Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Fermenting - feeding your gut and your biome

I have always loved sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage with its origins in Eastern Europe but never realised how healthy it was for me.  I have been reading about feeding your gut and it all suggests that we need to eat more fermented foods including live yogurts, keffir (a fermented milk drink like a thin yogurt) and of course the cabbages like sauerkraut, red cabbage and kimchi (a Korean fermented Chinese cabbage with chilli).

Fermenting is one of the oldest techniques for preserving foods and is part of many current cultures today.

Lakeland have a range of fermenting jars which make the whole process really, really easy.  The jars come in three sizes; 1.2 litre, 1.4 litre and 1.8 litre.  The lids have a special valve to let the bad air out however not letting in any air or germs to ruin your fermentation.  There is no need to 'burp' the jars as this is done with the valve.
For my first fermentation I wanted to make sauerkraut, one of my favourite foods for years.  I think my German heritage along with living in Austria for a couple of years made this an essential food.
After finely slicing the cabbage (avoiding the thick bits of the core) and mixing 1 kilo in a large bowl with 25 gm of salt, mixing well with your hands until the cabbage feels wet (this would be a great time to add some caraway seeds if you wan to use them) you put it into your fermenting jar a handful at a time.  After each handful pack the cabbage down as hard as you can.  Place a small plate or ramekin filled with baking beans and wrapped in cling foil on top to keep the cabbage submerged or you can get some special glass 'pebbles' from Lakeland to keep the cabbage submerged. You then can put the lid on and push the valve stopper down.
All set and ready to keep an eye on and check every day that the cabbage is submerged.  After 4-5 days when you like the taste you can keep it in the fridge, the cold will stop the fermentation process.
My second attempt at fermentation was a carrot and ginger ferment.  Peel the carrots and ginger and cut into thin match stick slices.
Firmly pack into the jar and cover with a brine made with 25gm of salt per litre of cooled boiled water.
Now I was on a roll, enjoying my sauerkraut and the carrot and ginger match sticks fermenting away it was time to try Kimchi.  Kimchi is a fermented Chinese cabbage with garlic and chilli as well as thinkly sliced spring onions and for a real hit you can use some white radish.  It is important to wear protective gloves if you handle the chilli because you will certainly know it if you accidentally rub an eye before washing your hands!
Kimchi is ready to leave at room temperature and the fermenting can begin.  To keep the cabbage submerged I have put a couple of little ramekins filled with baking beans and wrapped in cling film on top.
I am now looking around for what to ferment next! We had just picked some fresh beetroot from the allotment so I decided to give that a try.  I peeled the raw beetroot and sliced it all very thinly.  Cover with the brine made with 25 gms salt per 1 litre cooled boiled water and add the weights to keep the beetroot submerged.  The beetroot was quite lively and fizzed out a bit at first so I now keep it on a plate.

After the beetroot has been fermented I think I will pickle it
And finally I am trying fermented red cabbage. The procedure is exactly the same as for sauerkraut.
I am now thinking what else can be fermented.  I have a hankering after trying to ferment cherries.  Keep checking out this blog to see how I get on with the fermented cherries.

The next step in my quest to feed my gut is to make my own 'live' yogurt.  Fortunately Lakeland have a range of yogurt makers and even luckier I got one for my birthday last year!

I was sent a selection of fermenting jars from Lakeland  but was not required to write a positive review. All opinions and photos are my own. No photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Tobago: Welcome to Trinidad and Tobago

I was invited to visit the Caribbean island paradise of Tobago.  This was really exciting because I had never been there or to her sister island of Trinidad. I have to confess I love the Caribbean islands now adding two more to my list of islands visited.

We flew into Trinidad and changed to an internal flight to Tobago which took around 20 minutes to cross a short stretch of water.  You could get a ferry, however, the thought of a 2.5 hour boat ride after a long flight did not appeal to me.  Taking internal island flights is more like travelling on a bus.  We flew  with Caribbean Airlines, reasonably priced, comfortable and reliable.

Our home for the week in Tobago was Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort on the western side of the island.  It was dark as we arrived meaning we didn't see the full splendor of the resort until breakfast. Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort offers different packages such as room only, half board and fully inclusive.  Le Grand Courlan offers great views, food, service and lovely and comfortable rooms with balconies.  One of the top points is that only a short stroll down steps from the resort, through the gates at the bottom and across the road and you are on Black Rock Beach. (more photos from the beach below).
Breakfast always offers fresh fruit which I try to start each morning with.  The papaya, pineapple and bananas are so fresh and ripe that they taste completely different to having them at home.
All around the hotel and in fact the island are banana trees and palm trees offering shade everywhere.
There are plenty of forts to explore, not used now that the islands are independent but very important when they were constantly under the threat of invasion.

Fort Milford at Crown Point was constructed as a military establishment for the British army.  The remnants of the fort include six cannons, five were British and one made in France hence the 'GR' emblem is only on five of them.
Cannons pointing out to sea to protect the island from invading armies.
There are plenty of little bays all around the island.  As we were driving through a village called Lambeau I spotted this little boat and a table by the side of the road where there was a group of young men, fishermen selling their catch to local people. The locals tend to know when to stop by for their fresh fish.
The range of fish was huge including dolphin fish - but don't worry they are nothing to do with dolphins, they are just called that because their face resembles a dolphin!
Next stop on our island tour was Fort King George. Much larger than Fort Milford it was built in 1770s as a defense of the newly appointed capital of Scarborough.  It was a major fortification offering protection against invaders.  Fort King George was named after the British King George III when it was re-taken by the British in 1793.

Today Fort King George houses the Tobago Museum. Mr R is drinking a cold beer leaning on one of the cannons that used to keep watch on this part of the island.
The views from the top of this hill fortification are fantastic. The lighthouse at Fort King George is still functioning.
As we drove around the island we came to an old water wheel made originally in Glasgow, Scotland but now left abandoned. It would have been used when the sugar cane production was in full swing.  I love the precision and detail in each working part still so vibrant even though there are vines growing around it.
Walls falling down which would once have been storage rooms for the sugar cane production.
The sheer size of the water wheel which worked the machines that crushed the sugar cane was massive.  The water flowed down the side of the hill turning this huge wheel.
There are a plethora of small bays and beaches around the island of Tobago.  The beach closes to where we were staying was Black Rock Beach, an almost deserted stretch of palm trees, sand and surf.
I felt I could sit and watch the waves rolling around these black rocks for hours.  Somehow sitting at the water's edge and staring out to sea helps me to focus my mind and put everything into perspective.
While we were walking the beach we saw a man walking with a bag of mangoes.  I stopped to talk to him and he told me he was taking the mangoes and going to swim in the sea.  He would peel the mangoes and dip them into the salty sea water and then eat them.  He said the salt brought out the flavour of the mango.
Every Sunday in the village of L'Anse Fourmi this young man bakes bread in a communal clay oven.
He works full time Monday to Saturday but on Sunday he relaxes by baking bread bringing people from all over the island to buy freshly baked bread.  The smell is amazing getting people's attention as they drive by.
The bread is ready about 12:00 mid-day and a second batch around 3:00 pm.  The village is deserted until around ten minutes before the bread is ready and suddenly cars pull up and people walk from the village ready to buy their fresh bread, rolls and a cherry coconut little cake.
Another Sunday tradition is 'Harvest'.  Each village has it's own Sunday when families get together and cook up a feast offering food, drinks and music to whomever stops by.  This particular Sunday was the first Sunday of May and the village of Belle Garden was host.

We were invited to the home of a friend of our tour guide and were warmly welcomed to join the 'Harvest'. Dishes were marinating including  blue crab, tuna, iguana and other delicacies.  There will also be cassava, sweet potato and dasheen cooked in various ways leading to a veritable feast when everything is ready.
The cooking is very basic however everyone pitches in and food is soon ready and the partying gets underway.  I have had to promise I will return on the first Sunday of May 2018 however this time take part in the cooking.  For more on our Harvest experience keep an eye on my blog as I will be writing a much more detailed account.

One of the highlights of our trip was a session in the kitchen of Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort with the chefs and Mr R doning his chef's hat. 
We made a West Indian Chicken Curry, with a quick and fairly simple recipe.  The spices gave off such an aromatic aroma that was really mouthwatering!
When lunch was ready we all sat down to eat what we had made.  If you want to read more about that day click here.
This was a real foodie trip for me however I was really impressed with the hospitality and welcome we got everywhere we visited!  The community of ladies in Le Coteaux got together at the Community Centre to cook together and make some of their traditional recipes for us.  It didn't take long for Mr R to get stuck in and help grate the cassava root which would be a major ingredient in the day's cooking.
This tuna stew started cooking while we were there and it tasted absolutely delicious. You can real the full story of our day cooking traditional recipes by clicking here.
We took a boat trip from Bucco Bay out about two miles and suddenly the water gets shallower, calmer and incredibly clear and green.  It is an area known as Nylon Pool.  Nylon Pool is said to have gotten it's name when the late Princess Margaret first visited and said the water was as sheer as her nylons!  I could have stayed there all day just enjoying the warm, clear, tranquil water!
I admired the head wrap of one of the ladies looking after us (my new friend Marsha) and the following evening she brought me one. Her mother makes them and I was honoured to receive this gift.  When I got it home my granddaughter really loved it and I must admit it looked great on her so she went home wearing it!!
The beautiful sunset on our last evening in Tobago at Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort.  I found it hard to believe we had only been on this island paradise for seven days - we had done so much and seen such a lot however we only scratched the surface.  I certainly hope we get back there soon - I have unfinished business!!
On our way to Grenada we started with an early flight from Tobago to Trinidad where we were going to spend the day with the lovely Nalini, the owner of Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort at her family's latest project - restoring an old cocoa plantation!

Our first stop was just after leaving the airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad was a little cart selling by the side of the busy road. It was breakfast time and locals in Trinidad stop on their way to work for 'Doubles'.
Doubles are two patties of a fried bread and you pick the filling you want between the two.  There are usually different combinations of spices in the sauces.
And boy are they tasty! A bit messy to eat but worth it.
The plan for the day was to visit Nalini's family project.  The family have taken over a cacao plantation that has been left to run down for years and they want to bring it to it's former glory and full production.
Some of the first crop of cacao beans drying in the sun and heat and ready to be sent to a lab for analysis to see how they are progressing.  It won't be long before they can start the roasting and chocolate production.
A lot of the buildings on this plantation as well as many other plantations in the Caribbean are made with bricks from the UK.  These came from Castlecary in Scotland.  When the large transport boats would make the trip from the UK to the islands they would load the storage with bricks as ballast.  They would leave the bricks on the island and instead sail home with the cargo compartments full of cacao beans or spices.
The plan is to get the plantation back to it's former glory including this great plantation house and to offer facilities for educating local school children as well as offering working holidays on the plantation.
Before we knew it our first visit to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago was over and we were jetting off to our next destination of Grenada.  We had a really intense week but barely scratched the surface.  I look forward to spending more time on these two sister islands!

I was a guest of Visit Tobago and Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort. I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Giveaway: Chocolate and Love

I was really pleased to meet the people from Chocolate and Love again this year at an event in July. They have a few new bars of their incredible chocolate and as such sent me the new collection to review.
Their current collection contains eight bars of Fairtrade, Organic award winning chocolate. There is:-
ORANGE 65% - dark chocolate with orange
MINT 67% - dark chocolate with mint crunch
COFFEE 55% - dark chocolate with coffee
POMEGRANATE 70% pomegranate & almond
SEA SALT 55% - chocolate with caramel & sea salt (this one is my favourite)
CREAMY DARK 55% chocolate with milk & cacao nibs
PANAMA 80% - single origin dark chocolate
RICH DARK 71% - dark chocolate

All of the chocolates in the Chocolate and Love range is organic without compromise and dedicated to the Fairtrade movement providing a fair wage to the cocoa farmers as well as helping them to set up co-operatives helping to improve their lives.

The full story of Chocolate and Love is printed inside each bar of chocolate.  Expanding on their care for the environment the inner foil wrapper is a biological packaging produced with renewable materials and made from sustainably harvested wood!

Click here to read my previous post about Chocolate and Love.

I was sent a box containing the up to date collection. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photography are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any manner or media without my written permission.
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