Fish and flowers were the order of the day I turned sixty! Left and right eye of salmon paintings by Nils Benson who sent these over from his home in LA, cleverly they arrived on the day. These gorgeous flowers were from me, a celebration of my love of the firewheel tree and the Japanese knife, my gift from India.
It felt momentous, to be turning sixty! 60!!! However this birthday will count as one of the best ever. April was busy, lots of work on, lots to work on, a rather significant birthday and my very dear friends Yolande Gray and Martin Teplitzky’s wedding. The wedding date was chosen not to coincide with my birthday and not so that I could cook for it. As a caterer it can be tricky, the desire to feed those you adore and the wish to be witness and not miss a moment do not correlate but Yolande being who she is, made everything possible. I shared my birth day with her and a few close friends, we ate together at Fred’s in Paddington. A beautiful meal and a warm and very memorable event. A few days later my daughter flew in from London, to celebrate with me and be here for the wedding. We spent the days prior preparing together and shared the joy that is love for another I made a large batch of Sea Salty Crackers from my book Ferment, which Yolande art directed and designed and the Maple Cured Sirloin, to join the long list of canapés that were expertly served by Friederike Stottolle and her crew. Mr and Mrs TeplitzkyYolande and her much loved aunt Steph India with Mooey’s bouquet Saskia’s artistry with blooms galore above and India’s blue nails with roses below.Yolande and Saskia Havekes are old friends, Yolande designed Saskia’s first book, at the same time that she was designing my first book Nourish. Saskia is the worlds most exquisite florist ‘Grandiflora’ I have made it a link, because if you don’t yet know of their work I am certain you will want to. If you have a need for spectacular head straight there. Saskia spent the wedding day transforming the space with divine blooms and then she tasked India with their care for the two days, which is why you see her above with Yolande’s daughter Margot’s bouquet, Margot was busy doing Yolande’s make up, very beautifully. A wedding inevitably reminds one of the joy that love brings and the focus of course is on the love between those who are marrying but what was clear here, was that love was present and expressed by all involved, for days. It was an uplifting, stupendous event, an evening wedding with 100 guests in a not so large terraced house in Bronte. We danced into the small hours and then, somehow, we cleaned up and transformed the space to provide lunch. Paella for 58, cooked by chef Martin! – with a little help from his friend (me) and newly acquired brother in law Evan and then CAKE by the fabulous Nadine Ingram’s team at Flour and Stone, also THE place to go if real, irresistible cake is your requirement. All the while, as the entire contents of the ground floor were schlepped in and out of vans and the garage was filled fit to bursting there was laughter, love and continuous support. A tribute to community, caring and what friendship can engender. One should of course not wish it, but could we do that again, it took a lot to make happen but it went so quickly? Many blooms came home with me, as the couple went honeymooning, I was not sad but days later I found it hard to let go of the beauteous roses.
Would that he had lived, I could have known him better. Last month I turned 60, which means I am now older than my father ever was. None the less, thirty eight years after his death I feel his influences still. We look alike, though fortunately I have all my hair, we share a sense of humour and many of his merry quips fall effortlessly and frequently from my tongue. I correct my daughters speech exactly as he did mine, “it is ‘used not to’ Holly/India, not ‘never uset to'” and the like. I, like him am a chef, though at 27 he gave up his knife for the law. I refer to him often and wonder how he would have expressed his joy and appreciation for who I grew to be and who his grandchild is. Would he have ventured here? He was frequently a troubled soul, for whom life held many challenges but what I recognise now, is that he upheld his values and gave his all to provide us a full and exciting life, in which integrity matters and every type of food should be tried – for all of which, I am eternally grateful. His suits were tailored, his collars starched, he wore a bowler hat and carried an umbrella as he headed off to ‘town’, a proper English gent he was. Now, clearly a man of an era passed. I celebrate who he was, though I know, I knew little of him really.
The shot below was taken by the clever photographer ©SamanthaMackie at a class I ran way back when, hosted by The Lost and Found Department, when the talented Silvia Noble ran wonderful classes and events. Look The Lost and Found Department up, wherever you are, she has a sublime store in Artarmon and online with that name. She sells the unusual which is, these days, unusual, vintage and lots of beautiful things you may feel you simply must have, be warned!I have a lovely event to cater soon and I chose this pastry for the sweet sticky pumpkin, ginger and natto miso tartlets I will be serving. If you are where it is springtime you might opt fo fill these with a broad bean mash (I always double peel but that’s for you to choose). If you know me at all, you will know broad beans are my all time favourite food, so of course that is what I would be doing were I where spring is raising her warming smile. I have been making this savoury pastry since I opened my first restaurant ‘Manna’ in Sydney, soon after I arrived here in 1983! It stands the test of time and I come back to it because it is so easy to make, needs none of the handle with cool care that pastry usually requires and for any who wish it to be it is easily made vegan. It can be made well ahead, if you be sure to keep them airtight and then when you want them simply fill and serve. Using hot water (boiled filtered not tap!) results in super crispness think crunch and the sesame oil and seeds provide delightful nuttiness but no nuts so you could pop one in a lunch box for school. This recipe can be used to make fabulous crackers too, roll out thinly, slice as you will and bake on a lined cookie sheet as per below. I have given you the pumpkin and the broad bean recipes too. Taking care of the world makes me smile. Enjoy and if you do make them please let me know your thoughts, tell me how they went down, where you are and who you made them for or post a pic on insti and tag me @hollydaviswholefood I am.
Crisp sesame hot water pastry
Makes approximately 600gms. Use 60gms per 11cm tart case
280gms spelt flour
100gms sesame seeds, hulled
100mls plain sesame oil (fresh & not toasted)
150mls boiling water
2 tablespoons tamari or shoyu
Combine all the dry ingredients
Blend the wet ingredients to a creamy emulsion
Mix the wet into the dry and combine gently
Rest under a dry cloth for 15 minutes or so
Roll out the pastry or press into tart tins making it about 3mls thick and as even as possible
Bake at 200˚C until they are an even golden brown, approximately 15 minutes
Cool completely on a wire rack before filling or storing in an airtight container
Natto miso and ginger pumpkin filling
6 pre baked 11cm tart cases
2 tablespoons + ½ tablespoon plain sesame oil or if you prefer duck fat
4 medium onions sliced in medium wedges
1 knob fresh ginger sliced in very fine slithers
¼ of a preserved lemon, finely sliced
200mls vegetable or chicken stock
500gms JAP (stands for Just Another Pumpkin not Japan-who knew?) pumpkin cut in 3cm wedges, skin on if tender enough to pierce with your thumbnail, if not peel
½ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1½ tablespoon natto miso (barley, kombu and ginger)
12 green beans, sliced on a diagonal
heat a fry pan
add the sesame oil or duck fat
Sauté the onions gently until they begin to brown
Add the ginger, preserved lemon and stock
Bring to a simmer uncovered, simmer gently
While this is cooking
Rub the pumpkin with the salt and a little sesame oil
Bake approximately 35 minutes in a 180° oven, the pumpkin will be soft and browning on the edges
Remove from the oven and cool a little
Mix the natto miso through the pumpkin carefully and set aside
Cook the onion mixture until no liquid is left and the onions are very soft and frying again
Fry for a further 10 minutes until very soft and sticky
Blanch the green beans
Shock cool and drain well set aside
Combine the pumpkin and onion mixes together
Fill the pre-baked tart cases
top with green beans and serve warm or cold
Another shot of ©SamanthaMackie’s here the broad bean smoodge was used in Japanese class as canapes. A truly scrumptious,versatile dish
Citrus broad bean smoodge
Makes approximately 1 cup, will fill 4 x 11cm tarts
I consider double peeling broad beans an act of love for those I am feeding
1/2 kilo broad beans, peeled, blanched until tender and peeled again
1 tablespoon great extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Celtic sea salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch mint, leaves only finely sliced
1/2 bunch parsley, finely sliced
Peel, blanch and peel the broad beans again, they are much nicer like this, discard the skins
Combine the peeled broad beans with the remaining ingredients
Blend to a coarse pâté texture
Dollop into the tartlet cases or beside a piece of steamed fish, on new potatoes or eat with salad leaves
and sprouts or eat on raw crackers or crusty rye bread
Keep in an airtight container, keeps approximately a week but I bet it doesn’t last longer than a few hours
©BenDearnley Zebra stripe green tomatoes
When it’s too hot to cope, and there have been several of those this Sydney summertime, preparing food can feel like an impossible chore. Fortunately though, in this season there is a bounty of divine produce to eat raw, cured and cooked to eat cold later.
If you are growing tomatoes, I expect you’ve been eating masses raw and making sauces for use after summer, if you are not a grower, keep your eyes peeled for the good ones at your local farmers market or providores. If you see these green tomatoes, an heirloom variety, very pretty with stripes of dark green on their bright green skins be sure to grab a few. They are this colour when fully ripened and not to be mistaken for unripe red ones, which are perfect for fermenting with corn and jalapeño’s, see page 70 of my book Ferment a guide to the ancient art of culturing foods, make some of that now, to enjoy in a few months time, when the only tomatoes to be had are the flavourless hot housed kind. But right now there is nothing like a well grown ripe tomato of any colour. An aunt of mine fed me ripe red tomatoes warm from the vine, in her Lincolnshire garden. I picked them and she then cut and covered half with a small pile of sugar, a memorable feast I no longer care to repeat but worth doing just once in a lifetime! The image above demonstrates perfectly what a small sprinkling of coarse salt does to vegetables, it draws out their moisture while adding valuable minerals, balancing their acidity and intensifying their flavour. Choose coarse sea salt, the crystal style looks pretty but Celtic is my preferred for its flavour and diverse mineral profile. With a slosh of fabulously fresh walnut or olive oil and a few drops of Jerez or red wine vinegar, a scattering of basil, sage, tarragon or thyme leaves and you have a very speedy, oh so easy dish to make those you feed swoon. A crust of sourdough, to mop up the juices completes the story, if you’re keen to learn to bake your own sourdough loaves or learn more about wholefood cooking and fermenting- check out my classes page here. I have been sharing my crop of summer tomatoes with a pair of very beautiful King parrots, so far we are tolerating one another well and thankfully there are plenty to go round. You can apply the same treatment to a wide range of fresh produce, try celery, fennel, radishes, daikon and cucumbers, alter the type of salt, oil and the seasonings, to keep things culturally related and your set to never cook again!
When thinking ‘no fuss cooking’ I am guessing preparing whole octopus does not immediately spring to mind but if you are at the fish markets I recommend buying a handful of small firm whole octopus and cleaning them, so that you can then slow cook them to unbelievable tenderness. Once cleaned, simply toss them in a heavy casserole with a teaspoon of good olive oil, a few garlic cloves a sprig or two of rosemary and a crack of black pepper, lid on, on the lowest heat and left for 11/2-2hrs while you go for a swim, on your return you will have something absolutely sensational, to eat cold over the coming days – it keeps brilliantly, for 3 or 4. If you’re game, try my signature green tea noodles with octopus, which was the cover image of my first book Nourish, Food by Holly Davis. I served this at a catering job last week and was reminded how much I love this dish and how great it is to have on hand, so I thought I would share it with you. Nourish is out of print, so I am providing images of the relevant pages, how to clean octopus and the recipe.
©Geoff Lung Photography
image of fennel and juniper cured bonito ©HollyDavis
I love to feed people well and enjoy the entire process of creating menus: shopping for the best produce, preparing and serving the food, washing up- not so much and I got good at cooking with the idea that the cook doesn’t have to wash up? Not true, as I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time at the sink. As Christmas is oh so near now, I thought you might enjoy to see a menu I have created for a celebratory Christmas lunch I am catering this week. The menu has been designed to celebrate the season and cater for a broad range of dietary needs. My wish in sharing this is that it serve as food for thought and your own creativity. If you are up in Palm Beach NSW through January and you are in need of catering assistance, do drop me an email and I will take on the task, if I am available when you wish.
I love menu’s that enable people to ‘graze’ and find what they would most love to eat. When designing a menu I consider a wide range of things, who am I feeding, do they have particular dietary needs – if so I like to create dishes to suit those needs which all the guests can enjoy. I also consider if there is a theme? Right now the theme is clearly Christmas and as we move into December in Australia, it is likely to be warm maybe stinking hot. This is helpful when catering for large numbers as it allows for preparing ahead and serving the food cold or at room temperature. It’s worth remembering though, that if pre preparing, all dishes need to be held below 5˚C or above 60˚C, to be kept safe to eat. If the fridge is filled to bursting point, ask your local green grocer for a broccoli box with a lid, these make excellent impromptu cooler boxes, just add plenty of ice to the top, cold air sinks…
Start the meal with bright, fresh produce, the best quality you can find and afford and then the rest is not too hard. I suggest serving the oysters, marinated tofu and the beet soup straight from the fridge, in small bowls or in shot glasses. The cured fish is so simple to make and always impresses. Depending on the size of the fillets it need only cure for 2-4 hours or so, then you can brush off the cure, slice and contain until you re ready to serve it. The recipe for this cured bonito is in my book which I might add would make a fine Christmas gift and also on the liveability website where you will find this and many other of my recipes including my fabulous Christmas cake which, you could make this weekend, it is an excellent keeper. Sparkling sake is worth trying, there are several on offer now, a good Japanese grocery or your bottle shop may be able to supply or look online. I would choose a dry style and serve just a small glass to each guest with the canapés.
The mains are rich but still fresh with lots of crisp textures. It is cherry season here and organic cherries are beautiful right now. So duck loves something both sweet and a little sour to cut its richness, plump cherries doused in orange juice with a glug of good, preferably aged, balsamic vinegar is the perfect thing. I wouldn’t use the caramelised balsamics, I find those way too thick and overly sweet.
The filmjölk ice-cream is nothing like store bought, that recipe is also in Ferment, it is not overly sweet and the perfect compliment to this poached peach or a bowl of fresh cherries, mangos and lychees, yay for summertime not too far from the tropics
Canapés, with a glass of sparkling sake
Sydney rock oysters with cucumber, shiso, yuzu & umeboshi dressing
Fennel, juniper and orange cured bonito with beni shoga
Ponzu marinated iced tofu with green chilies & garlic chives
Small shot of cold beet soup with crispy diced cultured cucumber and radish and a splot of heirloom yoghurt
On the table-
Crispy skinned, rare duck breast with balsamic & orange cherries, red & bitter greens
Tempeh with red jasmine rice, ketchup manis & mustard dressing
Duck fat roasted potatoes
Many a green bean, with verdant booch dressing
Mirin & vanilla poached peaches with filmjölk & honey ice cream, Christmas ginger shortbread, served with a tot of mead
Safe and happy holidaying all, may every mouthful you share bring you and those you love, joy and deliciousness.
Photo taken in class, at Vaucluse House Coachhouse 2014 ©RoslynBaker
I adore to teach and at times during a class, it is clear to me that as teachers we have a responsibility to keep listening and that we have an incredible opportunity for learning from those who attend classes. I have been cooking, culturing and teaching for a great many years. I feel I know only a tiny fraction of what there is to know, though I am aware that my extensive experience, trials and errors allow me to make many distinctions the newly initiated could not. The desire to write down those distinctions in the area of fermenting foods has been with me for decades. Sometimes what we wish for alludes us and we must bide our time. When Sandor Ellix Katz first published Wild Fermentation in 2003 I felt hope for the book I wished to pen. It took 11 years and Jane Morrow at Murdoch books to instigate my doing so and now, this month Ferment- A guide to the ancient art of fermentation is published for you and all to see. To read, to hopefully use, for successes that my hard won distinctions might assist? I would love to hear about your experiences and see your products, take a photo and post on instagram or Facebook or email me. Fermenters are in general generous sharers of information and cultures, welcome to the fast growing tribe of revivalists. The time is now as evidenced by overhearing “The Archers” discussing kombucha on the radio while I was in the UK recently, it is in the zeitgeist when the Archers are in the know! For those unfamiliar The Archers is a radio soap that began in 1950 it follows the lives of The Archer family and others in a fictitious rural farming community.Photo of me and Sandor Ellix Katz taken in his workshop 2014 ©J.Martinez
Me and Sandor whilst sampling homemade miso and koji’s, brought to his fabulous workshop by a chef from Momofuku restaurant. I was introducing the idea that there is a tasting ‘spoon’ on the top of our hands, if you raise your thumb food sits nicely in the hollow created and there is then no need to wash up cutlery. Sandor introduced me to the notion that there is no need to have more than two tasting cups for a group of 100 or so folk! I haven’t adopted that but it did highlight how precious we can be these days around hygiene. I was fortunate to be asked by Kristen and Nick from Milkwood, who brought Sandor out for that tour of the East Coast, to make some of the ferments needed for his workshops. Doing so has enriched my offerings in my new book, as I had not previously dabbled in the making of lightly alcoholic drinks. I discovered how much fun it is to watch yeasts move into a brew and how easy they are to produce, for deliciously refreshing results. You will find local honey mead, Scrumpy apple cider and Peach and apricot fruit wines amongst the many other good things within. The process goes like this, get ripe unblemished fruits, steep in water, add a source of sugar, stir and stir and stir until it bursts into effervescent life, contain with an airlock, wait, decant and drink or brew further. Them the basics but for many more distinctions you might like to buy my book!
Sandor Ellix Katz has generously contributed the foreword to my book and he gave me sage advice in relation to its naming. I am incredibly grateful to him for these reasons but more so, for his dedication and continued efforts in learning ever more, sharing his extensive knowledge and enthusing so many to become part of this fermentation revival, which has made my work timely and more desirable. Thank you Sandor x
My Muma Joy (1929-2013), Willem (1958-1991) and me (1958-) at the first Glebe Street Fair in 1986
Last night I wrote the date on something as August 12, I had fleeting connection that the date was important somehow but I didn’t take the time to know why. I was too busy sorting out a cupboard and had just broken a precious bowl, which holds many moving memories for me. My co founding partner of Iku Wholefoods, Willem Venter made that bowl after he had gone blind, not long before he died in the Blue Mountains in 1991. I felt the upwelling sting of grief that lies just beneath the surface and which, the crashing of china can surely loose. I made a cup of rooibos tea the way Willem did and I choose to see the breakage as an opportunity to me for letting go then I got on with my work. I was wrangling computer program issues, writing a newsletter and taking several orders for my book. Then I saw an order from B who was an early adopter of our food. B is South African and shares that heritage with Willem, they adored one another. We have seen each other sporadically and not for some long time now. We exchanged emails and I learned she now has 5 grandchildren and we spoke of the passing of time. I spent another moment not thinking too hard about that, for fear of the flood gates opening. I realise now I was a day out as I see that today is August 12th. I saw this in the lovely early morning light, while the magpies were calling up the dawn and business had not yet taken over my being. August 12th is the day, at the age of 33, I and a small group of family and friends sat with Willem while he died. I was scrubbing a pot in the kitchen at the moment of his death, somehow that feels very apt. I spent some time with him and then I walked out into our garden in the chill mountain air at dusk and listened while the black cockatoos and the currawongs called him away. Twenty six years on Willem is still a daily part of my thinking, feeling, cooking and surroundings and clearly the river of loss is never far away, though it has a sweetness now that it did and could not then and ultimately it guides me to gratitude. He and his partner and so many others I knew died far too young, at the hand of AIDS. It took me years to find an empowering context for this loss of vibrant powerful life, friendship and potential. I encounter many people still who were customers of ours, whose lives were also touched by Willem; they recount charming tales and we laugh together and I am reminded to be grateful for the six short years that have so positively influenced my life. I choose to believe that his and the deaths of other young people serve to make those alive, more appreciative of the life we have and reminds us to live more fully into our own potential. I could not bring myself to throw away the pieces of that bowl, they are resting in the laundry where they sit like a time bomb threatening me to feel. I have felt a pang each time I have passed and then been amused, thinking that if Willem were here, he would be oh so clear about what should I should do with those shards ‘chuck them out doll, it’s rubbish now’ and so, quite soon, I will.
If you’d like, you can view a video of Iku’s history here.
Because I think that each post should bear some relevance to food, here is a description of the first meal Willem cooked me in March of 1985. We ate in his kitchen in his oh so stylish apartment in MacMahons point, the table was set beautifully and the napkins were crisply laundered. The first course was a lovely big bowl of butternut pumpkin soup with a hint of orange zest, we then had a wee Golden nugget pumpkin filled with grain and a sauce of some description and for dessert we had… spiced pumpkin pie. Clearly it was Autumn and Willem loved pumpkin, but the funny thing was that he hadn’t realised! When we opened the doors to Iku Wholefood on September 17th 1985 we had never cooked together. We were clear though that in the running of the business we would share the tasks fifty fifty, I had more experience in the kitchen and he in the office, we pooled our resources and our heartfelt wishes to demonstrate how great simply made whole foods could be and there was born a business that exists today thanks to Ken Israel who was my business partner from the time Willem died (I sold in 1997), in 14 locations in Sydney. May I say, ‘be bold and follow your wildest dreams, no mater what’.
This weekend you could try this…
TOO EASY TO BE TRUE JAP PUMPKIN SOUP ©Holly Davis
1 whole ripe Jap pumpkin, washed and dried, 2 teaspoons ghee, 1½ tablespoons ginger juice,1 teaspoon sea salt
Rub the whole pumpkin with ghee then place it on a baking tray and transfer to the oven at 150˚C to cook for 1½ -2 hrs or until a sharp knife slides through the flesh with ease. Remove from the oven and then cut out the centre and scoop out all the seeds. Cut the lot or if the skin is tough, scoop the flesh into the blender and blend with sea salt and more ghee to taste and enough stock to make a pourable but thick soup. Re heat and serve hot topped with fresh parsley, fine cut lemon zest or ginger and gomashio. Great with fresh sourdough and grass fed cows butter.
I know this is not pretty, I took its photo poorly but it occurred to me this afternoon, either of these are the perfect meal when the weather is like this and everyone around you is dropping like flies with a cold. Even my GP is sick and he is never ill! He is also jewish and will I know, appreciate this meal, get well Steven and all others too.
Nancy and John, mentioned above were my surrogate parents, whom I adored, sadly neither are alive now but they will never be forgotten and they are no less loved. Nancy was a brilliant, clever cook and this was definitely just one of her signature dishes. Her family and I are making her shortbread, Christmas cake, plum cakes, cheesy canastables and more still.
I have altered the way I make these slightly, often I thicken the fish stock with kudzu rather than flour, you will need about 3 tablespoons dissolved in COLD water before stirring into simmering stock and cooking for 5 or so minutes, kudzu is a fine starch said to have medicinal properties, it is great for drying up a sniffle.
These days I might add a glass of good white wine or a splash of vinegar to the Chicken soup at the start. Also I now use those bones, to make extra stock, just add a few aromatics and root veg and your all set.
I would also recommend eating these with some cultured deliciousness, well, of course I would. Red cabbage juniper and orange or kimchi perhaps? A few slivers of preserved lemon or kumquat would also be good…
Happy warming, stay clear of the wind if you can.
Just chopped kimchee ©HollyDavis.
I spent the weekend chopping, scrunching and bottling vibrant, organically grown vegetables in preparation for fermenting kimchi (seen above), and various krauts and preserves for upcoming market sales and to give away at some of my book launch events; click here for more information about classes, markets and events. More about ferments in a mo.
Hector & me chopping & scrunching arame ginger kraut ©GabriellaCampbell
On Sunday I had help from the wonderfully named and delightful Hector Henderson. He is 23 and here in Sydney from London for a while, honing his kitchen skills. His parents are both famed and gifted restaurateurs but who young cares to learn all they could in life from their parents! Hector is working five fourteen hour shifts a week, he is focussed on becoming the best chef he can be and yet, he came to me on a precious day off, to chop for several hours. He did this skilfully and with great heart and I believe he would agree, that a good time was had by all, there was laughter and food and plenty of tales told. We chatted as we chopped and I was reminded of his Mum, who worked with me at Iku Wholefoods when she was Hectors age and I was 28 and laughter was a regular and loud part of food prep there. There is nothing like our or our friends children attaining adulthood to cause us to reflect on the passing of time. Mostly, I think we tend to reflect on what we think we’ve lost and on the less attractive aspects of growing older but sometimes, for a moment or in a moment there is the opportunity to reflect on what is good about becoming an elder in the world. Joy, I think, is brought about more by giving than receiving, when we can share with another what we know or have learned along the way. More joy is delivered when what we have to offer is seen to make a difference. Hector provided his youth and vigour and I a little know how in the art and skills of fermentation, with a few pointers for how to recognise what is happening when. Keep the contents submerged and airtight, keep the jar clean, keep them cool and not in direct sunlight, open now and then to allow excess c02 to escape and wait until they have become as sour and complex and delicious as you like them to be before eating them as condiments.
Kumquats with cassia and bay ©BenDearnley
I have been fermenting foods for many decades and for decades. I was the strange girl and then woman, who put ingredients in crocks and jars and over time filled the kitchen with their potent ponging; before offering one and all a swig or a bite. At last my lifetime of experience seems to have found its place, as the western world now recognises and acknowledges, the value of this ancient art and its products. When I wrote Nourish in 1999, I sought to have a range of fermented foods included but the publisher assured me ‘no-one will be interested’, the concession was the inclusion of a recipe for making sourdough bread. In macrobiotic philosophy, which considers ‘the order of the universe’ it is said, that everything has a polar opposite and with the passing of time, everything changes to its opposite. This is clear when we consider, night turns to day, warmth to cold, wet to dry and in the case of these Kumquats from so bitter and sharp they are unpalatable to quite sweet, mellow and divine, an excellent addition to a cheese board or slivered over a grilled oily fish. The reclamation of fermenting knowledge and skills is now recognised as a vital contribution to combat the myriad of ills caused to so much of our society, as a result of the degradation of food production, farming practises and animal husbandry.
Fermented kraut and beets ©Samantha Mackie
When it comes to many fermented foods, the passing of time is a critical component for their deliciousness and their efficacy. Suspending the joy of eating lacto fermented foods is worthwhile. This is because these salt and acid tolerant organisms have a better chance of reaching our large intestine, where they offer support to our local residents there, when they have had time to become more acidic. Less acid tolerant strains then die off and the more acid tolerant strains take over, it is these that will then be unharmed by the acid environs of our stomach. It is possible to eat ferments from day one but there is great value in giving them time to mature. This process can be speeded up by leaving the ferment in a warm place but they will be most delicious with complex flavours and perhaps also most effective, when they are left in a cool place for longer, out of direct sunshine. Once opened keep the contents submerged and the top of the jar clean, pop them in the fridge where they will keep for months at a time.
Very much more detail and a diverse range of recipes can of course, be found in my book, which you can see a little of and preorder here.
Ferment A guide to the ancient art of culturing foods is about to be unleashed upon Australia and the UK. This book bears my name alone and the insignia of the publishing house Murdoch Books. It’s a fine thing to see this dream realised. Though I have indeed poured countless hours and many years into the research, writing, recipe development and editing, most especially the editing! this books owes its beautiful countenance and existence to a group of extraordinary people. Should you buy a copy and of course I do hope you will, please take a moment to turn to page 271 and 272, the last but perhaps most important pages. This is where those who contributed to me and the book are duly acknowledged. There was not room enough there for me to pour out my heartfelt appreciation to those that made this possible and as useful as I believe it will be. I found these images, which show a little of the story about the shooting of the images and the overall look and feel but before those folk, there is Jane Morrow who commissioned, oversaw and published this work and her wonderful team at Murdoch Books to applaud, I applaud you Jane, Viv and Katie and all who assisted you. Although it was a steep learning curve for me, it was such a great pleasure to learn from you while we worked. Your tireless efforts have resulted is something I will treasure forever. A manuscript is just the beginning of an inordinate amount of detailed scrutiny; so that what is known and written by an author, can be fully understood and utilised by its readers. Katie Bosher, gave this book and me so very much and I am very aware that it is far more useful to many more people as a result of your efforts. Viv your contribution to the layout and design have resulted in something I am delighted to hold and promote, thank you. Yolande Gray, seen above in her lovely home with photographer Ben Dearnley, introduced herself to me in 1997, as a ‘book designer’, I believe I said ‘what’s that’. She was interested to and did design my first book Nourish, Food By Holly Davis published in 1999, if you have one or can find one, you will see it has a timeless beauty and that it holds its own on bookshelves today. This is due to Yoande’s concept, fabulous design, styling and art direction and Geoff Lung’s superb photography. Yolande and I became friends in the process and my life has been touched by hers ever since. Over the years we discussed my writing a book about fermentation and I described my wish to communicate the ubiquitous presence of beneficial microbes. I spoke of the idea, which I garnered and adopted from another dear friend, Dr Rosalba Courtney, that traditional societies lived with a range of fermenting foods and as they looked after these and ate them, they seeded their digestion with the beneficial microbes that liked to consume the food groups they ate,I love this idea. (Katie, I know that last sentence is too long and it should probably be three.) Yolande, your ideas and execution, art direction and design have so perfectly expressed what I wished to convey. Witnessing you at work is a beautiful thing, how you hold the vision and ‘know’ what is required to make an image work is a marvel. Big love, appreciation and gratitude for all that my friend. So too for schlepping half your home to the shoot and providing your home to shoot in. I learned many years ago that it is a good idea to surround yourself with people who will demand more of you than you would yourself, you are that for me, for which I am also very grateful.Michelle Noerianto, happy in her work styled the food you will see and Ben photographed it and edited the photos to look just the way you see them. These two are quiet achievers calm and gentle whilst being consummate professionals, who make what is incredibly challenging seem like a snack! This is in Ben’s studio and Michelle is artfully placing Quick-Pickled Cucumber and Radish Shoyuzuke for the shot on page 123. Along with all the rest Ben and Michelle gave their all and went way above and beyond to create what you will see between the covers of Ferment. They were a delight to be with and again I learned a great deal about the play of light and ways with cultured cream. Michelle can make the impossible beautiful, without ever resorting to the kinds of things you might think food stylists get up to. No artificial anything was used including light and all the food was devoured with gusto once signed off. Yolande, Ben and Michelle, I could not have had a better time or been more fulfilled working with you all thank you.
Behind the scenes Gabriella Campbell toiled tirelessly with me, cooking and cleaning, non stop for 10 days. Marly’s Toasted Macadamia and Banana Pancakes on page 55 and The Masa Harina Tortilla on page 35 were both made by her and the shiitake mushrooms across from Pickled Mushrooms and Celery on page 106 she bought on the other side of town, in peak hour traffic, that is no small ask. You are a gem Gabby and I am so happy to know you, thank you for every thing.
When you flip through the pages of Ferment spare these wonderful people a thought and know, it takes a whole lot of talented people to produce a beautiful book. My wish is that it bring you delicious and sparkling results and do you and those you love good. You dear readers, get a big thank you too.