Hello everyone, can you believe that Christmas is just around the corner?
Here at Get Pickled HQ we are winding down for the winter after a silly busy month of markets, Christmas pop-ups and workshops.
It has been a flurry of production to be able to stock up for the festive season. We had fantastic markets at the Frome Independent and the Somerset Collective. We were at the Ginger Piggery in Warminster for the first time and also did a couple of days in London for a private sale. For the first time, we also ran a couple of pop-ups at the venue ‘Home' in Frome with some of the best local small business around…
There were also a number of workshops, in particular one of my favourite Festive Ferments, in which I explored a couple of different recipes to inspire people to make their own ferments as Christmas presents. We did Christmas Kraut and a fermented live syrup!
It has been a hectic and exciting month, during which I have had the chance to plan my new roster of workshops for early 2023. We have new dates for the Introduction to Fermentation and Fermented Condiments too… and a brand new Fermentation Masterclass, consisting of a half- day fermentation deep dive on kraut and kimchi, fermented condiments AND fermented drinks like wild sodas and water kefirs. We still have spaces available and we now have electronic gift vouchers too – they would make great Christmas gifts for yourself or a loved one.
I think the gift of learning fermentation is one of the best there is; I never cease to experience and research new areas. Even with this flurry of activity, I had the chance to host at GPHQ (Get Pickled Head Quarters) my dear friend and fellow Fermenters’ Guild member, Eleni Michel. She is a globetrotter fermentation researcher and food anthropologist who has specialised in koji – the magical stuff that lies in the centre of Japanese foods such as miso, mirin, soy sauce and rice wine.
Pic above: Photos from Eleni's instagram.
I have been making my own miso for a couple of years now, but relying on other people to source koji. Koji is Aspergylus Oryzae fungus with properties and enzymes that create sheer magic on the palate. It lies at the heart of umami and brings sheer magic to every ingredient it touches.
In the past, I have done a course with a Japanese specialist, Haruko-san from the Koji Fermentaria in London. The process is a complex one, where you have to first inoculate rice with the koji spores and then oversee the growth of the mycelium for a couple of days under very specific temperature and humidity conditions. I have balked in the past when doing it on my own…
Pic above: Paula is inoculating steamed pearl barley with koji sauce.
As Eleni is a koji researcher and quite an old hand at the whole thing, I took the opportunity to learn from her expertise. We did one batch – which almost got there. I had problems with the final temperature control. Even with this failure I was not disheartened, far from it. I saw it as an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I have done it a second time, with mixed results. I now understand that I have to get a proper incubation chamber to be able control my result with precision – alas, watch this space! Let’s just say I am getting something really special from “Santa Kraut” this Christmas (he is the lesser known brother of Father Christmas, who all fermenters send their list to).
Expect a lot of miso and koji content from us in the next few months! Not just because I am getting a proper koji growing set-up, but also because it will now be the time I will get to harvest all the miso and mirins that I have just got going.
As the weather has turned bitterly cold, my Aga seems never to be hot enough - and with the energy costs rising, I am also not comfortable cranking the dial to the point of bankruptcy in the new year. So instead of a traditional Sunday roast, I like to make a very hearty warming soup - full of those cheat-day carbs that I cut down during the week.
It is also a great way of incorporating any stray vegetables that are lurking in your fridge. It also makes me forage for pulses and different noodles/pastas I might have hidden away in my cupboards.
This is less of a recipe and more of some guidelines you can explore to make a delicious soupy stew of your creation. No two of mine come out exactly the same…There is a folk tale in Brazil, about a wanderer that comes to a rich man and claims to make the best rock soup he would ever taste…Of course, he makes a delicious soup with the rock, but also with all the spices, aromatics and other ingredients he sweet-talks the rich man into giving him!
My grandmother, being Italian, would always turn to bean soups and rich minestrones when there was a chill in the air and the country house was bursting at the seams with grandchildren, cousins and friends…It is a recipe that can easily be scaled up by just adding any other scraps of stuff you have at hand, with no need of a special shop or ingredients really - any rock will do! No wonder that whenever the weather cools and the guests pile up, I tend to do the same.
And any left-overs from this will make good quick dinners later in the week.
1 can of beans, borlotti or haricot, but really any pulses you have at hand will do. If you have time to plan ahead, it is worth soaking dry beans overnight. Lentils are also a great and speedy substitute that can be cooked together with the rest of the soup.
3 potatoes - I had some quite sad ones in the bottom drawer, but I have used squash, pumpkin and sweet potato in the past.
1 stick of celery
2 cloves of garlic
150g of soup pasta like risoni, ditalini lisci, and selline – or you could use alphabet pasta or even broken-down capellini or spaghetti. Rice noodles also do a great job here.
Salt and pepper to taste
1tbs miso for a umami quick fix. I know it is not traditional Italian cooking - my Nonna would usually drop in a used rind of parmesan that would do the same job - the choice is yours
1 tbsp of tomato concentrate (optional)
1 bay leaf or other dry herbs you have at hand
1 tsp of hot paprika for a warming rounding up of the flavours
Any fresh green that needs using, in my case I had a quarter of Chinese leaf left over from a workshop
1 packet of mange tout and
1 discounted packet of organic spinach
If you are using dry beans, soak them overnight. Discard the water in the morning. Cook them with a bay leaf and a garlic clove. Avoid the use of salt at this point, it will make the cooking time much longer. Cook it on a rolling boil for about 50 minutes, topping up with water if necessary. Skip this step if using cooked beans or lentils.
While they cook, start prepping your vegetables. Dice your carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Gently sweat them in a pan with some oil, after 5-10 minutes you add your potatoes and other root vegetables on medium heat. Fry them for another 10 minutes, and incorporate all your other seasoning.
Add the pre-cooked beans and another 1L - 2L of water - you need to have enough to cook the pasta in. Bring it back to the boil and then add the pasta. If you are using lentils, after 15 minutes check for water, bring it back to the boil and then add the pasta. Let it cool down for another 10-15 minutes.
I like my veggie with a bite like in Asian soups such as ramen and Pho. So when my pasta is cooked though and soft, I add the chopped vegetables, put the lid on and take of the heat.
I sometimes cannot help myself and add Carb # 4, a nice slice of bread to scoop the soup with!
1. Festival of Light in Longleat, the Roald Dahl-inspired structures are out of this world
2. The Lantern Parade in Frome from the venue ‘Home in Frome’ while we hosted our Christmas pop-up
3. Bishops Palace Gardens in Wells, where I held a workshop
4. Bedford Gardens in London for our pop up sale
5. Mr Falafel in Shepherd’s Bush Market my favourite falafel place!
6. Botanic Shed's barn in Bampton, Oxfordshire for Tallulah Rendall's concert.
It has been a few years since I have been able to enjoy the festive season with family here in the UK. Last year we went to Brazil and the year before - well the world stopped as we all know!