. Blend again until smooth.

Add the sugar (or a sweetener of your choice eg maple syrup), baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, olive oil and melted dark chocolate and blend again to combine. To keep it dairy free, check the ingredients in the chocolate – most dark chocolate is dairy free but it’s always worth checking the label. I usually just melt the chocolate in the microwave in little 10 second bursts, checking and stirring between each. You can put the chocolate in a bowl over a small pot of simmering water to melt it gently that way too.

Then scrape the mixture into the lined cake tin, smooth it out with a spatular and bake it in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until cracked on top and with minimal wobble.

Allow it to completely cool in the tin before carefully removing it onto a plate and dusting the cake with a tsp of cocoa powder.

Serve slices of the cake with whipped coconut cream from a tin (we sell these in the grocery section of our shop) – it’s also delicious with fresh, tangy raspberries in the summer, to cut through the richness of the cake.

Enjoy! Don’t forget to tag us @greenearthorganics1 on instagram if you make this recipe and join our friendly facebook group to share recipes and tips.

Butternut Gnocchi Baked in Béchamel

Introducing the slightly more laborious, but much more exciting cousin of macaroni cheese! Béchamel Baked Butternut Gnocchi! This is comfort food at it’s finest.

My vegan béchamel sauce is very simple to put together, and for this I’ve simply whisked it up and poured it over sautéed celery and leek. Then I popped in lots of freshly boiled butternut gnocchi (not as tricky to make as it seems), scattered over some tangy capers and crushed pumpkin seeds and baked it until the béchamel was bubbling and thickened! I got some gorgeous cherry tomatoes in my box last week so I placed them on top to roast in the oven. Their bright acidity is the perfect foil to the creamy richness of the béchamel and gnocchi.

I’d love to see your photos if you make this dish. Share them with us over on our friendly facebook group or tag us @greenearthorganics1 on Instagram and don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends. Liz x

Ingredients for the Gnocchi

  • 1 butternut squash
  • enough plain flour to bring it into a dough (this varies depending on the water content and size of your squash)
  • salt, pepper and optional herbs or spices (sage/rosemary/thyme/chilli flakes…)

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 200C.

Cut a small butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake it – cut side down – in a hot oven (200C) until the flesh is soft all the way through. Test it with a small knife, it should easily slide into the soft, roasted butternut. (This normally takes 30 minutes or so. While it’s in the oven, get on with the sauce and preparing the toppings below.)

Allow the squash to cool to the point where you can easily handle it, then scoop out all the roasted flesh and mash or blend it into a smooth purée.

Find your biggest pot, 2/3rds fill it with water and get it on the stove to heat up to a rolling boil while you make the gnocchi.

Season the purée with salt and pepper and taste to check the seasoning. It should be slightly too salty as you are going to fold in a fair bit of flour. You can also add optional extra flavours at this stage. For example chilli flakes and sage or rosemary and lemon zest… or just leave it plain, that’s delicious too!

Then stir in enough flour to turn the purée into a soft dough. You can use plain flour (make sure there are no raising agents in it) or strong bread flour or even a gluten free plain flour blend. Gnocchi works best with white flour rather than wholemeal.

The amount of flour varies depending on the size and moisture content of your squash. Just start with a mug or so, gently fold it in and keep going until it’s the right consistency to be tipped out onto a floured work surface and very briefly kneaded. You want to work it as little as possible to keep it tender, but just enough to bring it together into a manageable ball of dough. It should be soft and sticky, get a helper to keep dusting the work surface and your hands with flour to make it more manageable.

Cut the ball of dough into 4, then roll one of the quarters into a thick snake. Chop the snake into little bites. If you want to make little traditional looking grooves in the gnocchi you can stamp each bite with a fork or you can roll them over a gnocchi board if you have one… or simply roll them into balls.

Then drop the gnocchi into the now boiling water in batches. Gently loosen them from the bottom of the pot with a slotted spoon. When they rise to the top of the water they are done and can be scooped out and placed in the sauce below. I do them in batches of one snake at a time, then while that batch is boiling I get the next snake ready.

Keep going until all your gnocchi dough is used up. If you make too much for the bake, then you can cool down and keep the excess boiled gnocchi in the fridge/freezer and use it another day (pan fry it with a little olive oil or butter and serve with pesto and salad?)

Ingredients for the Béchamel & Toppings

Method

In an oven and hob safe, large, wide pan, sauté the sliced celery, leek and garlic with the butter or olive oil and some salt and pepper until soft. Then turn off the heat. (If you don’t have an oven and hob safe large dish like this, you can just sauté the veg and tip it into a roasting tray instead.)

Then whisk the flour, milk, mustard, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large jug or mixing bowl and pour the mixture over the sautéed celery and leeks.

Boil the gnocchi in batches as above and pop them into the dish on top of the sauce.

In a small blender or large pestle and mortar, crush/blend the handful of pumpkin seeds with a small handful of nutritional yeast for a crunchy, savoury topping. Scatter this over the gnocchi and sauce.

Sprinkle over the capers and cherry tomatoes then pop the dish into the oven (with an optional drizzle of olive oil) to bake until the gnocchi are burnished golden brown and the sauce is thick and bubbling. This should take around 20-30 minutes.

Serve with a simple green salad and an ice cold glass of white wine and enjoy!

Let’s Plant Some Trees

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago the next best time is now”

I realised it was 2004 when we planted our first trees, three thousand in total in that year. Those trees are now not too far off the 20-year mark. This realisation was scary, time flies.

I have been thinking about trees over the past few days. We promised that we would plant a tree for every Christmas box ordered.

In total we had 700 Christmas boxes out of about 1500 orders, and we aim to plant over 1000 trees as a result.

In trying to figure out the best trees to plant, we decided we wanted something native, that supports biodiversity but does not block out too much light as we will have to plant crops close to these trees, and we settled predominately on the hawthorn.

It is such a wonderful native Irish tree, its colours through the year are magnificent from the amazing white blossom in May to the beautiful red of the leaves in autumn. The hawthorns as also a haven for biodiversity.  We will plant 1000 hawthorn interspersed with oak, mountain ash, birch and Scots pine.

Hawthorn is also considered a magical tree and forms a significant part of our rural heritage here in Ireland, being heavily associated with Faery rings.

In choosing the hawthorn we wanted to re-establish a natural hedge along our boundary walls to replace fifty fully grown hawthorn threes that were cut down by one of our neighbours some years back. These trees could have been over 100 years old; I was saddened and angry by this but unfortunately cutting trees and clearing ground is a story that plays out up and down our country.

Trees are amazing plants, not only do they provide nearly all the oxygen we breath, under the ground they form a symbiotic relationship with a vast network of fungi called mycelium. The tree provides the fungi with food and the fungi provide the tree with nutrients. This relationship demonstrates the interconnectivity of all living things. It is in short, a miracle of nature.

It is a missed opportunity that the powers that be, the system, the rules and regulations do not put tree planting at the very heart of land management. It seems like such a simple step, one that costs very little, takes very little energy, and yields for generations to come.

If we focused a small amount of the investment allocated to such technological advances as carbon capture to planting trees, taking care of our soil and protecting some of the ancient forests left on our planet then we would have a chance at reversing the damage mankind has done to our only home.

Our 5th Pledge for the Planet is to take another step towards being a carbon neutral business, but we plant these trees primarily because we can and because it is the right thing to do.

We will plant 1000 trees in the next month or so and you can join us on Instagram stories to follow our progress.

Our 5th Pledge for the Planet

It is only through your support that we can do things like this, you make this tree planting possible.

Thank you


Kenneth

Turmeric & Ginger Paste

A page from my book – available to add to your order on Greenearthorganics.ie here.

Turmeric is an incredible, powerful ingredient. It’s many, scientifically proven, health benefits including being an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant are very interesting to read up on. Anecdotally, I have terrible knees from a combination of hyper-mobility, multiple dislocations and corrective surgery that went badly wrong, and I find, when I remember to have a tsp of my turmeric paste at least a few times a week, be that in porridge, smoothies or golden milk, my knees do feel less swollen and painful at the end of the day. As a chef, I love it for it’s vibrant colour and interesting flavour. Curcumin, the compound responsible for most of turmeric’s potential health benefits, unfortunately doesn’t absorb well into the bloodstream so I always add black pepper and oil to anything with turmeric in to increase it’s bioavailability. You can read about the science behind the bioavailibity of turmeric here. So don’t leave the black pepper and coconut oil out of the recipe!

Turmeric & Ginger Paste and three things you can make with it – golden smoothie, turmeric latte and golden porridge – watch the video at the end of this blog to see how!

Ingredients

Method

Peel the turmeric and ginger roots using the edge of a teaspoon.

Slice the roots against the direction of the fibres and put them in a strong blender.

Add coconut oil, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground black pepper.

Cover the ingredients with maple syrup and then blend until smooth.

Transfer the mixture into small jars and refrigerate. They should last in the fridge for about a month, so freeze what you won’t use up in that time. Use the frozen turmeric paste within 6 months of making it.

Did you make this recipe? Let us know how it went in the comments or over on our friendly Facebook group. Don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends. Liz x

Eating More Veg

As one of our 5 Pledges for the Planet, we promised to Speak Up for the environment. And when you talk about environmentalism, you cannot avoid talking about our diets. What we eat, as in what we grow, produce, import and export, all has a massive effect on the environment. But what we eat is a difficult topic to tactfully tackle isn’t it? For example Veganism, despite being a peaceful movement which simply aims to do as little harm to our planet and all of its residents (including humans) as possible, seems to bring out a lot of very high emotions. I’m sure some of you reading this right now already feel quite strongly about it one way or the other. And we certainly don’t need something else to divide us… but why does this topic get us so riled up?

Our 4th Pledge for the Planet – Speak Up!

Perhaps it is because change is so hard? Changing our current world view is hard. Take it from me, an ex meat-eater married to an ex-butcher who used to think veganism was extreme and never thought she would ever change her views on the subject! Confronting the consequences of our way of life can be painful, and opening our eyes and changing our minds – and in fact changing the way we see the world – is really quite unsettling. It’s much easier to carry on the way we are and distract ourselves from the reality of where our food comes from with comforting phrases like ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’, ‘regenerative agriculture’… But what has made us thrive and survive on this one and only planet of ours, is our ability to adapt and change. We can do this! In fact, although it sounds hyperbolic, it is not overstating things to say, we must do this to ensure the survival of future generations!

The overwhelming evidence points to the fact that we simply cannot continue to sustain our current animal-product-heavy diets without causing catastrophic damage to our ecosystem. The sad reality of modern farming, exacerbated from the demand from both consumers and supermarkets, is profit over planet. When farmers are under enormous pressure to meet the demands of supermarkets, the results are not good for anyone – not for the animals, us the consumers, the planet and indeed, the farmers! Factory farming, despite almost everyones distaste for it, is still far and away the main source for stocking the meat, milk and egg shelves of supermarkets, and unfortunately that trend is only increasing. And to be fair, when you have such huge disparities in wealth as we do all over the globe, you cannot expect the 99% to be able to afford animal products that have been produced ‘humanely’. It is a luxury and a privilege not all of us have access to or can afford. But the truth is, even if everyone could afford such products, and only those products existed, there would simply not be enough room on our planet to cater for everyones current diet in that way. ‘Regenerative’ animal agriculture, whilst marginally better for the people, planet and animals involved, requires far more land than factory farming. It simply is not possible to meet current demand in this way without grabbing even more of the already dwindling wild spaces or in fact running out of room completely. So demand for animal products has to decrease. Earth’s resources are not infinite.

Eating animals is in short, inefficient. And efficiency is so important in the era we live in now where the worlds resources are already stretched. Did you know that the global livestock herd and the grain it consumes takes up 83% of global farmland, but produces just 18% of food calories? Luckily there is a delicious solution to this problem. Plant based food is affordable and much more environmentally efficient. Compared to their animal-derived counterparts, plant-based foods use far less land, water and energy and their production emits far less greenhouse gases. Yes, even the much maligned avocados, soy and almonds!

The contents of a veg box from Green Earth Organics. Including a diverse range of fruits and vegetables in your diet is important for our health, we make it easy with convenient weekly deliveries of the best organic produce.

So we have the solution, reducing our consumption of animal products. But the hard part is acting on it. Changing our habits. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. Why not challenge yourself to go a few weeks without meat and dairy and see how you feel?

Still unsure? Do you believe it’s our natural place in the food chain to eat animals? Do you think it’s unnatural for us to pretend to be herbivores? Well you might be surprised to hear me say that I completely agree! We are naturally omnivores. Read this article by Macken Murphey which explains why veganism is not natural, but how that doesn’t mean it’s not right (and it doesn’t mean we can’t thrive on a plant based diet). There are a lot of wild and inaccurate theories flying around the place which can, quite rightly, put a lot of sensible people off veganism. Murphey comes at it from a refreshingly honest perspective as a human evolutionary biologist.

Apart from the health and environmental implications, the thing that makes it stick for most of us plant eaters is opening our eyes to the plight of animals. I’ve changed my mind, veganism isn’t extreme, it’s a simply choosing to no longer fund an inefficient way of eating.

One of the rescue pigs at the farm – we’ve seen first hand, the inefficiency of meat production. These two eat a stunning amount of food! If Green Earth Organics were to turn them into bacon and sausages, don’t worry they won’t, the end result would be a tiny fraction of the food that they consumed. Eating more veg simply cuts out the middle man (or middle animal rather).

I think it’s also very important to acknowledge that changing our diets is a really big step. It’s not easy for most people. But although I believe it’s important, it doesn’t have to be an overnight thing, or even an ‘all or nothing’ thing. The best advice I ever got when I was starting on my vegan journey was, if you don’t think you can go without a certain product, why not just be vegan apart from that thing (eggs? cheese? real butter?) to begin with and see how you go? It’s still better than doing nothing and it still makes a big difference. Just cutting down on animal products makes a big difference. I love that saying, that it’s far better for millions of people to make the changes needed ‘imperfectly’, than for just a handful of people to do it ‘perfectly’. In my house, we started off being Flexitarian, only eating meat once or twice a week, then we cut it down to once a month or so and then naturally lost the taste for it altogether. Eggs took a while longer to give up and we still slip up every now and then. But if we judge ourselves harshly we would just give up.

What are your thoughts? Are you already trying to cut down on animal products? What are you finding difficult about it? Let’s chat about it (in a friendly way and without judgement) in the comments or over on our friendly facebook group. Liz x

Swede, Kale & Coconut Dal with Curried Parsnip Fritters

A page from my illustrated cookbook, available to buy from Green Earth Organics shop here.

Dal and fritters are staples in our house. The dal is especially useful to have in your repertoire for those days when you are low on fresh veg just before your next veg box arrives. And of course bulking out a dal with whatever seasonal veg you have is always a good idea. I like to make it with a tin of coconut some days, usually in winter when the weather calls for something rich and creamy, and with a tin of tomato on other days when I want it lighter and tangy (as in the recipe illustration from my book above).

My fritters are not dissimilar to onion bhajis. Here with curry spices in the gram flour batter they go particularly well with the dal and you can add whatever shredded veg you have around – cauliflower, squash, carrot etc. Fritters also make great sandwich fillers or burger patty alternatives and of course they don’t have to be curry flavoured, add whatever herbs and spices you like to make them your own. I love courgette fritters with fresh herbs in the summer, squash chilli and sage in autumn, celeriac, preserved lemon and parsley…the possibilities are endless.

As always, let us know in the comments or over on our community Facebook group if you make this recipe. We love to see our recipes leave the screen. Don’t forget to share this blog with your friends and family.

Happy cooking! Liz x

Ingredients for the Dal

  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • an onion or leek
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp each: brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, fenugreek, salt and chilli flakes or chopped green finger chilli to taste
  • 1 mug red split lentils
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • curry leaves (if you can get them fresh/frozen that’s best, if not dried is fine)
  • 1/2 a swede
  • a few handfuls of kale
  • lemon/lime juice

Ingredients for the Parsnip Fritters

  • 2 mugs of gram flour
  • 2 mugs of water
  • 1 tsp each: salt, pepper, nigella seeds, turmeric, curry leaves and chilli to taste
  • 3 parsnips
  • vegetable oil for frying

Method

Dice the onion or leek and soften it in a large pan on a medium high heat with the oil.

Add the cumin and mustard seeds and stir to toast them until fragrant. Then add the ground turmeric, ginger and fenugreek and stir to briefly toast for just a few seconds.

Add the mug of red lentils and the diced swede and stir to coat them in the spices. Then add the tin of coconut milk and two tins of water to the pan.

Season with salt and pepper and add the curry leaves (if you have them – buy online or at specialist Asian shops) and chilli flakes or chopped green finger chilli to infuse while the lentils and swede cook.

Bring the pot up to boil then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the lentils and swede are cooked through.

Meanwhile get the fritter mix ready. Whisk the gram flour, spices and water together into a smooth batter. Then grate the parsnips and add them to the batter. Stir well to coat all the grated parsnip with the batter.

Heat a frying pan with a generous slick of vegetable oil. Turn the heat to medium-high and fry whatever sized dollops of the fritter mix in the pan. Cook on both sides until golden brown on the outside and cooked through. It’s better to cook them slowly if they are large so that they don’t end up burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Raw gram flour batter can be a little bitter.

Stir chopped and rinsed kale through the dal about 10 minutes before serving. Serve the dal and fritters in bowls with Indian chutneys and optional rice, popadoms etc.

A Glimpse into our World

“Knock knock open wide, knock knock anymore, come with me through the magic door” do you recognise this? I thought I would bring you through the magic door of this last week on our farm. 

Frozen kale and purple sprouting broccoli, frozen cabbage and sprouts, frozen swedes and beets and leeks, frozen ground with parsnips and carrots, lettuce and spinach in our tunnels frozen, luckily, all survived but harvest was impossible. We had anticipated poor weather conditions in January and had prepared by bulk harvesting many of the more stable crops, like swede, parsnips, beetroot and carrots and we were lucky to get some greens harvested before Monday as all work on the farm came to a halt on Monday. We had also taken the pre-emptive step of getting all our other supplies in before the 1st because of Brexit. All of this did not prepare us for week 1 of 2021. It has been a challenging week, we have been insanely busy for many reasons, the lock down contributing its part and we have struggled. 

Normally you will never hear of any of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into getting your boxes onto your doorstep, and rightly so. This week though, I thought it only right to give you a glimpse into our world. This week getting organic produce has been difficult, one of our main Irish organic farm suppliers cancelled two very large orders due to pressure from supermarkets to get produce out because of the lockdown, our Irish mushroom supplier could only give us half of our normal order. A supplier we work very closely with in Spain cancelled all their key produce, their organic farmers were also struggling with an intensely and unusual cold spell that had brought production to a rapid end.

The icing on the cake was Brexit which has meant further delays and requirements for extra paperwork and customs checks. There has been the behind the scenes scrabbling to get produce, the delays of pallets arriving, the poor-quality produce that has to be graded by hand because of frost damage, the long conversations, the hundreds of phone calls, all remains hidden. The turmoil of the crazy packing, the days have been exceptionally long, and it takes two shifts, the first one starting at 5am and the final one leaving at 10.30pm most days to get your boxes out the door. The temperature in the packing shed has been close to zero on most days and the packers have put in a phenomenal effort.

The frozen tractors that won’t start in the mornings, the fleeces that need to be added to the crops to keep the produce from freezing, the numb fingers and the layers upon layers of clothes that are worn to maintain a modicum of normal body temperature – these are the things you will not usually hear about. The crazy amount of administration and the long hours of the admin team and the tireless work of the drivers who are putting in long, long days in treacherous driving conditions to get the boxes onto your doorsteps.

Usually, the result is the same, the boxes go out, they get dropped to your door on time with what you expect. This week was a little different for some of you and for that I apologise. There have been delays, contents in boxes have been changed, and some items were not available to send to you.

Next week will be better. We are grateful as always to be of service and to have the business when many don’t. We know we are lucky and most of all we are thankful for your understanding, patience and continuing good will and custom.

Kenneth

PS. Ordering early or setting up a weekly subscription helps us a lot so please get next weeks orders in here or email us to set up a subscription (for Dublin and Wicklow addresses email dublin@greenearthorganics.ie, for everyone else email info@greenearthorganics.ie and our friendly team will call you back and get you set up).

All of our set boxes are plastic free and much of our grocery list is too.

Sauerkraut

A red and white cabbage, apple, caraway and bay kraut I made before Christmas 2020.

The Perfect Place to Start your Fermentation Journey

Once you have mastered the basics of sauerkraut, and it really is basic, you can apply these principles and techniques to many other ferments and play around with the ingredients. You can use a variety of cabbages, you can add other vegetables like grated carrot or beetroot, you can use different herbs or spices to create different styles of sauerkraut, you can even suspend whole apples into your crock/jar to ferment along with you sauerkraut as a German friend of mine taught me to do.

My kimchi recipe, which I will share with you soon, uses the same technique as sauerkraut. The difference being the cut of the vegetables and the all important spice paste. My fermented hot sauce uses the same technique too! Brine fermentation also works through the same simple process of lacto-fermentation to acidify the vegetables. Salt + vegetables + a jar is all you need to produce incredible delicious and nutritious ferments.

My fermenting shelf from last summer.

Why Ferment?

I first got hooked on fermenting many years ago when I had a surplus of cabbages delivered to my old cafe from our local farm. There’s only so much cabbage soup and coleslaw you can sell so we decided to try making sauerkraut as a means to preserve them, stop them from going off and being wasted. It was a revelation! We had no idea then about the health benefits, we were just blown away by the taste. Since that day, I bought lots of books on the subject, incorporated ferments into much of our menu and even started a stall in a farmers market called ‘Fermental’ selling fresh, unpasteurised ferments made with local, organic ingredients.

The science and nutritional benefits behind vegetable fermentation are really interesting to read about. There are so many perks to including ferments into your everyday diet. The importance of encouraging and introducing beneficial bacteria into our digestive system is becoming more well known and rather than taking a pill, this is a delicious way to do that. Fermenting vegetables also makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients in them more readily available, and the organisms that enable fermentation are themselves beneficial too! All of this is good news for your body and your immune system, but its also great news for your taste buds. Fermented food is delicious! Complex, tangy, crunchy, sour and salty.

Is it Safe?

Lacto fermenation is a very safe way of preserving vegetables and it’s very easy too – no need for fancy equipment, all you need is a knife, board, jars, vegetables and salt. It can sound scary dealing with microbes. We have been trained to try to disinfect all surfaces and food from bacteria, moulds and yeasts so perhaps encouraging bacteria to thrive will feel strange at first. But the importance of our microbiome and the diversity of microbes that we need in our guts to be healthy is now becoming common knowledge. For me, as a chef, the main reason I ferment is for flavour, not medicine. The health benefits are just a bonus. And yes, it is perfectly safe as long as you follow some basic principles.

Submerging vegetables in brine protects them from harmful bacteria and allows ‘good’ bacteria to thrive. Lactobacilli, the good guys, are anaerobic, meaning they don’t need oxygen. So by keeping the vegetables neatly submerged in brine we are protecting them from the ‘bad’ bacteria that need oxygen to thrive, thereby taking out the competition for the ‘good’ lactobacilli. Salt in the brine also inhibits yeasts which would break the sugars down in the fruits/veg into alcohol instead of lactic acid. Salt is the perfect preservative for vegetables, but it’s important to get the right amount. Too much will inhibit fermentation and too little will result in a rotting crock/jar. Thankfully its quite simple, your best guide is your tastebuds! Your salted vegetables should just taste pleasantly salty.

Ingredients

  • cabbage
  • optional other vegetables/fruit like leek, swede, carrot, beetroot, celeriac, apple…
  • salt
  • optional herbs/spices like fennel seeds, dill, juniper, caraway, turmeric, pepper…

Method

Prepare a large jar to hold your ferment. Just give it a good wash and a rinse, no need to sterilise. Find and wash a smaller jar which fits neatly into your large jar. This will act as a weight.

Rinse your vegetables and pull off some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and put to one side. These will act as ‘followers’. A ‘follower’ is like a cartouche which neatly holds down any bits of chopped veg under the brine which may float up and become exposed to air.

Shred the cabbage (and any other veg if using) into a large bowl or your biggest pot.

Add extra flavourings to your tase if you like. A few juniper berries, some chopped dill, fennel/caraway seeds, turmeric and black pepper etc… just choose one or two flavours at most.

Massage in about 1 tbsp of natural, fine/flakey sea salt per regular sized cabbage volume. If you are unsure about doing this instinctively, you can weigh the shredded vegetables then work out what 2% of that weight is and add that amount of salt. Once the salt is fully incorporated, taste it and see if it is salty enough. It should just taste pleasantly salty. If its too salty add more vegetables, if it’s not salty enough add more salt. Easy!

Cover the bowl and allow the salt to do some of the work for you for about half an hour. Then give the mixture another good massage and you should see a lot of brine forming. There should be no need to add extra brine or water, the salt draws the water from the vegetables and creates its own delicious brine.

Once your veg is nice and briney, when you squeeze a handful lots of brine comes out, you can start packing it into your jar. Do this carefully and thoroughly. Take one or two large handfuls of the mixture at a time and firmly press them into the bottom of your jar ensuring there are no air pockets.

Keep going until you have used up all the mixture or until you have a good couple of inches left of head room in the jar. If you made a large amount or only have smallish jars then you may need to use a few jars.

Now its time to add your ‘follower’ or cartouche. Get the cabbage leaves you saved earlier, break them to size if you need to, then wedge them into the jar, neatly covering the whole surface area of the ferment. Take your time to carefully tuck the leaf down around the edges of the ferment. Ideally the level of brine will rise above the ‘follower’.

Digitally coloured illustration of a sauerkraut recipe from my book which you can purchase at the farm shop here

Then you need to add a weight to ensure the shredded vegetables stay submerged. The cheapest and easiest weight is simply a smaller jar filled with water. Make sure its nice and clean, no lables left on the outside. And make sure the lid does not come into contact with the brine. Salt and metal react and you don’t want a rusty metal lid sitting in your ferment! So just make sure the smaller jar can’t fall over inside the bigger jar and it should be fine.

Other weights you can use are scrubbed and boiled beach pebbles (make sure they are not chalk/limestone), you could even use a ziplock freezer bag filled with water/stones. You can also buy specially designed fermentation weights of course. made from glass or ceramics – if you really get into fermenting then these are a worthwhile investment.

Then loosely cover the jar to allow the gases produced during fermentation to escape. Use the lid, or if the lid doesn’t fit over your weight then you can cover the jar with a tea towel and secure it with an elastic band or string.

Place the jar on a plate or tray to catch any potential overspill. Then ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for a week or two.

Check on your ferment daily. Push down on the weight to expel any air pockets/bubbles that form during fermentation. Taste it after one week and if it has soured to your liking you can remove the weight and follower and refrigerate it. Otherwise keep fermenting it at room temp for another week or so for a funkier, tangier taste.

Once refrigerated it will keep well for a very long time up to and over a year even, if you look after it. That means no double dipping – you don’t want to introduce new bacteria from your mouth into the jar, scrape down the sides to keep all the veg together – bits that dry out and are exposed to air are more likely to catch mould. Consider transferring your finished ferment into a few smaller jars before refrigerating. This will mean that the ferment is exposed to less air and last longer.

Newly made kraut on the left, and one that has finished fermenting on the right. The purple cabbage will turn into that beautiful crimson colour as it acidifies.

Let me know in the comments or over on our friendly Facebook page if you have any questions or need me to troubleshoot. More fermenting blogs and videos coming soon. Happy fermenting! Liz x

Beetroot, Walnut & Lentil Ragu

Ragu is a rich, slow cooked pasta sauce, traditionally made with meat and served with a wide pasta like pappadelle or tagliatelle. Of course you can also eat it however you like – with polenta or in layers in a lasagne with a béchamel? I love it with rigatoni, those large, ridged tubes of pasta pick up the sauce beautifully. My version uses earthy beetroots, satisfying green lentils and crumbled, rich, fatty walnuts. Delicious! Did you know we sell organic lentils and walnuts in our grocery section? If you have a slow cooker, this is a good one to get going in the morning and enjoy for supper. Simply boil some pasta and you’ve got a hearty, healthy meal ready to go. The ragu also freezes well so I always make a big batch and freeze some for a rainy day. And we are not short of those right now are we?

If you make this recipe please share it with us on our friendly facebook group, and please feel free to share this blog post with your friends and family of course! The illustration above is from my 2021 recipe calendar. While stocks last I’m including a free one with every book order this month. You can add my cookbook to your shopping here. Thank you.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4 generously)

Method

I usually start a ragu with a soffritto. Soffritto is the word for gently cooking diced vegetables (usually onion, celery and carrot) in a little oil until soft to provide a base flavour to build a sauce, soup or stew from. In this case start with 1 diced onion, 1 large diced beetroot (or 2 small – just give it a scrub and don’t bother peeling, also finely chop & add the purple stalks from any leaves should you be lucky enough to have some – save the green leaves to wilt as a side), 3 diced cloves of garlic and a generous handful or two of crumbled walnuts. If you have celery to hand then definitely add a few diced stalks for extra depth of flavour! 

Sauté the diced vegetables and nuts in the tbsp of olive oil in a large pot until soft. Then add a mug of green lentils, 2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of thyme, a glass of red wine & a tin of chopped tomatoes. If you prefer more Italian herbs with this sauce then sub the thyme with some fennel seeds and a pinch of dried oregano. Add a tin of water or veg stock to swirl out the last of the tomatoey juices from the tin. Season with salt and black pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are cooked through then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. This will take a minimum of 30-40 minutes, but if you have time to simmer for longer, the flavours will be richer. This is one of those sauces that is even better the next day. Keep an eye on the liquid levels as the lentils will absorb a lot. Add more water/stock as needed and give the pot a stir every now and then to prevent sticking.

Serve tossed through pasta or in a warm bowl with soft polenta and wilted greens. 

Get hold of some of our beautiful, organic beetroots when they are in season, sign up for a veg box subscription!

Growing Food is Grounding

The planning and preparation must begin now for the year ahead. We are still harvesting many of the root crops from last years planting which is providing us with good healthy Winter sustenance. January is the time of year that calls for hearty warm food, food that feeds both body and soul. Eating with the seasons fulfils something more primal than just hunger, innately it feels like the right thing to do.

‘Seasonal eating’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘climate breakdown’ – these buzz words are all linked. What we choose to eat has a massive impact on the environment. In these dark days, is it possible to choose seasonal sustainable food that will improve our wellbeing and maybe make these dark days seems that little bit brighter?

Whether you love sprouts or hate them they are the king of Winter vegetables and, like many of their Winter cousins, their taste is enhanced by cold. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, leeks, cabbage green and red, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and swede are all amazing seasonal stars and our parents and grandparents would have enjoyed them all long before a red pepper ever graced our tables. The Irish climate has always favoured these crops, they thrive in low light and cold conditions and we seem to naturally gravitate to these foods in the colder months. This is all very good news for both us and the planet.

Although there is no arguing that food is a personal choice, is it possible that our individual freedom is coming into conflict with a personal and environmental health crisis? Our freedom to choose is limitless. But as we head into the new year, could we make a change and choose to be more mindful of where our food comes from? How it is produced? What is it packaged in? Breaking routines of convenience can be hard, we are all busy and it takes persistence, courage and discipline to maintain a new course, but if this year gone by has shown us anything, it is that routines can change overnight and new, better habits can replace them. Here are 5 achievable guidelines to help you tread a more mindful path with your food choices.

  1. Eat Local, Seasonal, Organic Food – in supermarkets look at the country of origin, choose Irish. Visit farmers markets that sell local and if possible organic food. Get a box of seasonal organic food delivered by us.
  2. Eat Less Meat – enjoy planet healthy whole-foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and grains. We have a great organic range of dried and tinned whole-foods in our grocery section.
  3. Avoid Plastic Clad Produce – buy loose in the supermarket if possible. Leave the packaging behind in the supermarket. Did you know that all our set boxes are plastic free?
  4. Cook From Scratch – this gives you more control over the source of your ingredients, and it can be very satisfying! Cook in batches which saves enormous amounts of time. We provide recipes in all our boxes and Liz over on our new blog provides easy to follow instructions to make great dishes.
  5. Grow Your Own – Spring will be upon us soon, and this satisfying act can rekindle a very basic respect for our food.

Here’s to a brighter and more mindful new year!

Kenneth

As always, our online shop is ready for your orders. Subscribe to a weekly fruit and veg box for ease, or build your own box. All the details on our website here. Thank you for your support.