Wednesday 21 February 2018

Live and kicking blood orange compote

Last week in my post I talked a little bit about kimchi, fermented food and their health benefits. I remember that my first fermentation workshop was with the wizard of fermented foods Sandor Katz. Back then Sandor wasn’t so well known worldwide as he is today. I count myself very lucky to have learnt how to prepare my fermentation food with the master. Last Saturday I helped out Nena Foster, who is a natural chef and food stylist, on her Fermentation Workshop in East Dulwich. Her fermented food were really good.

Nena had ordered by mistake a humongous amount of blood orange and I lucked out, bringing home some of her stash. At her workshop she taught the class how to make forced rhubarb compote. That compote stayed in my mind and on Sunday I decided to make my own. I used some blood oranges and kumquats I had left over from my farmer’s box. Following Nena's suggestion, I added a probiotic capsule, as a w
ay of speeding up the process of fermentation.
I not only enjoy eating fermented food, I am also fascinated with its health benefits. Did you know that one type of bacteria - Bifidobacteria - actively synthesises proteins, amino acids, B vitamins; and assists with the absorption of calcium, iron and vitamin D? One of the most important things about fermented foods is the number of good bacteria we replenish in our gut when we eat them. Mankind consumed fermented and cultured foods for centuries before refrigeration as a form of preserving them.

Fascinating as it is, enough of the science for today. Let’s get cooking.

Blood oranges and kumquats.
The other ingredients.
Kumquats, honey, cinnamon, sugar and the juice of the oranges went first...
...and cooked for about 5 minutes.
Blood orange segments added...
... and simmered for about 20-25 mins.
My blood orange and kumquat compote.
Blood orange and kumquat compote (with added probiotics)

This compote makes a great accompaniment to a cheese board, meat, on your toast, or with yoghurt.


6 blood oranges – cut into segments
200g kumquats - sliced
1 cinnamon stick
60ml raw honey or any other runny honey
15g raw cane sugar or any caster sugar of your preference
15ml of lemon juice
*1 capsule of probiotic (optional) – I used Ultraprobioplex with 15 billion live bacteria by Nutri Advanced.


Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges and cut them into segments. Reserve. In a medium saucepan, place the kumquats, honey, cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice and the juice from the oranges. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the orange segments and cook on high heat or until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. Let it cool.

Refrigerate. Once opened consume within 2 weeks.

*If you are going to use the probiotic, make sure the compote is not hot when adding the powder to it. The heat will destroy the beneficial bacteria. Leave the compote to set at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Then refrigerate it. Once it is opened consume within 2 weeks.

A healthy note: Studies have shown that oranges can help lower the risk of cancer. Apart from their well-known vitamin C content, oranges also contain potassium, folate and fibre - all related to heart health. They also contain calcium which keep bones and teeth stronger. The fruit has therapeutic effects such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, amongst others. Try to buy organic oranges whenever possible. Non-organic oranges are one of the most chemically sprayed fruits.

Thursday 15 February 2018

Kicking off the day with kimchi pancake

This week I put two celebratory days together in my kitchen – unlikely as it may seem. First, Shrove Tuesday. Also known as pancake day, it always falls 47 days before Easter. Religious motives aside, it’s a good excuse to play around with a simple recipe. Pancakes are a great starting point to let loose your creativity in the kitchen. You can play with anything you can find in your fridge or cupboard.

Second, comes the Olympics that kicked off in South Korea last weekend. I made the spicy, tangy and satisfying Korean traditional pancake for our breakfast. My daughter loved it. It is a great way to start your day and it is also a good idea for a quick snack. It definitely nourishes your digestive tract (kimchi is a food loved by our gut bugs. More on the healthy note below).

Although I've made kimchi frittata and kimchi omelette, my self-imposed mission to make this traditional pancake didn’t come without swearing, sweat and almost tears. So simple, but I was defeated twice. By the time my pancake batter reached the frying pan it became a gooey blob that stuck to it and never flipped in one piece.  But with my Olympic spirit I vowed to beat it and on my third attempt, I scored beautifully. The result: a crispy, tangy and flavoursome pancake.

As a tip for a successful crispy pancake: use a non-stick frying pan (preferably with a ceramic coating), and spread the batter. I learnt it the hard way :-) 

The ingredients.
Place the ingredients in a bowl...
...and mix them well with a fork.
Spread the batter evenly...
...and cook the pancake until it turns a golden colour.
My kimchi-jeon pancake.
Kimchi-jeon or Korean kimchi pancake (the traditional way)
serves 2-3 people


140g organic white spelt flour or any other all-purpose
250g kimchi*
35ml kimchi juice
90ml water
3 spring onions
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Maldon)
½ teaspoon coconut sugar
Groundnut oil, or any other neutral oil, for frying


In a bowl, place the chopped kimchi, kimchi juice, chopped spring onion, salt, coconut sugar, flour and water. Mix it well.

Heat a little oil in a heavy-based non-stick frying pan (about 28cm diameter). Place the mixture in it and spread it thinly with a spoon. Cook one side for about 1-2 minutes. Flip to the other side and let it cook for another minute. Turn it over once more and cook for 30 seconds before transferring it to a serving board or plate.

Serve it straight away whole or cut it into bite sized pieces. When the pancake gets cold it gets a bit soggy, but still tasty though. We had our pancake with an egg each and greens on the side.

* When I don’t make my own kimchi, I buy it from my local Korean shop SK Mart , Natural Natural, Centre Point Foodstore, Japan Centre or Wholefoods market.

A healthy note: Kimchi, or fermented cabbage with chilli, usually garlic, spring onions and ginger, is a probiotic food traditionally known as a staple food from Korea. Our gut houses about 80-85% of our immune system, this is partly because of the 100 trillion bacteria (both beneficial and pathogenic) that live there. Eating fermented foods that are packed with beneficial gut-boosting lactobacilli bacteria like kimchi is a great way to keep our immune system in check, and our digestive tract happy. Kimchi contains the B vitamins and vitamin C.

Till next week!

Wednesday 7 February 2018

A bit of Summer on my table

Persimmons are everywhere at the moment, they fill the local and ethnic shops with their gorgeous orange/red colour. They are also known as sharon fruit – a trademark name of a non-astringent type that is grown in Israel. It’s been one of my favourite fruits since I was a child. There are two main varieties of persimmon we can get in the UK at this time of the year: the more astringent hachiya, and the non-astringent fuyu. Kaki, which is persimmon in Japanese, is the name we adopted in Brazil but with a slightly different spelling: caqui.

When ripe, the flesh gets really soft and it has a very sweet flavour. But when unripe it will leave your mouth full of tannin. The persimmon variety I find near where I live is the astringent one. I enjoy eating the fruit, use it to make salads, or in desserts.

This week I walked past my local shop, where they supply different seasonal vegetables and fruits. This month they are stocking up on these delicious fruits.

Mixing the persimmon with a beautiful oak leaf lettuce, that came with my vegetable box, plus the palm hearts I had on my store cupboard, I brought a bit of Brazil to my table. The result was a refreshing, crunchy, sweet and sour salad.

I made a quick dressing I learnt from my friend - the salad queen Betina - but instead of using red onion, as she taught me, I used banana shallots. It tasted just as good as hers.

Hachiya persimmons.
Tinned palm hearts.
My persimmon, palm hearts, lettuce salad with shallot dressing.
How I made it:

For the dressing, I chopped half of one banana shallot, grated about 1 cm of fresh ginger, squeezed the juice of half lemon, added a full teaspoon of maple syrup, followed by a little bit of cold water (Bettina’s tip). Mixed everything and reserved.

For the salad, I peeled two persimmons, sliced them and placed them around the rim of a plate. I washed a handful of lettuce, sliced 3 palm hearts * and assembled them in the centre of the plate. I poured the dressing over them, drizzled some extra-virgin olive oil. I scattered some pink peppercorns and mint leaves. Seasoned to taste.

*I buy the tinned palm hearts in specialists shops like Panzer’s, major supermarkets or Brazilian/Portuguese delis.

A healthy note: Persimmons (Diospyros) are high in vitamin C. They are a good source of fibre and contain good amounts of potassium, magnesium and iron. Research has shown that persimmons have the ability to lower blood fats.
With great amounts of carotenoids, persimmons are a potent antioxidant, which protect against free radicals.

Till next week!

Thursday 1 February 2018

Have you heard of kalettes?

No, kalettes is not a name of a new girl-band. Kalettes, are in fact a 4 years-old crossbreeding of kale and Brussel sprouts and not a genetically modified creation where scientists interfere with the DNA of the plants. They come from the brassica family. The first time I heard of them I thought they sounded like a “Frankenfood” but fortunately they are not. They look like little flowers. Really pretty. Taste a bit nutty and are less bitter than Brussel sprouts.

Last week I couldn’t resist and bought a pack of kalettes from a local shop, but I had a busy weekend and they ended up forgotten in the fridge. Two days ago, I decided to raid the fridge and use everything available in the vegetable drawer, plus the mixed rice I had made the day before. I ended up with a beautiful, colourful winter Buddha bowl for lunch.

The dish was an exercise in improvisation. As a result, this week I won’t write a formal recipe. Below, I explain how I put the ingredients together.

I soaked them first.
After seasoned, they were ready to go to the oven.
Roasted Kalettes.
My improvised mixed rice with nuts and kalettes, roasted vegetables & halloumi.
Improvised kalettes Buddha bowl

I washed the kalettes by soaking them in water and vinegar. After 15 minutes, I rinsed and dried them in a spinner.
I placed them in a bowl, then drizzled them with some extra-virgin olive oil, garlic granules, chilli flakes and sea-salt. Roasted them for about 10-15 minutes at a 180C. When they were cooked, I squeezed some lemon juice over them and added them to the cooked mixed rice (brown, red Camargue and wild rice). Followed by some roasted cashew and pine-nuts, sour cherries and parsley. Drizzled some olive oil and seasoned to taste.

I added to the bowl some roasted sweet-potatoes with roasted black sesame seed, roasted small peppers and fried halloumi cheese.

As well as roasting the kalettes, you can also sautée, stir-fry, steam or just add raw leaves to salads.

A healthy note: Kalettes are rich sources of vitamins C and K. Vitamin K helps to prevent heart disease and is important for the health of the bones. It also prevents blood-clotting. Both Brussel sprouts and kale are loaded with compounds that are believed to been linked to cancer prevention.  

Till next week!
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