Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bella’s Power-Kraut by Annabel Wright of Bella's Freestyle Kitchen

Boost your gut flora and get your health tip-pity top!

Digestive health is important and I’m a firm believer that the right kinds of food really can be a panacea for everyone.  At the same time ‘food glorious food’ really is a joyous experience when the right combination of flavours and textures are brought together to play a symphony on your palate, so I certainly don’t advocate denying yourself the enjoyment of tasty food.

Culturally haven’t we all become a bit numb to what is advertised in the supermarkets as “healthy”?  I’m a Coeliac and so as a matter of necessity I have to read ingredients labels to make sure the product is free of Gluten. This has really opened up my mind to how much rubbish these manufacturers throw into a recipe in order to - fill it out, make it last longer, and make it cheaper for them to produce - so it’s not necessarily as healthy and nutrient dense as it could be for us!

With all this in mind I have been on a mission for the last fifteen years to make recipes that are made with alternative ingredients that not only taste fantastic but are also much healthier for you too and as an aside, just happen to be gluten and cow milk free… I’m so passionate about this, I actually dream about recipes, about combinations of flavours and how I want the end result to look.  I’ve just started the blogging journey and have already had fantastic responses to my Birthday Blog: The Dream Cake... Chocolate Beetroot Cake, Sexy Little Nectarine Tart, Bella’s Banana Bread, The Ultimate Chicken Salad with Bella's Pig Candy, Smokin’ Meatballs and The Lunch Box Plan – my head is ‘a-spin’ with recipes and which ones to put on the blog next! For the purposes of this post I wanted to share with you Bella’s Power-kraut!

Ok so here’s the deal, I didn’t invent Sauerkraut; versions of it were invented as far back as 2000 years ago in China – the simplest of recipes – Cabbage & Salt. So what’s the big deal and why are fermented foods kind of the big secret health weapon?

Well apparently Sauerkraut is extremely high in Vitamins C, B, and K. In addition to that you get Calcium, Magnesium, dietary fibre, Folate, Iron, Potassium, Copper and Manganese, and the fermentation process actually increases the bio-availability of the nutrients which makes the humble cabbage even more nutrient dense than it’s original naked beginnings.  Raw Sauerkraut also contains live Lactobacilli and is rich in enzymes so it really is all set to boost your immunity and your digestive health by promoting the growth of healthy flora in your gut and protecting you against many diseases of the digestive tract. Ever had antibiotics in your lifetime? If the answer is yes then it’s totally worth re-colonising these healthy gut-flora guys back into your system! Hurrah to the “kraut!”

Now, you can buy Sauerkraut from various stores but that’s not fun, can be pricey, and the pasteurized ones have had all the good stuff killed off anyway! Also, why spend a fortune on shop bought pro-biotic tablets or pro-biotic (packed full of sugar) yoghurts, when it’s so easy to make your own yummy, pro-biotic packed, “Power-kraut!”

You can get yourself a proper Sauerkraut making crock pot, there are loads of styles online, but if like me you are so excited about getting started and you can’t possibly wait for delivery of one these fancy (sometimes expensive) pots – just dive in with gusto! Get yourself a cabbage red or white or why not one of each?

Some salt… I like Himalayan salt, because it is unrefined and unprocessed and apparently it contains the full spectrum of 84 minerals and trace elements, which a lot of processed salts are missing.

Now shred those cabbages finely, either by hand into long thin strips like this:

Or if you are short of time, just throw it into a food processor, shred-mode-styley, like this:

Now layer up the cabbage with a sprinkling of salt for each layer.  If you want to be a bit adventurous and go the Bella’s Power-kraut route why not throw in some Carrot (Vit A and Beta Carotene), Fennel (Vit C, Fibre, Folate, Potassium for cardiovascular and colon health) a sprinkle of Juniper Berries (high in Vit C and apparently lowers blood sugar, improves digestion and helps promote kidney health) and a couple of Star-Anise (contains antioxidants properties and is considered to be anti-viral and anti-fungal) for an extra awesome “Vit-hit”!

Pack the shredded, salt-layered veg down – really squash it (make sure your have clean hands and use cling-film as a kind of glove).  The salt will draw the moisture out of the veg and the lacto-fermentation process will begin:

You will see the liquid start to draw out as you squash!

Put the small plate on top and add a weight to help keep it squashed – I find a weighty jar of rice, helps! Then cover the lot in cling film and leave it to work it’s magic.

See how much liquid gets squashed out!

In the warmer weather we are currently experiencing you will see the tell tail fermenting signals starting fairly quickly – a few little bubbles appearing up the side of the bowl within the first 12 hours; it might take longer if things are a little cooler.  All you need to do is check on it every couple of days making sure it is well squashed and more liquid has been drawn out starting to rise above the line of the cabbage.  It can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for your Sauerkraut to be ready. How you know if it is “ripe,” is by giving it regular little taste tests around week two. The texture of the vegetables will have softened and the taste will be tangy, a hint of light vinegar and mellow saltiness. At the point you feel it has reached it’s prime in the taste department, jar it up and it will keep in the fridge for several months – if it lasts that long!  It is a unique flavour but goes oh-so well with slices of ham or smoked Mackerel. Get inspired and shred that cabbage! Power to the “Kraut!”

Annabel Wright is an actress, with a passion for cooking. Annabel is a Coeliac and follows a gluten free and cow's milk free diet. Determined that the food she eats can be shared and enjoyed by family and friends has driven her to create recipes that are as satisfying as 'normal food.' For more recipes, visit and follow Annabel on Twitter.