Episode 41: Healing in the Kitchen With Chef Nims Zavackas

Chef Nims Zavackas Many people are finding solace in the kitchen during these difficult times and, in this new podcast episode, we talk about comfort food that’s whole, healthy and made from scratch. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, this episode showcases an array of healing experiences you can have in the kitchen. In our busy modern lives, convenience food and takeaway has meant too many of us have lost touch with how to prepare fresh foods from scratch. Our guest, Chef Naomi Zavackas, is passionate about sharing her love for traditional methods of preserving food for taste and good health. Kombucha We asked Nims, as she is known, how we can make the most of the Coronavirus lockdown and she shared her hot tips on homemade jam, ferments such as kimchi and sauerkraut, sourdough starters and kombucha. Cooking from scratch with real food is in Nims’ blood. She spent her childhood in New Guinea where her mother tended an abundent kitchen garden that fed the family. Returning to Australia as a teenager, Nims was shocked at how disconnected people were from their food and how limited their understanding of how real food grows and can be prepared. Now that we’re being forced to cocoon, Nims’ is encouraging us all to return to the foundational cooking methods of our forebears and connect with the old rhythms of doing things. She talks with such love and enthusiasm for the traditional method of making kimchi, it’s impossible not to be inspired. “If you do that now, when we come out of this …, it might be the thing you hold onto in a traditional sense to slow yourself down and reconnect with each other, reconnect with the land, reconnect with the farmers. Because there’s this whole beautiful meditative thing that happens, this whole different appreciation that happens … the romance of doing things properly is … breathtaking. “ Also in this episode, you’ll hear: Nims’ simple instructions for beginner jam-makers as well as tips for those with a bit more experience What sugar works best for jam if you’re trying to make do with what’s in your pantry How to make kombucha and where to get everything you need How to start a community sourdough starter resource Sourdough Loaves A whole new language of shrubs and bugs – hint: it’s about delicious homemade cordials Three tips to get a beautiful loaf of sourdough that’s light and airy with a crunchy crust How to ferment vegetables including a maths trick that ensures you have the right amount of salt to vegetables and Why it’s important you have love in your heart when you’re making ferments. Our chat with Nims is full of laughs and heartfelt kitchen inspiration, wherever you are in the world and whatever type of cook you are. Click here to listen and see her recipe for sauerkraut below. Her approach will surely make you smile. Nims’ Sauerkraut “Sauerkraut is such a beautiful ferment to make and its’ uses are endless, making the improvement of gut health a super simple achievement. I’ve decided to accept  this COVID-19 downtime as an opportunity to heal my body, mind and spirit, so that when we get back to our connected rhythms of life I am whole and ready to step into all that comes across my path.
One of the most important ways to encourage physical healing after many years of neglect, is to get our gut health back on track.  If you’re in the same position as me, or simply want to learn how to make this delicious ferment, here is a basic step by step guide.” – Nims You’ll Need: Set of scales

Chopping board

Sharp knife, v-slicer or food processor depending on your knife skills

Large mixing bowl

Sea salt

1 cabbage

Fermenting crock OR a lidded jar big enough to hold the quantity of cabbage

Anything from your cupboard that will fit into the jar to weigh down the contents Method: 1. Wash your hands, knife, board, bowl and crock or jar and weights thoroughly with an antibacterial detergent.

2. Remove all of the outer dark leaves of your cabbage, remove their spines with your knife, then wash and set aside.

3. Cut the cabbage into quarters and lay each quarter cut side down so that you can safely slice off the core.

4. Weigh the cabbage in grams and multiply the total weight by 0.02 to get your salt quantity. e.g if your total cabbage weighs 1 kg, your salt weight is 2% of that, or 20g. Please, whatever you do, DON’T use iodised salt. Sea salt has all of it’s minerals, good bacteria and goodness still intact and is so much better for you than the bleached dead stuff! As a bonus, you’ll get a much better result in your ferments.

5. Shred your cabbage and pop it into your bowl with your salt. The finer your end result, the faster your fermenting time.

6. This is the fun part: massage that cabbage as if it were dough, breaking down all those fibres until you can easily wring it like a dishcloth with lots of excess water at the bottom of the bowl. Your cabbage will have reduced by at least half its volume.

7. Take handfuls of the wanna-be sauerkraut and press into the bottom of your crock or jar, making sure it’s firm and even, with no air pockets.

8. Tip all of your excess brine onto the cabbage and push again so that you have at least 2 mm of brine attempting to cover the surface of your kraut. If in doubt, pop a little water in your vessel and repeat the process so that your brine is evenly distributed.

9. With your fingertips, push down the edges so that no stray bits of kraut are out of place.

10. Cover the surface of your kraut with your prepared cabbage leaves. If you bought a cabbage with no outside leaves, don’t panic. Tear off a piece of baking paper that will fit across the surface. Push your leaves down firmly and hold them in place with your weights.

11. If you’re using a crock, fill your moat with water and pop the lid on to create an anaerobic environment. If you’re using a jar, simply screw the lid on, making sure to release the gas daily by unscrewing the lid and screwing it back on. We call this “burping”.

12. Pop your vessel in a spot where the temperature doesn’t change too drastically over the course of a day and leave it for at least 4 days, checking your moat for a water top up or burping daily.

13. On day 4, pull your vessel out of hibernation, wash your hands, remove the weights and pull the leaves back far enough so that you can access a little of the cabbage for a taste test.

14. The more sour the kraut, the more active the beneficial bacteria. You want it to be a little bit funky and still crunchy.

15. If the weather is consistently warm, it’ll be ready after 4 to 5 days. During the cooler months, 7 to 9 days is perfect. “Sauerkraut is such a beautiful ferment to make in that it can be utilised and eaten in a myriad of ways and the practice of making it demands that you be present.
The massaging of the cabbage is such a lovely way to place yourself in thought and completely stop. I also love to think about all the people that have come before and will come after, each of us with our hand in our own bowls, providing nourishment for those we love.
We can’t physically connect right now, but when we’re making sauerkraut the sacred connection literally lights up a place in me that feels incredibly tangible. I hope the ceremony of this beautifully simple ferment makes you smile.”

FOR GOURMANDS WHO LOVE TO TRAVEL AND TRAVELLERS WHO LOVE GOOD FOOD