Red cabbages are one of those festive vegetables that often get wasted. Food waste is a big environmental problem which is exacerbated over Christmas. Instead of braising the whole cabbage for your Christmas dinner, why not pickle some of it? It makes it last a lot longer and tangy, crunchy, pickled red cabbage is the perfect festive accompaniment to cheese boards, leftovers sandwiches, and to even top currys, chillis, tacos etc. It’s quick and easy to do. All you need is vinegar, salt and sugar, a clean jar or two and some optional spices.
optional flavourings of your choice eg juniper berries or pickling spices
Start by finding a big jar or a few small ones, enough to fit in the cabbage. Give the jars a really good clean and hot rinse. Or you can sterilise them to be extra safe. Put the washed and rinsed jars in a clean sink then fill them with freshly boiled water from the kettle. Wait a minute then carefully empty the jars (use oven gloves or a folded tea towel so you don’t burn your hands). Let them air dry while you get on with chopping the cabbage and heating up your vinegar solution.
Measure the vinegar, water, salt and sugar into a small pan, add the optional juniper berries or pickling spices to the jars and slice the cabbage.
Then thinly slice the cabbage and stuff into the jars. Lightly press the cabbage down into the jars to pack them in neatly. You should leave a cm of room in the jar.
Heat up the vinegar solution and as soon as it comes to the boil, take it off the heat and pour it into the jars. The solution should cover the vegetables, if you need to make more vinegar solution, then do so. You can halve or quarter the recipe of course if you only need a little more. Give the jars a light tap on the work surface to remove any air bubbles that may be trapped between the layers of cabbage. Then screw on the lids whilst the jars are still hot.
Allow them to cool on your kitchen work surface, then refrigerate. The pickled cabbage will be ready to eat in two days and will last in the fridge for 2 months.
Easily get 10 portions of fruit and veg into your day with this plant based St Patrick’s Day menu. No green food colouring in sight but lots of vibrant, fun, healthy ideas. Hope you have a fab day off everyone! Let us know what you are cooking to celebrate the day in the comments or over on our friendly facebook page.
Green Smoothie Pancakes
Is it even St Patrick’s Day if you don’t eat something green? Avoid the food colouring and get out your blender for these sweet (but healthy) pancakes.
Ingredients (makes 10 pancakes)
a couple of large handfuls of rinsed kale (or spinach)
Put all the ingredients except the butter and maple syrup into a smoothie maker and blend until smooth.
Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium then melt some butter and fry the pancakes in small batches for a few minutes on each side until cooked through. It’s better to cook them low and slow so that they are cooked through and not too dark on the outside.
Stack them up and serve simply with butter and a generous drizzle of maple syrup or your favourite pancake toppings.
Golden Boxty with Rainbow Slaw
Traditional Irish potato griddle cakes (but with very non-traditional grated courgette in the mashed potato batter instead of grated raw potato) are fried in butter until golden brown. Serve these ‘pots of gold’ with a rainbow slaw of fresh, raw, crunchy veg and a dollop of mayo for the perfect lunch.
mayonnaise to serve (or make your own using my easy aquafaba recipe here)
Start with the slaw. Shred the cabbage, grate the carrot and thinly slice the peppers, spring onions and chives. Mix in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon to start with and the olive oil. Taste and add more lemon juice if you like.
Preheat a frying pan and mix up the boxty batter. Put the mashed potato, grated courgette (or raw potato), flour, milk, vinegar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. You should end up with a batter that’s a dropping consistency. If not, add more milk.
Fry in melted butter on a medium heat for about 5 or so minutes on each side. You can fry them in little fritters or in large rounds the size of the pan. Carefully flip them over when the bottom is golden brown. Add more butter to the pan before flipping if it’s looking a bit dry.
Serve warm with the rainbow slaw and a dollop of mayonnaise.
Irish Stew with Soda Dread Dumplings
Meaty mushrooms and bitter Guinness makes this stew rich and delicious and what better way to mop up the juices than with some Irish soda bread? I steam it as dumplings on top here for a hearty one pot supper but you could bake it separately if you prefer and serve it alongside. Looking for a gluten free alternative? Why not make some colcannon (mashed potato with wilted green cabbage or kale and spring onion stirred through) to go with the stew instead and use a gluten free stout in place of the Guinness?
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion
3 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
1 mug of green lentils
1 stock cube
1 can of Guinness
2 tbsp dark brown sugar (optional – to counteract the bitterness of the Guinness)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped chives to serve
500g flour (I like 250g plain and 250g wholemeal)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml oat milk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Get a large pot on the hob and heat it to the highest setting.
Roughly dice the onion and add it to the pot with 2 tbsp of sunflower oil.
Roughly dice the carrots, celery and mushrooms and add them to the pot next.
Stir occasionally and allow the vegetables to take on some colour and caramelised flavour for around 10 minutes. Then peel, chop and add the 4 cloves of garlic.
Rinse your mug of green lentils and add them to the pot with the can of Guinness, the stock cube and an additional mug of water. Season the stew with salt and lots of black pepper. Give the broth a taste and add some brown sugar to counteract the bitterness of the Guinness if needed.
Then let the stew come up to a simmer while you make the soda bread dough.
Measure the dry ingredients (the flour, salt and bicarb) into a large mixing bowl and mix well to evenly disperse the bicarbonate of soda and salt. Check for lumps and sort them out now before you add the wet ingredients.
Measure the wet ingredients (the oat milk, oil and vinegar) into a measuring jug and give it a stir. This is the plant based alternative for the traditional buttermilk in the recipe. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well with a wooden spoon to form a rough dough. No need to knead, just stir well to ensure there are no dry, floury bits in the dough.
Use wet hands to form 6-8 balls of dough and place them carefully in the top of the simmering stew. Put the lid on the pot, make sure it’s turned down ow and allow the stew to simmer an the soda bread to steam for about 20-30 minutes.
Check that the lentils are cooked through then serve the hot stew and dumplings with chopped chives on top.
Mint Choc Chip Ice-Cream
This ice cream is vibrant green, creamy and sweet…but made with peas and bananas! Don’t be put off by the healthy ingredients, blended frozen banana is a creamy revelation and peas are naturally so sweet. It’s especially good if the banana is frozen when super-ripe. If you eat through your bananas from your weekly delivery then this recipe is a good way to use up those reduced over-ripe bananas at the shops. A win-win for you and for the epic food waste problem the planet is facing. I’ve used cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips because I love their bitter, dark chocolate flavour, but do feel free to substitute with real chocolate chips…especially if you are serving this to children.
optional sweetener of your choice to taste (eg maple syrup)
and a tbsp or so of cacao nibs (or sub with chocolate chips)
Peel and chop as many over-ripe bananas as you like. About one per person. Freeze them overnight on a tray until solid (with gaps between the pieces otherwise they’ll all freeze together and be very difficult to blend).
You’ll need a strong food processor with an S blade attachment. A food processor works better that a jug/smoothie blender for this.
Put the frozen banana chunks and frozen peas into your blender along with fresh mint leaves to taste.
Blend into a frozen, crumbly texture then stop the blender, scrape down the sides and blend again until vibrant green and creamy.
Taste the mixture and add a sweetener or more mint leaves if you like and blend again.
Scrape the nice cream out into a tub and stir through cacao nibs or chocolate chips. Scoop into balls and serve (they will be quite soft at this stage so for quickly) or move to the freezer to firm up until you are ready to serve.
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.
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.
optional herbs/spices like fennel seeds, dill, juniper, caraway, turmeric, pepper…
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’.
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.
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