ELEMENT OF SURPRISE If you’re stuck in a food rut, a seasonal veg box from a local grower is a great way to shake up your cooking.
Some days I feel like the only thing to look forward to is the next meal, but many days I often feel weary of cooking, which is a bit of a catch-22. So, I’ve taken a few moments to revisit the cook books and how-to guides that really had only been collecting dust, and now I’m feeling a bit more inspiration.
That’s not to say I won’t be delighted to see cafés and restaurants reopening, but I have resolved to make the most of what we have at the moment.
Our sourdough starters have now been composted, given that we have such brilliant bakers in Mayo, but we’re cooking everything else at home. Soups and stews with all varieties of seasonal veg and a rotation of beans and lentils to keep us full longer have been in heavy rotation, and they are great for batch cooking and eating for days, or freezing.
One of the things that has helped has been having a regular veg-box delivery from Glasraí Farm, and that element of surprise of what comes in the seasonal selection has meant I’ve had to experiment with new foods and techniques.
Roasted celeriac was delicious with a mustard glaze that I found a recipe for online; it was a great first attempt that has me excited for the next go.
A glut of baby carrots the following week were scrubbed by the kids, topped and tailed, sliced into sticks and left to ferment in a salt brine for several days, and now they are the perfect snack for sneaking in a bit of extra-friendly bacteria.
We also pickled some turnips based on a recipe by River Run Ferments, an occasional supplier of PAX and a full-time grower and fermenter based in Wicklow. The owner, Terri-Ann, visited Mayo in 2019 to show some of our customers how to make sauerkraut and brew kombucha, and now gives online classes. She also has lots of free tutorials on Instagram. Find her at riverrunferments.com or @river_run_ferments to learn more.
There are also some great books on fermenting for anyone looking to learn. I can recommend ‘The Art of Fermentation’, by Sandor Katz, which gives you a great overview of the variety of fermented foods worldwide (everyone likes something fermented by the way, including chocolate, coffee, cheese or types of meat, if not cabbage!). I’d also recommend ‘Fermenting Vegetables’, by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey, takes you through all the vegetables you can ferment, and it includes recipes for using the ferments in meals.
If you’re interested in starting with kombucha or water kefir as a great way to experiment with fermented drinks, you can call to the shop for a SCOBY or kefir grains, which we share in exchange for a donation to the Edible Landscape Project. Or, you can try making your own fizzy drinks with a simple ginger bug – search online for loads of recipes. If you can chop ginger, you can do it. We can all use a bit more natural sparkle in our lives now.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.