I have never been an avid fan of January. It’s shit. Mind you, it rarely starts well: the post-festive period culminates with New Year’s Eve and the first day of the year kicks off with the inevitable hangover. The rest of the month is cold, wet and grey. It’s a time for being inside and if your house isn’t much warmer than outside (and our beachfront apartment certainly ain’t built for winter) then you just spend everyday wrapped up looking like the Michelin man. Warm food and warm drinks constantly needed. Another thing I have always found bizarre is the amount of people that give up drinking for January...if there was ever a time of year it is necessary, its now. Wierdos.
January is always a quiet time for me- that’s the nature of seasonal work, but it does have one redeeming feature- The first month of the year is a time for plotting, planning, scheming and conniving. I spend most of it playing in the kitchen and reading- ready for Spring and armed to the teeth with new ideas, recipes and knowledge to make Hunter:Gather:Cook courses the best they can be. Summer will fly by and before I know it, it will be Autumn- at least living in SW France gives me an extra 2 months of summer.
Anyhow, back to the subject of this long overdue post. Kimchi. The first time I came across this wonderful ‘condiment’ was 4 years ago in New York. My Brother was living out there and had found, what he could only describe as ‘tasty jarred farts’. I cannot imagine anyone, not even those you trust most, being able to bring you around to taste something with such a description: but I did…and by gad was it fine!
Kimchee has been on the to-do list for ages, actually since coming back from the big apple with my two tubs, which didn’t last long- but hey ho. Kimchi originates from Korea and is a fermented mix of vegetables and seasonings. It has been around for 3000 years and is a national institution in it’s home country- so much so that in 2010 there was a national crisis in Korea, a spike in the price of ingredients and kimchi itself left the Korean government having to subsidise imports of cabbage. Political food for thought indeed.
Coincidently, I noticed that Kimchi was tipped by the Telegraph as one of the top ten food trends for 2012 along with Ceviche (see that post here).Apparently natural fermentation of all kinds (esp.sourdough) is getting chefs very excited- Really? So as it was January I thought I may as well jump on the bandwagon and make some myself, being much in need of chilli heat at this time of year. Afterall, winter is a good time to put the wild food to one side and play with other ingredients, mainly because there is very little to forage.
You can get very bogged down in search of a simple Kimchi recipe- seasonal variations are rife in Korea, so here is one stripped down to its birthday suit.
- 1 large Chinese Cabbage (also known as ‘Napa cabbage’, stateside)
- 100g salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 spring onions
- 1 inch piece of Ginger
- 2 chillies or 30g of dried chilli flakes
First off, chop up the cabbage and place it in a bowl and toss well with the salt- the idea here is to get the salt to suck out some of the moisture from the cabbage and help create a brine. Leave for 1 hour.
Meanwhile finely chop all the other ingredients. Chillies are particularly difficult to find in France, partly because the general consensus in my experience is that the French are fannies when it comes to heat so they don’t stock them in the mupersarket- there is a reason the French word for man is ‘homme’. Fortunately the merry little town of Espelette (see here) is just down the road and Basque folks love a bit of fire! A bunch of dried chilli flakes and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper will give you more than enough heat if you are at a loss.
Back to the cabbage- it should now have decreased in volume by almost half, drain off the liquid, rinse the cabbage in cold water to remove any excess salt and pat dry with a tea towel.
Now mix all your ingredients together in the bowl, cover with a towel and leave in a cool place for 4 days, stirring once a day and tasting. You can pot it up earlier if you are happy with your level of fermentation.
Basically what is going on in the bowl is that the various microorganisms present in the raw ingredients, most notably lactic acid, is able to grow and perpetuate because of a more than 3% brine that you have created for your kimchi to live in.
HGC is still taking bookings, although there is barely any room left in May! Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Please do get in touch if you fancy becoming a 21st Century Hunter-gatherer: Not a bad idea considering the world is due to do something negative by the end of the year and according to the press, PETA are getting scientists to grow artificial meat. And here was I thinking vegetarians were just harmless and a little depressed because of a lack of protein.
Fresh off the slab at Capbreton Fishmarket.
Life in France is grand, plenty of January surf, although it is colder than a witch’s tit. Lots of fish being purchased from Capbreton Harbour. I thought since I lived by the sea I would go big on this in 2012- Bream is the current favourite. Moving inland this week to join the inbreds, have a garden instead of a balcony and build an entire kitchen from scratch- can’t wait! The French Kitchen and HGC France to come soon complete with tree houses.
Adios, Au revoir, Peas x
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