Category Archives: Fermentation

Make Fermented Food Part Of Your Regular Diet

DosaOnBananaLeave
I’m enjoying Paper Dosa on banana leave in Malaysia. Dosa is now on the list of fermented superfoods
Aubergine chutney
My home-made aubergine chutney made with eggplant from a neighbouring farm

Pickles

MAKE FERMENTED FOOD PART OF YOUR REGULAR DIET

Fermented foods are found in all cultures around the world. Preserves, jams, pickles, chutneys, sourdough baking, Dosa from India, Kimchi from Korea, Kombucha from China, Moroccan preserved lemons, yoghurt in a variety of cultures and so on.

While our ancestors have been eating fermented foods for centuries, most people today include little or no fermented foods in their daily diets and they are paying the price with a poor digestive system. Why is it so important to have a healthy digestive system? As far as most of us are aware, it is the immune system that keeps our body in check.

According to Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko from Oregon State University people’s intestines contain more immune cells than the entire body.

“In a healthy person these microbes in the gut stimulate the immune system as needed, and it in turn talks back,” she said.

fermented food
fermented food maintains a healthy gut

“There’s an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation is breaking down.”

This conversation takes place through the assistance of good bacteria living in our gut. The gut is home to 70 – 80% of our immune cells and with a healthy immune system your own body can ward off and fight any disease effectively.

Until 10 years ago biologists believed the human body was a physiological island capable of producing all the enzymes needed to break down food and absorb the nutrients.

Many illnesses and diseases later we are finding out that much of these nutrients are not even available to our bodies without the help of trillions of bacteria that live in a symbiotic relationship within our bodies to ensure our perfect homeostasis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fermented food does several things to promote this:

  • It introduces these healthy bacteria into our body. A person chronically deficient of these healthy bacteria would normally be advised to take probiotics but rather than take supplements it is better to take fermented foods which are rich in this. To maximize absorption of vitamins and minerals it is always best to take them in their most natural form.
  • Beneficial microflora or bacteria living in our gut is so complex and so rich in diversity with many different strains that it is hard to accept that Man can harvest and bottle them in a capsule to imitate the kind naturally occurring in our gut. Even the medical profession is not in one mind about widely prescribing probiotics. Pharmacies sell them under the label of a health supplement.
  • The good bacteria in fermented food releases natural chelators that latch on to toxins in our body and removes them and can even change them into less harmful substances.
  • The bacteria in fermented food has already broken down the sugar and starch of food and creates lactic acid that makes the living enzymes and vitamins in our food more digestible by the body
  • The good bacteria in fermented food cuts down the sugar content of food because it consumes the sugar to create lactic acid and this acidic environment it creates kills off disease-causing bad bacteria or pathogens.

Instead of nurturing and protecting these helpful bacteria, we have been destroying them through poor diet, antibiotics and in the process destroying ourselves.

Antoine Béchamp discovered and promoted this fact well over 125 years ago, but was ridiculed by the scientific community who favoured Louis Pasteur – who insisted that a “healthy” human body was completely sterile.

This opened the door for pharmaceutical companies to infiltrate the medical profession and today with pharmaceutical companies funding medical research, it will be hard to find the medical profession on the side of holistic healing as it will be in the interest of the pharmaceutical companies to keep people dependent on drugs rather than keeping them healthy.

So with this we entered the era of war against all bacteria and even today people see bacteria in a negative light. If you go to Wikipedia and look up Fruit Enzymes and Kombucha, popular among the health conscious, you will get information stating that there is no reliable evidence that these are beneficial to your body and even subtle warnings about such home prepared fermented food.

Fermented Food expert Sandor Katz describes this war against bacteria. “Beyond antibiotic drugs that individuals take, sometimes for important reasons (but typically overprescribed), we routinely feed antibiotics to livestock, chemically sterilize our water, and use antibacterial soaps marketed with seductive promises of killing 99.9 percent of bacteria. The problem with killing 99.9 percent of bacteria is that most of them protect us from the few that can make us sick. Continuous indiscriminate killing of bacteria in, on and around our bodies makes us more vulnerable to infection (disease) rather than less vulnerable.”

So rather than treating diseases head-on which is the conventional medical practice, it is better to strengthen the body to use its own immune system to find that perfect state of equilibrium again. Dr Thomas Lodi explained this best when he said “Disease is only an outcome required by the human body in response to internal and external stimuli to maintain homeostasis. The body never makes mistakes. We only perceive disease as a malfunction because we don’t truly understand its (the body’s) function.”

I have learned to incorporate fermentation into my cooking to ensure my family obtains the best nutrition from the food we eat.

Most of us take for granted that if we eat organic, we should no doubt be able to absorb all the wholesome goodness of that organic product. But if you use unnatural additives in the organic flour and cut down on the fermentation time, it makes no difference that the flour is organic. Your body is not able to extract the nutrients from that wheat in the flour.

This is why in our generation we are seeing more and more intolerance to gluten and people blame the wheat. Wheat is not the problem. The additives we put into it is what causes the problem. Wheat also has to be properly fermented before you consume it

For example I make bread every five days and add to that pastries and buns and cakes. I use only sourdough starter. This starter is nothing but bacteria and yeast, living organisms, existing in my fridge. In order for your body to be able to absorb the nutrition from the wheat, the dough or cake must be allowed to ferment for a few hours. Commercial bakeries take the short cut of factory cultivated yeast and skip the fermentation time because they are motivated by profit. Your health is not their priority. We have brought this practice of using commercial yeast and cutting down fermentation time into our homes by buying this commercial yeast and using it in our baking.

Yet this practice has only been around these last few decades. For hundreds of years people baked only with sourdough starter.

I’ve given dough from wheat as just one example of the multitude of different types of fermented food we should be exploring in our homes to strengthen our gut and gut bacteria so these good bacteria can continue to keep us healthy.

Watch how I use fermentation in my cooking

 

 

 

Sourdough Bread Baking Workshop

Sourdough bread baking workshop

It was off to Mooladhara, for a sourdough bread baking workshop. Mooladhara, nestled in the tranquil foothills of the Watagan mountains is the rustic abode of Warwick Quinton.

Warwick is an artisan baker. A master craftsman of bread in a world that doesn’t know what real bread is anymore due to corporations’ greed to bulk produce, cut out the time needed for fermentation and I won’t even go into the unethical agricultural and milling methods of grains.

sourdough workshop
sourdough workshop at Mooladhara
sourdough workshop
Outside the bakery trailer, Gypsy which holds Luna the oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has contributed to much modern day woes such as gluten intolerancy, irritable bowel syndrome, candidiasis, Crohn’s disease, bloating stomach and many other diseases.

This word “artisan baker” has been exploited so much for marketing purposes today that the true meaning of the word is lost on the world until… you meet the real deal.

Warwick Quinton is the real deal. He ventured into sourdough baking in 1985 when there was no internet. He had to scour bookshops, libraries, health food stores and hippy kitchens to learn more about sourdough bread.

For centuries bakers have used nothing but sourdough starter to bake bread. The starter is nothing but flour and water that combusts over time into a bubbly blob caused by the voracious appetite of wild yeast and bacteria which are present all around us.

sourdough sciatta

 

sourdough workshop
pre-prepared dough

The problem with using nothing but starter is the difficulty in obtaining consistency in the end result because there are so many variables.

So commercial bakers look for shortcuts which will eventually hurt your health. But a Master baker knows how to work with these variables to consistently produced not only great tasting bread but bread that is good for your health.

Warwick’s “school” is a rudimentary, outdoor, makeshift classroom. We all gathered onto an elevated wooden platform for our sourdough bread baking workshop. There, prepared dough inside rectangular plastic containers awaited us, on long tables.

“The dough you see have been left in the fridge to ferment for 8 hours now. In my house we usually eat bread that has been fermented on average 14 hours,” Warwick informs his students, many of whom have traveled down from Sydney to learn from this sourdough guru.

Ever since Warwick turned his back on the corporate lifestyle of trying to bake in bulk while still staying true to his conventional methods, he has been happier as he has been able to concentrate on the craft rather than the “business”.

We had two dough to work with that day. One that Warwick had made and let rest for eight hours which we were to shape and slash and bake and take home by the end of the day. The other was the dough we had to prepare from scratch.Sourdough class

It was a very hands-on workshop with everyone getting a chance to knead, shape, slash while at the same time concentrating on his vigorous scribbling of invaluable information on the blackboard from pre-ferments to the various types of ovens and even how to modify your home kitchen oven for the best bread-baking experience!

Speaking of ovens, there was Luna, looming over our class eagerly waiting to devour our hand-crafted balls of dough. It seemed so surreal having a bread-baking class surrounded by nature and sounds of wildlife. Yet so apt as that was why we were all there.

Sourdough workshop
Adding the soaked wheat berries

To salvage the reputation of this “staff of life” that commercial industry has ruined to the point many people don’t even know what true bread tastes like. As Warwick said, “And that’s what I’ve learned about bread-making -it’s a confidence trick. But it’s so much harder now – we’re surrounded by ‘food porn’ on every newsagent’s window and our TV screens. We are spoilt for choice through the proliferation of Artisan Bakeries which seem to spring up in every town and suburb. Everybody knows what great bread looks and tastes like. Or at least they think they do. That’s until they try just one loaf of amazing home-made sourdough bread.”

I found several students at the workshop were not just there for the rustic allure of a bread-baking course in the wilderness. Not even for serious concerns about health, but those who actually liked the taste of rich, elemental sourdough bread. So much for the over-rated phrase, “Something that tastes this good, can’t be good for you.”

sourdough baking
Loading the dough into Gypsy the oven

One student was an old client who unabashedly admitted he follows Warwick wherever he moves his bakery. The workshop was a birthday gift from his children (probably because he is a big fan). He finally got to see what it takes to produce the loaves he loves so much. It takes a lot of time and care which the profit hungry bakeries of our era have replaced with production-line-factory-bread.

Finally it was time to fire up Luna while we added pre-soaked wheat berries to our dough and gave it a last round of thumping…oops, kneading 🙂 although Warwick did demonstrate a slap and twist technique I found quite appealing to relief stress.

Luna, the grand princess seated inconspicuously in her carriage, or rather bakery trailer, waiting to wave her flaming wand over plain dough and turn them into incredulous bread.

Ever the environmentalist, Warwick even uses old, stale bread as fuel for Luna. Yayyy! Thumbs up for Warwick.

Warwick’s only passion that can be said to rival that of sourdough baking is his love for building woodfire ovens. Luckily, they complement each other 😉

Check out his sourdough bread ovens; and for a quick oven demonstration.

At the end of a full day’s workshop we all went home with one still warm bread birthed from Luna’s belly and dough we made from scratch to bake at home.

Bell pepper on toast1