Kombucha, is it good for you?

Is this fermented tea drink good for you?

This naturally fizzy drink, made from fermented tea, has rapidly moved from its hipster/hippie/folklore beginnings to mainstream, driven by a growing demand for a wider choice of non-alcoholic drinks, especially those that claims to impart some health benefits.

 

The distinctive and curious taste that adds to its popularity is coupled by the attention around gut health  and the benefits of consuming live bacteria.  

The health benefits ascribed  include boosting the immune system, improving gut health, reducing your odds of diabetes, as well as tackling  depression and so on.  

Of course scientists have so far struggled to demonstrate a clear cause and effect between consuming fermented food/beverages and improved health as there is a sparsity of human evidence and clincial trail but let that not stop you.

There is little we can factually claim but we can assume that consuming such a fermented beverage instead of drinking something like Coca-Cola is probably better for you. 

 

There is a delight in brewing your own at the very least, as the flavours and variety is beyond anything you could find on a supermarket shelf.

Grapefruit & turmeric, Carrot and tangerine anyone? The possibilties are endless and the benefits yours to trial.

INGREDIENTS

4 TBSPS raw cane sugar

4 bags of black tea, green tea or a mix or 4 tbsp loose tea

100ml starter tea from the last batch of kombucha

1 kombucha scoby

1L filtered water

 

 

HOW TO MAKE

1 Add the sugar to boiling water and add in the teabags and allow it to steep until the water has cooled. Once the tea is cool, remove the teabags (or pour the tea through a sieve to remove loose leaves)

2 Pour the mixture into a clean litre jar. Gently slide the scoby into the jar along with the starter tea. Cover the jar with a  tightly woven cloth/kitchen paper/tea towel secured with a rubber band. 

 

3 Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and allow to ferment for at least seven days. It’s not unusual for the scoby to float at the top, bottom or even sideways during fermentation. However, a new cream- coloured layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. You may also see stringy brown bits floating beneath the scoby or sediment collecting at the bottom. These are all normal signs of healthy fermentation.

4 So what happens next? After seven days, begin tasting the kombucha daily. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that’s pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle. Remember to leave some behind to start another batch!

5 Transfer the fermented kombucha a clean bottle using a funnel. Keep the bottles at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for a further one to three days if you want it to be carbonated. you can add flavours to your kombucha at this stage.

6 Prepare and cool another pot of strong sweet tea for your next batch of kombucha, as outlined in the first step. Add this to your starter tea and SCOBY from your brewed batch of kombucha and hey presto off we go again. 

 


From surviving to thriving.

I read an article about depression recently. The article detailed how in Northern Ireland more people have died by suicide than were killed in the Troubles. 

I was born into this land, right on the wrong side of a British border  Now, I live here by choice but it has been a country I have tried to run from for most of my adult life. 

I dreamed of escape and  adventures ensued to Europe, Asia, and Australia,  leaving many times, forever digging up the roots and pulling out the weeds to satisfy a free spirit.  Anywhere, far enough away to be free of an oppressive overall mood so deeply woven into earth. 

Roots…they hold on to survive and seemingly  we must travel very far to make the shortest journey between the head and the heart. On my adventures what I have arrived to know is that food is medicine.   

Nature has its own Pharmacy and the early influence of my mother the cook and my father, the pharmacist, have been integral in my evolution. 

Fermented foods has brought better gut health, digestive ease, symptom free asthma and greater mental clarity. 

Seemingly the more I ate of these foods, the happier  and more alert I became.  As if by magic it was a positive feedback loop, they kept me craving the right stuff.  Were some invisible critters occupying my gut and controlling my mind?

Oddly too, no longer my location seemed of concern, that nagging unhappy need to flee was wavering and my kitchen and  mind was  becoming the happy place. In fact i would be so bold to say that this city has thrown its arms around me!

Come see me in my Lab!!!!!

 

When you fall so deeply into a topic, your fascination and capacity for research is unending. This is a hot topic of ground-breaking research.  Research is unfolding daily with solid information on gut health and how altering the microbiome is integral to mental health.

 

The Cultured Club is collaborating to host an event to welcome Professor Ted Dinan to Belfast.  A morning lecture on the lastest research from University College Cork.  

 

The long standing mental health issue of this place I called home was upsetting.  The statistics are evidence and the residual trauma and emotions in this country are deeply felt and far reaching.  We are equally delighted to welcome Professor Siobhan O’Neill to present on her research in the context of Northern Ireland .  In studies relating to other countries from Israel, to South Africa and the Lebanon, Northern Ireland was peaking in statistics and not looking good. How come I had escaped?  

 

Changing your microbiome allows you the capacity and opportunity to change your thoughts and your mental state.  Abundant communication is going on between the gut and the brain so can it be that the bacteria living in your gut determine what type of person you are and how you behave?

If you are interested to know more about this event happening on September 20th in Belfast:

Click Here

BELFAST LOVE STORY

Artwork by Leo Boyd @ Vault Artist Studios


BUSTING Menstrual Taboo

MORE info

Around now everything gets a bit shit, sorry to be blunt, but honestly PMS sucks.

I need a whole new wardrobe because every item of clothing looks drab and nothing fits.

I so desperately want to live in a bigger house, the lack of space leads to great anxiety.

DON’T MENTION THE MESS EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!

I want to eat, but have no idea what, except some chocolate of course and don’t talk to me or even suggest anything….about anything!

The thieves of joy are tearing through my mind and on a rampage in every corner of my positive potential.

If “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it” (Charles R Swindoll)  It is going to be difficult journey…..at least this week!

Comparing, complaining, crictising, competing.

Sound familiar?

This is a hormonal rampage, wild notions that overwhelm.  They are out of character BUT they remind me to firstly check in on my cycle.

Quelle surprise!!!!!!

Yes it is the week leading up to my period, I block it out in red on my calendar so I can cleary see that something might ingnite.

I see it coming, my husband sees it coming, my children even see it coming!

These thoughts can be so far away from my balanced disposition of gratitude and happiness with yet further possibility of gathering momentum.

Once this premenstrual tornado whips up, I know I can turn this thing around baby!!!

I can expect these hormonal fluctuations and I can choose to support them.

With nourishing food to balance my hormones.

With herbal tonics to regulate and cleanse.

With a beautiful walks to feel alive and nourish my senses.

With time amongst female friends for support.

With plenty of sleep to relax and repair.

And a healthy dollop of humour. It is important to have a good laugh at myself.

Those sweet craving for empty food, I can satisfy with some tasty seed fudge. (A recipe I will soon document to share!)

I like to lather up with an indulgent essential oil blend of lavender, jasmine, marjoram, geranium, clary sage etc. This can add some ceremony to the occasion.  At least you will smell rather good.

We are cyclic beings, never the same, always undulating.

In our cycle we have been busy preparing a home for new life, now it is time to let it flow out through you.  Every 28 days is a little unfair, I can only agree, but complaining will not change it.

I like to let the wave of menstrual flow into a movement of menstrual confidence, dignity and pride. I have enjoyed influencing the highs and lows to settle more into a balanced state.

They are less extreme in recent years. They are subtle yet expected. Why I was not gifted this possibility many years ago has come to inspire me to make the knowledge available for others to enjoy.

By paying particular attention to my gut health, I have nurtured a healthy microbiome with a wide range of bacterial microflora all of which are hugely beneficial to balancing hormones.  This has noticeably helped me find balance and know myself, so I can enjoy this time. When something is up, I know what to do.

Owning your menstruation and transforming it is a celebration in busting the menstrual taboos and turning your flow into a POSTIVE MENSTRUAL TIME.

The new #PMT

Join myself and Mayella Almazan of Yo Soy Gaia to explore a special way to track your cycle and implement a menstrual self care strategy, alongside foods to nourish and improve your hormonal health.

10th JUNE 2018 at The Fumbally Cafe, 8 Fumbally Ln, Merchants Quay, Dublin, Ireland 

book here

Are you ready for Salsa Season?

Are you ready to Salsa?

The early tomatoes are starting to ripen in the polytunnels and the salsa beats are starting to conga.  These juicy red delights mean one thing to me……Fermented salsa!!

This one addition brightens up so many plates, from the simplest scrambled egg to the craziest taco you can create. At this time or year, if there is no salsa on the go, meal time is at a loss.

The already winning combination of raw ingredients makes it the perfect starter ferment. For the greatest skeptics who crosses your kitchen.  The salsa recipe is more than ingredients.  It is a cultural tradition which has taken shape over many generations.

I have yet to meet someone who finds this ferments a ‘challenge’ in the same way that sauerkraut and kimchi seem to present.  This is real food, not entertainment, although your tastebuds might disagree!

We are in the Era of microbiome and our microbiomes need help. We need to actively put some probiotic goodness in to our unique ecosystem. The facts are there, the scientists agree, probiotic fermented foods are a necessary part of the diet which needs reintroduction to our plate, quick tempo!

Food is information that speaks to your body, this recipe says mambo baby!

Fermented Salsa

What you will need to make 1 Litre:

8–10 (800g)ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 red or green peppers, roughly chopped 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1–2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lime
handful of fresh coriander, chopped
2 tsp fine sea salt (add more if needed)         1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of smoked paprika

CHeCK out my Book

How to make:

1 This is an easy one. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a bowl, then pack it into a clean 1-litre jar, making sure you leave 2.5cm of headspace at the top of the jar.

2 Close the lid and allow to ferment for at least 3 days at room temperature. Salsas have always been one of the more lively ferments and it makes a lot of noise. As the carbon dioxide escapes it brings some of that lovely juice with it, so place it on a dish to collect the juice and open the jar with care

3 Once it’s ready, transfer to the fridge. It will keep for at least 6 months once opened.


The Day of the Irish

Whilst the water turns green in Ireland for the day, I have my own little ritual to celebrate things uniquely Irish.

St Patrick’s day has and always will be synonymous with my grandmother. She passed away on this day. It is as clear as crystal, the whole package that is my memory of her.  It was many, many years ago, I was a child but old enough to fondly remember so much of her.

Her tiny kitchen was always filled with the warm, floury smell of freshly-griddled farls, ready to be served, still warm, as I would return home from school.

Even though, some years ago, I needed to break up with wheat, I couldn’t help but return to this comforting memory.

Food is memory.  So when the memories are so good, how can that be bad?

I would play with this idea adding my usual twist.

Traditional soda farls are made with buttermilk, and kefir is my choice.

Kefir is having its moment as we all (finally) fall in love with its wonders, so here I give you: Kefir spelt soda farls

Kefir Spelt Bread

700g Spelt flour
750ml Kefir

Mix well together, it may be hard to stir, you may want to knead. Let sit overnight.

The next day add

1 tsp  baking soda (doves farm brand)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp melted coconut oil or butter

Mix well and place in two well-greased loaf pans. Cover loosely and place in a warm place to rise overnight.

 

Bake at 180C for 30 mins, loaves will sound hollow when done.

There are a few considerations.

The dough is of a thick but a workable consistency and I really prefer to work it with my hands! After leaving it overnight, it is wonderfully stringy and it is very manageable to work in the other ingredients

Also traditional soda bread was made on the pan/griddle whatever ya like to call it. You might not even have one so a wide flat fyring pan will do.

I have never made this bread in this way but if you wished to give it a go warm your griddle/pan.  Then dust it with a little dry flour to stop the farl mix from sticking.

Now that your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly to form a round shape, then flatten it lightly with a rolling pin or something similar, as you might not have one of these either.

Cut the circle into four or eight wedges and bake them on the griddle, a few wedges at a time.

It should take around 5 -10 mins each side, depending on how hot your griddle is. Getting the temperature right is key, this was the secret in great soda bread cooking.  Get your griddle at a good temperature – if it is smoking it is too hot!  It could be a just a traditional muse, as I am so happy with how this bread turns out in the oven that i have not ventured to the griddle!

This is a bread of context, everything to do with being Irish, full of respect for my lineage and source, yet absolutely nothing to do with St. Patrick.


My New Year

Spring is showing and the sun is rising in the sky.  This time of year feels more like my new year than any January 1st ever will.  I have more energy and enthusiasm AND as the diary fills up with exciting plans for the year ahead, I need to see it on the wall in front of me.

However, as a woman running the show that is The Cultured Club, I also need to see my own rhythm, as I am aware of when I work best and when I really should rest.  I organise my life around my inner rhythms and allow this natural force to guide me and my diary.

Linear output is not possible when we are cyclic creations.  I am at my best pre-ovulatory than I am premenstrual and therefore I am more likely to organise any public events when I am clear of the red.  Yet I use this down time to coordinate the more administrative side of things, reset and incubate new dreams, taking advantage a natural cycle I cannot ignore.  It is a vital force that is an integral part of the health and wellbeing in the female body.

After a dedicated year of practising menstrual awareness, I know myself.  It cycle is prompt, yet can sensitive to the other demands of life. No month is ever quite the same but the pattern is always familiar.  I use it to inform my BUSYness and I welcome its arrival…..as ultimately I get to really rest.

I am at home in my body.

I trust its flow and the changes it brings.

It is business magic and takes the guess work out of planning.

 

ADDITONAL BONUS:  My husband and my children are aware. (You would be curious too of something so fiercely red and obvious on anyones calendar!).  This awareness allows for the continuous ebb and flow of me and ultimately avoids any PMT frustrations which may have been a unconscious part of a monthly routine.

This is positive menstrual time and information worth passing on to our children.  YOUR relationship to YOUR menstruation is your POWER yet we have received such little information about its advantages.

If you are ready to reclaim your menstrual cycle and get to know your inner seasons, join Mayella of Yo Soy Gaia and myself for a day reTREAT to feel at home with your vital force. You’ll be colour coding that calendar in no time!

LEARN MORE

CULTURED: the south americas

Before I am hung, drawn and quartered for cultural sacrilege, I wish to declare my intention with CULTURED and the food exploration it seeks to present.  It is perhaps part of an overall expression that to know others (other cultures) helps one to understand and appreciate yourself (your own culture).

I am running with this one, I feel a sense of full completing a circle and whilst it is near impossible to culturally summarise an entire continent and huge culinary melting pot of flavour, this project is a playful look at certain food fermentation practices which have evolved in certain parts of the world and some which have evolved in my kitchen, through a delightful four courses of plates, sharing platters and ‘amuse bouche’ affairs.

This is not a culinary regurgitation of classic plates, it is not even fusion.  It is lead my the gut to bring something delicious into being and to amuse your mouth.

To add to the challenge will be exploring all this mostly with a plant based approach (vegetarian) and in consideration of the food traditions of a meat dominant countries of South America, you can appreciate the challenge, my slight trepidation and also my excitement.

I am certainly feeling all sorts of mole and chimichurri garnishing your plate as we go poco loco in the cultured test kitchen at The Cultured Club this week.  This will be a gut friendly feast!

Here is the culinary flavours of the adventure so far:

  • Kombucha Picso sour cocktail
  • Mole, quinoa pao de queija bread.  Mole soup with quinoa cheese bread, kefir sour cream, lime.
  • Mushroom tinga, blue cornk taco, guacamole, lima bean dip, chimchurri and salsa
  • Peruvian causa rellena, ajo amarillo. Sweet potato layer salad dish with chile sauce
  • caramelisa plantain and cajeta.  Sweet plantain with caramel

More eating, tasting, pairing ensues this week.  My nick name is hors d’oeuvre, affectionately given after the Irish prefix of ‘our’ before each family member.  I’ve got this!

Vamos, join me, come and be cultured!

All dishes are vegetarian.  Vegan options can be requested in advance.  Due to the nature of this event, vegan orders must be requested 48hours in advance.

BOOK HERE

Fermentation across the Nation

We are delighted to announce the launch of our MONTHLY supper clubs starting March 24th aa part of BelFeast, a new three day food and drink festival based in and around the Cathedral Quarter.  We present CULTURED, an exploration of fermented foods, which have been an integral part of communities across the globe and we are doubling up on the CULTURE as we gather in ARTCETERA Studios, a city centre gallery space.

From China and the Fertile Crescent to Africa and Americas, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, grains and fruits have been fermented into food and beverages.  Every region has at least one unique dish as a part of its cultural heritage adding breadth and depth to food choices. Not only are ferments able to stand on their own in their extraordinary flavour, they also lend complexity to other foods they are paired with to create whole new excitements for the palate.

CULTURED, a monthly pop-up Cultured Supper Club, is a four course adventure. Whatever the theme, each dinner will honour the ancient, the modern, the transformation and the alchemy of fermentation.

You taste buds will be tickled, your sense of adventure roused and your tummy very happy indeed. Meals will be vegetarian, with a vegan option available if necessary by request upon booking.

You will be served a welcoming fermented beverage and the invited to BYO with a suggested wine list.

£45 per head

BOokings & menus

Agua from Aguás

There was one niggling little inconveniences of our recent travels, which actually is a pretty big deal, and that was WATER.

Without our regular source of filtered water from home, we spent the first week relying on buying bottled water from wherever we could buy.  We did try to be considerate and stick to the big 5L bottles until the tip of all travels tips arrived!

 

Water in Rural Portugal is convenient to access from public fountains which are dotted around the countryside or in little villages.  If it is non-potable, a sign will let you know.

To ease the conscience, you can pick up a fab glass wine bottle from the agricultural shops in the larger towns, they coat about €2 maximum.

‘8 MILLION TONNES OF PLASTIC FINDS ITS WAY IN THE OCEANS EACH YEAR’

I really dispise buying plastic, it is daily issue and this was worth it to reduce our use of plastics.  Fish and birdlife are starving on a diet of plastic bottle tops and other plastics as demonstrated by the compelling film Midway.

Whilst this was on my mind, this great initiative came upon my radar which really apealled to my WASTELESS aspirations! It is a wonderful bottle refilling initiative in the UK which really could be happening EVERYWHERE!

 

 

Refill is a free tap water initiative designed to reduce plastic pollution and promote healthy hydration by making refilling a water bottle easy, social and rewarding!  Check it out here and if there is not a scheme near you perhaps you can be the change!

Refill App to Help You Ditch Bottled Water

This app will help you ditch bottled water and could save you thousands of dollars!With City to SeaDownload the app and learn more here: wwwrefill.org.uk

Posted by Rob Greenfield on Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nearly two thirds (64%) of us rarely or never carry a reusable bottle when out during the day. As a mum, I usually have at least one rolling about in the car or at the bottom of the bag.  Getting water from public fountains was a wonderful pit-stop with the children and favoured greatly over visiting another boldly supermarket.  There was often a local filling up at the same time which led to efforts of communication which ranged from portuguese to french and lots of smiles!

I can only imagine that supporting an initiative such as this and affecting change would lead to all manner of new conversations and interactions with your area and the people in your community.

HAVE YOU GOT A WATER SCHEME IN YOUR AREA?

If not get in touch with Refill HQ

 

Staying hydrated on the go is absolutely vital for our health, here is why:


Moving in cycles and seasons.

The world doesn’t hang in the balance. It moves in circles, cycles and seasons and as the month completes once again, I am in full preparation mode for the arrival my monthly friend.

I am acutely aware of my cycle. In fact I plan my life and diary around it and make sure that I give my body what it needs both nutritionally and physically. This means harnessing energy when it is available and resting when it is most needed. I know when it is a good time to make a decision and when I should shut up and sleep on it.

I am more than happy to break the taboo on the topic because for too long menstruation has been, and continues to be, viewed as something dirty that must be hidden. In India, women are told to avoid cooking while on their periods, for they might contaminate the food.  In developing countries girls miss several days of school each month.  Closer to home, did you know that in addition to all toxic chemicals, commercial menstrual pads contain the plastic equivalent to 4 Plastic Supermarket Bags?

 

One Artist/Illustrator has given this topic great expression as you can see.  Maria Torres’ illustrations certainly point out that it is kinda ridiculous that we behave so awkwardly towards something that half of the Earth’s population has to go through every month.

Plus I would like to think that when it is time for me to take my menstrual pause, it doesn’t have to be one big hot flush.

However to matters most immenent! I have been a fish out of water, well out of my kitchen. I have been travelling in foreign lands enjoying the bounty on offer. Call it a holiday, call it an adventure, I happened to travel pre-menstrual (NOTE:I didn’t book the tickets) which made the budget flight even more uncomfortable than usual and the settling in, minus my reserved day of rest.

 

Lucky I had a few little empowering tricks which relieve discomfort and give some nutritional support.  BUT then came the holiday.  For the past month I have been pushing the boundaries of my usual dietary regime! From mindfully eating a sugar-free, wheat-free, fresh, vegetarian diet with a daily dose of fermented foods, this becomes a tall order when travelling.  My best efforts replaced the usual meals with living day to day on coffee (espressos to be precise), peaches, salad ensembles and tinned sardines, all washed down at the end of the day with some Portuguese wine!

 

Actually on the food front, it was not too bad. The produce in Portugal is great.  The odd unavoidable carb overload occurred BUT I am pleased to say some fermented foods featured in there.

BUT what is it about European countries, sunshine and espressos?

 

I am (was) a caffeine lightweight, but Jesus, I have just completed a months intensive training!  At least one, sometimes two, sharp hits of the black magic on a daily basis is going to take its toll AND this month I am in for it! Coffee is known to influence hormonal balance by causing more or less of a hormone to be secreted.

I know what my body is telling me!  The estrogen-to-progesterone balance is off.

Estrogen and progesterone are two of the key hormones that help regulate your menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels rise during the first half of the cycle, whereas progesterone levels rise (while estrogen levels slowly decline) during the second half of your cycle. An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone throughout this cycle, can contribute to emotional and physical PMS symptoms, menstrual cramps, bloating, acne, to name a few!

That translates to: The sugar cravings are on red alert, probably egged on by the potuguese custard tart tasting with aforementioned coffees and the obligatory peach a day….(not to mention those €3 bottles of wine per evening.)

 

I have had more sugar in the past month than in the last two years! I don’t know wether to ride it out and request that I get to sleep all of menstration day OR have a little PMS cry. I could say I need to feel fabulously again, instead of frumpy BUT I know is that this too shall pass.

The cycle will repeat all over again (without the holiday binge) and I have no need to feel like I will lose a week of every month of my life! I can roll with this and put my down time to some creative use.

So what’s really happening during your cycle?

Everything That Happens During Your Menstrual Cycle

You need to know what your body goes through during your period.

Posted by Cultura Colectiva + on Sunday, July 23, 2017

It is wonderfully empowering to use this knowledge to your advantage.  It can seem that just when you get on top of things, your cycle takes you down again and you feel like you are constantly starting over.  We are constantly moving forward and it is hugely beneficial to do so in harmony.

If you are feeling that things have gone a little out of sync after your summer adventures then perhaps you would like to join us for a day of indulging in the beauty of your female cycle.

The Cultured Club will be collaborating with Yo Soy Gaia and LA YOGA to bring you a day of moving through the seasons of your cycle.  You will learn aninsightful way to keep track of your menstral cycle  and what you can do to support your body, mind & soul through the inner beauty of being a woman.

Women Wellness through the Seasons: Autumn

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

10 AM – 4 PM

The Zen Room, HIllsborough BT26 6PQ

BOOKING IS Available NOW via this Link

 

Just like a flower, everything has it cycle.

A seed becomes a plant

That has a flower

It transforms into a fruit

The fruit drops.

There is another seed and the seed grows again.

The flower is the moment that we live!

Understanding it will allow you to enjoy the beauty of every stage.

 

 


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The Cultured Club is dedicated to reviving this lost tradition and bringing the control of our health into our own kitchens.
'Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food' is a hard philosophy to live by when we are so removed from the food we eat.

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