I say kamsahamnida to kimchi every day (which means "thank you" in Korean by the way)... This fermented spicy, garlicky and gingery goodness has been a real obsession recently. It is so moreishly delicious and so good for you that this is genuinely an ode of gratitude to kimchi. I just eat out of the jar when I get home from work. It's got such a satisfying punch of flavour, you just have to try it (if you are not already a kimchi convert). Abel & Cole have been sending us lots of Chinese leaf cabbages otherwise known as "Napa" cabbage and to be honest, I wasn't inspired by this rather unremarkable vegetable, until I made the connection that this type of cabbage is exactly the kind of cabbage that lends itself perfectly to making kimchi, WOOHOO!
Despite the prevailing fear of "bacteria" and the need to destroy it in most of the West, most cultures around the world use bacteria to make food more delicious. Most of us ingest a lot of bacteria and fungus-laden food and drinks such as yoghurt, sourdough bread, olives, soy sauce, wine and don't ever fret over this bacteria.
These tiny micro-organisms are actually good for you and not a threat to you. When we eat fermented foods that contain natural, good bacteria, we boost the number and variety of bacteria living in our gut, which is instrumental to maintaining optimal health in our digestive systems- it's like taking probiotic supplements, just cheaper and more delicious!
Yoghurt, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha are widely available fermented foods, however most of the ones you buy have been pasteurised so all the good bacteria have been killed and thus all the goodness gone. Ideally you should make your own, but if not, remember to buy the unpasteurised versions and to eat them raw.
Kimchi, in my opinion, is the holy grail of all things fermented, especially if you are a spice-head like me. It's SO simple to make, so it's great for a first-timer's fermentation endeavour and you don't have to wait too long to enjoy the results either. It seems whatever you do it, it tastes amazing so don't be too worried about the measurements just as long as all the cabbage is coated in the wondrous chilli, ginger and garlic paste, it will work!
Prep Time: 20 mins
1-2 Chinese leaf cabbage (approx 1.5-2kg)
1 mooli or daikon radish (optional), grated
5 large carrots, grated
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 3cm (1-inch) lengths
60g fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup organic crushed red chilli flakes
¼ cup unrefined sea salt
1 large clip-top glass jar (mine has 2-litre capacity)
1 large bowl
knife + cutting board
food processor or mortar and pestle
1. Chop cabbage into 5cm (2-inch) chunks. Grate carrots and daikon, if using. Slice green onion. Place all vegetables in a very large bowl.
2. In a food processor blend ginger, garlic, and chili until well combined. Add this mixture to the bowl of vegetables along with the salt.
3. Mix and vigorously massage all ingredients together until the cabbage begins to soften and release fluid. Continue until you have a fair amount of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, about 4-5 minutes. The vegetables at this point should have lost much of their volume. Let the bowl sit out at room temperature for a few hours, massaging once or twice more. Season to taste.
4. In a large, sterilized jar (or several small ones), pack in the vegetables trying to avoid any air pockets, making sure to leave a few inches of space at the top of the jar for carbon dioxide. Cover the jar loosely with a lid, or make sure to open it periodically to release any pressure that may build up. Leave the jar on the counter for 2-4 days. You may see bubbles forming in the jar – this is carbon dioxide and totally normal. Taste the kimchi now and again. Once the flavour is to your liking, seal the jar and place in the fridge. Keeps for several months.
*Tip: After removing kimchi from the container to eat, push the remaining back down to keep most of the cabbage submerged in the brine (the liquid). This will help keep it fresh for longer.