by Joey O’Hare, Director of High Mood Food & @joeyscooking
A common criticism I hear of vegan snacks and food is that it is somewhat bland, or that its flavour profile is a little flat and unexciting. Even with my love of veggies and part-time vegan diet, I can accept this point (at times!). One may be satisfied nutritionally and physically after a plant-based meal or vegan snack, but can often be left wanting more… not ‘more’ in terms of indulgence, but ‘more’ in terms of intensity and complexity of flavour, and of satiating deliciousness. Flavour and pleasure are totally key to a to a positive relationship with food!
And here is where I believe fermentation comes in… with all guns blazing! With a little salt, time, and microbial activity humble raw vegetables are entirely transformed, and so to is a plant-based larder, for even the most unassuming of ferments offer a beguiling complexity of flavour.
Taking part in “Veganuary” last year showed me how powerful that distinctive tang of lactic acid bacteria is – that grown-up healthy snack – in transforming any fridge–forage salad or quick stir-fry from basic to complex. In their essence, fermented foods are flavour enhancers and, in my opinion, vegan cooking’s closest ally; ‘adorners of plainer foods’, writes Sandor Katz (my hero, and the definitive voice on fermentation!). Spiced fermented cauliflower, for example, rustled into a salad with a little brown rice and baby spinach, belies the few seconds it takes or the humbled ingredients within. So, so much more than the sum of its parts, and deeply satisfying.
Beyond enhancing simple vegan snacks and suppers at home, my specialization into fermentation has led me to team up with Ursel Barnes, founder of High Mood Food. We are a healthy, vegcentirc café with a unique focus on fermented foods for gut health. We pack our nutritious, colourful salads with the probiotic benefits of our krauts and kimchis, and our kefir dips or kombucha vinegar dressings… The probiotic benefits of fermentation are numerous, but so too are the complexities of flavour. Pop in and have a taste!
If you are keen to learn more about fermentation please sign up to our newsletter (www.highmoodfood.com) where we share our latest recipes and offers, as well as our schedule of up-coming High Lates and Kulture Clubs (our in-store fermenting workshops!).