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The Wholefoodie: Susan Jane White on how to make sour, fiery beginners kimchi


Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Chances are you've had a course of antibiotics in the past few years. Although a precious resource, antibiotics can wipe out many useful strains of good bacteria in our microbiome, as well as the villainous ones.

These are unintended consequences, of course. Restoring our microbial balance is really important for proper digestion and immune support. Time to repopulate your pipes! This week's recipe, which concludes our fermentation series, should help.

Kimchi is a sour, fiery cabbage dish with an absurdly delicious tang. It lasts for weeks in the fridge, which is rather nifty during lockdown.

All credit goes to the lactic acid produced by Lactobacillus bacteria, preserving or bewitching everything it touches. If you were to view your microbiome as a garden, this kimchi would be your fertiliser.

Beginner's Kimchi

For 1 large jar

You will need:

1 head Chinese leaf (aka napa) cabbage, cored and shredded

1 heaped tablespoon fine sea salt

1 carrot or daikon, grated or shaved

2 spring onions, sliced

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2 garlic cloves, peeled

Bit of fresh ginger, peeled

1 tablespoon nam pla fish sauce (find this in the Asian aisle of supermarkets)

1 red chilli, as hot as you like

1 Put the shredded cabbage in a large bowl, sprinkle with the fine sea salt and massage. I scrunch it in a ball and knead it like dough for a couple of minutes. (No wonder my husband never wants a massage.)

2 Cover the cabbage with cold filtered water and weigh it down with something heavy like a plate. Make sure the cabbage is submerged, leave it for one hour, then rinse it well under cold running water.

3 Add the grated or shaved carrot or daikon, whichever you're using, and then add the sliced spring onions to the rinsed cabbage. Set aside.

4 Bash the garlic, ginger, fish sauce and chilli into a paste using a pestle and mortar or a blender. Spoon this spicy paste into the bowl of veg. Massage until the cabbage is swimming in natural brine.

5 Press into a spotlessly clean jam jar (or jars), so the brine rises up to cover the veg. Add a weight, such as a clean stone or an espresso cup, and seal the jar at room temperature for five days. I stand my jars in a bowl to catch any adventurous brine as it fizzes and burps.

6 Taste every day, to track its progress. Transfer the jar or jars to your fridge when the kimchi reaches Tang Nation, and enjoy it within 5-6 weeks.

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