While pickling and fermenting was historically done out of necessity – to preserve, to aid digestion now chefs and cooks have realised its potential as a serious flavour enhancer and are getting increasingly creative. From cool kombuchas and punchy pickles to crunchy ’krauts, there’s a whole world of gut-friendly foods and drinks to try.
Kimchi, a staple in Korean kitchens, is essentially spicy lacto-fermented cabbage at its most traditional – with chopped, salted chinese cabbage, pepped up with garlic, ginger and gochugaru (Korean ground red pepper). Packed with probiotic bacteria and great for gut health (which essentially means good for your digestion) – it also tastes delicious as a side dish or condiment, but also as a central part of a meal – think stews through to stir-fries.
But there are plenty of ways to get that signature tang and crunch – and we’ve been experimenting in the olive test kitchen, inspired by new-wave fermenters. So here’s our cucumber version – it’s a good entry-level kimchi, if you’ve not tried it before, as it’s not too funky and is ready in less than 24 hours.
Put the cucumber pieces into a bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Toss and leave for 20 minutes to draw out the moisture, then drain.
Put the sugar, apple, garlic, ginger, gochugaru, fish sauce and soy sauce into a bowl and mix well. Add in the drained cucumbers and spring onions, and toss really well. Spoon into a shallow dish and leave covered at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight, stirring every now and again. It’s then ready to serve or will keep covered in the fridge for a week, with the cucumbers becoming softer and funkier with time.
Gochugaru is a Korean ground red pepper and is available from specialist grocers and online.