Do you want to know a secret?

I have always been attracted to the obscure.

I could have gone easier on myself and followed a more attractive cleaning eating menu of  health bursting smoothies and the like.  Or I could have just done as was expected and walked into a career in Pharmacy.  But Oh no, not me, I have to take it to the extreme, along an unchartered path and completely, wholeheartedly find myself deep in a crock of fermenting food embracing a more “cultured” lifestyle.


I have seen you whince, I have heard every joke, noted every raised eyebrow, rolled my eyes at every excuse and laughed at every reason to dismiss these foods….most of the time offered out of blind ignorance to their unbelievable qualities of these foods and their ‘awakening’ of taste.


I get it, there is nothing that sounds sexy about sauerkraut, SCOBYs and bacteria.  Nor does the smell of kimchi, kefir or kombucha invite you into all their charms.


Well here is a little secret.

Today I went on a day trip to the science lab at Queen’s University, Belfast, with my bacteria.  Under the guidance of Dr. Tancredi Caruso, I discovered there is a whole lot of goodness in these foods which will turn you right on!  (I knew this of course, but seeing it there right in front of me was a proud moment.)

We took the tiniest drop of the juice of a favourite ferment at present:  Whole sweet heart cabbages which were brined 5 months ago (pictured to the left and above).  The leaves are used to make wraps for various dishes, a favourite detailed in The Cultured Club book.



This tiny little drop of what would be considered ‘pickled brine’ was placed on a slide.  There was no staining needed to highlight the bacteria (technical info that I didn’t quite know the theory on) and as it came into focus, through the eye of the lens, there dancing in front of me, I could see these ‘living foods’ buzzing, teeming and vibrating with life.

The magnification, if you can imagine was 1mm, then amplify it x 400.



The slide was linked to a computer screen so we could marvel at the activity.  Something warm and giddy happened as I watched the abundance of bacteria and the busy vibration, reproduction (yes, some were asexually reproducing on screen) and movement unfold.

There IS something incredibly attractive about these foods and I could not only see the life force in what I eat but I could see how these foods make me feel when i eat them.  

When you eat these living, fermented foods, you feel the ‘life’ they impart.  These are high vibrational foods which have gone through a process of “lactofermentation”. This is where natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid and you can clearly see them continually buzz around.  There is a giddy knowing that you are taking something real into your body.  Now that is more tempting than their names might suggest and a new way of thinking about food.

So this is my secret and one I am delighted to share and you can join me to discover more whilst seeking out your own personal, experiential and enlightened path to wellness.

If you would like to see the video then have a look through the lens here

Grab a jar, mix up some brine and chop(or not) your vegetables and add a little party to your food



Throughout Eastern Europe, fermented cabbage leaves are used to make a traditional dish called sarma – or golabki in Polish, golubtsy in Russian, malfoof in Arabic, krautwickel in German or töltött káposzta in Hungarian. It’s a word of Turkish origin meaning food wrapped in leaves, just in case you’re wondering!


You will need:

1 sweetheart cabbage approx.

2-3 tbsp sea salt

filtered water

1 Remove the core of the cabbage and fill the space where the core was with salt (this is generally about 2-3 tablespoons of salt, but you might need a little more or less).

2 Place the cabbage in a clean 2-litre jar. Sweetheart cabbages are rather small so they fit nicely in a jar, but it may be necessary to gently peel off some of the loose outer leaves. If that’s the case, place them in the bottom of the jar as you do so. Once you have jarred your cabbage, fill the jar with filtered water to within 2.5cm of the rim.

3 Allow to ferment for at least two months at room temperature, until it’s soft and tart, then transfer to the fridge and store for up to six months. These leaves can then be chopped into a dinner salad or used to make the stuffed cabbage rolls.

Get giddy with your creations!

Dearbhla x


The Cultured Club book, published by Gill Books, will be available on all book stores from October 14th.You can pre-order your copy here




Recipe Of The Week

She is here.

Autumn is marking her arrival with gusts of window to shake the leaves from the trees.

It is time to turn our attention towards harvesting the bounty the growing season has provided and fermentation is ready to do what it does best, preserving the goodness and adding that little bit more.

I have had an interesting time engaging with different folk as I appeared at events and festivals over the summer.   Whilst we read more and more about fermented foods and how good they are for you, it seems their acceptance has still a little way to go.  For some they are still too sour.  For others the appearance and smell challenge.

It has inspired a little poetic offering which you will allow me to indulge, because believe me, it would be easier to be promoting chocolate or doughnuts.


I have seen you whince,

I can read your mind,

I know none of these foods sounds sublime.

There is MAGIC in the meeting of science and art

And the flavour really sets them apart.

I can bake you a diary free, gluten free cake,

But these food leave a sweet tooth in their wake.


This week our Recipe of the Week, takes a twist on an well established apple preserving tradition.

I ventured into the world of chutney making for a brief second and the quantity of sugar left me too horrified to try the end result.  So you can leave the kilo of sugar out and ferment your apples instead for a kinder autumn condiment which is good for you.

700g apples (any kind), coarsely chopped

120ml lemon juice

4 tbsp whey, water kefir, kombucha, or ginger bug

1 tsp sea salt

140g raisins

140g pecans or other nut, chopped

4 tbsp coconut sugar, date paste or other natural sweetener

4 tbsp five-spice blend
250ml filtered water (optional)

1 Place the apples, lemon juice, starter and salt in a food processor and pulse, leaving it quite coarse. Transfer to a bowl and add the raisins, chopped nuts, sugar and five-spice. Mix it together well, then pack into a clean 1-litre jar, making sure all the ingredients are covered in liquid. Top up with the filtered water if necessary, making sure you leave 2.5cm of headspace at the top of the jar.

2 Leave to ferment for two to three days at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge and enjoy within two to three weeks.

Your gut bacteria are ready and waiting.

We live in a world where most of us expect things to happen quickly.  Necessity has been replaced by convenience.  Interaction has been replaced by virtual communications and our well-being is at stake.

Clinical trails have observed profound changes in gut bacteria occurring just three days after a dietary change! So any time is a good time to start paying a little more attention to your diet.

If you’re wanting quick results in terms of health or weight loss, it looks like your gut bacteria are standing by ready to change accordingly. Fermented foods will deliver a powerful dose of good bacteria with the smallest of servings and this adjustment towards a favourable domenance of good bacteria will have a rippling effect in many areas of your well-being from digestive ease, weight loss, better mood, less sugar cravings, enhanced energy, a strengthened immune system, to name a few.

Change can happen whenever you make that first step.

So if you are ready for this change to happen sooner, rather than later, The Cultured Club will be facilitating an in-depth masterclass on fermented foods on SUNDAY 18th September in the welcoming surroundings of Kilruddery House and Gardens.


You can expect to learn lots of new kitchen skills including:

  • The simplest fermented foods to the more exotic flavours.
  • Kitchen staples.
  • Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard.
  • Fermented remedies for immune health.
  • Various serving ideas and uses.


The workshop will include tasting plates of demonstrated ferments along with some interesting plates and flavours.  The recipes will be featured in The Cultured Club’s first BOOK due for general release on October 14th through Gill Books.  This book is currently available for pre-order HERE

Tickets for this event can be purchased by following this LINK


Time makes wonders.


Beetroot, I love you



It has come to the end of the season for beetroot and it has been an early summer love affair once again and it features once again in this #RecipeOfTheWeek.
We have romanced in a bowl of cold beet soup, we have turned up the heat in the oven as slow roasted sweet cubes and we have really got it on by merging another favourite fancy: KIMCHI 
I tasted Beetroot kimchi at Ireland’s First Fermentation Festival and I am forever indebted to Prannie Rhatigan, Ireland’s seaweed Queen for this variation. This recipe involves making a paste with rice flour as with many traditional kimchi recipes.   Using a paste, you don’t need to worry about weighing down the ingredients under the brine and it adds an extra starchy food to the fermentation fun.  Naturally this recipe will involve seaweed, another favourite.
Ingredients: Beet Kimchi
Makes 1 litre
1 bunch Organic beetroot
2 tbsp rice flour
1 cup water
4 cloves garlic
2 inch knob of ginger
1 tbsp chili flakes
1 tbsp sea vegetables
2% salt brine (1 tbsp in 1 litre of water)
Slice the beets thickly and fill up your glass jar.
Pour in 2% brine to cover
Leave overnight.
The next day, pour off the detoxifyingfermentedvegetablebrine solution and transfer the beetroot into a bowl.
Make a paste of rice flour: 2 tbsp with 1 cup water over low heat.
allow the rice paste to cool and add  4 garlic cloves, knob of ginger, 1 tbsp chili flakes and sea vegetables.
Process with a hand blender into a paste (or transfer to a blender)
Massage in the paste to the beets to get some on each beet.
Return to fermenting jar, packing it in nice and tight.
Continue to fill the jar, leaving 2 inch space at the top of the jar.
Leave to ferment for at least 5 days, and then taste.
You can continue to leave it out on the countertop until you reached your desired taste is achieved.
You well thank me, this is taste you will not forget.
You are very welcome!



Cold soups for summer


Last summer, to cool off in hot Polish mid afternoon sun I enjoyed a cold beet soup practically everyday.

Between that and gazpacho, I reckon if I lived in a hot climate all year round, I would simply alternate between these two options and be happy out.

Any, today, is a perfect cold beet soup day and it is my first #RecipeOfTheWeek offering of many more to come.

You will feel nourished, refreshed and loved on the inside with all the good bugs thanks to the beet kvass & sauerkraut that add so much to this delightful bowl.


Beet kvcold beet soupass & saurekraut soup summer soup

serves 4

4 medium beetroots roasted

2 cups dashi

1 onion, diced

1 sweet potato or potato, peeled and chopped

6-7 cloves fermented garlic

3 cups saurekraut (herby kraut, dill & garlic kraut, caraway etc)

3 cups beet kvass with pickled beets

1 tsp caraway

2 sprigs of tarragon

1 tbsp of honey

2 tbsp avocado oil

salt and pepper to season




  1. First you want to preheat the oven to 180C and roast the beetroots until soft.

2. In a saucepan combine the dashi, chopped onion and chopped potato and cook until the potato is soft.  This makes a wonderful base for the soup. Remove from the heat and caraway and tarragon to infuse allowing it all to cool.

3. Place the Saurekraut, kvass, beetroots (both roasted and pickled), stock base, garlic, honey and oil in your high-speed blender and blend until smooth.

This many need to done in batches, refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. Serve with a yoghurt and dill


[su_box title=”The Cultured Club: Fabulously Funky Ferments” box_color=”#b59eb4″ title_color=”#505050″ radius=”4″]This recipe is from The Cultured Club book of fermentation recipes to be published October 2016 by Gill Books.

Available for pre-order very soon[/su_box]

Ireland’s First Fermentation Festival

The excitement is bubbly, fizzy and appropriately energising for this the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere after a hugely successful Fermentation Festival out west in the Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim.  It was the first giddy gathering of what is sure to be an annual event co-ordinated and hosted by Hans & Gaby Wieland.

I am tripping over words to get through to the thoughts as they are abundant, in a way, like a overly excited bottle of fermented goodness, ready to explode out of the bottle before making it to your mouth. Captured in a bottle, this feeling would be everyones Monday Morning Tonic.

The immense sharing, the enthusiastic presentations, the depth of knowledge and the life-affirming experience has been immense.  If this was your first interaction with ‘THAT’ fermented feeling I can only imagine the overwhelm you must be experiencing today.  We were a pretty excitable bunch.


We gathered from the North, the South, the East and the West of our Island to express our passion, experience and knowledge of this ‘forgotten’ skill.  Thankfully a revival is in full swing now, good things take their time to become a new social norm.  They grow organically because they cannot be forced and I am delighted that I am no longer alone with my crazy, hissing kitchen and subtle, yet intentional food anarchy.

Already I can imagine the explosion of interest and offerings for next year, there are many giddy folk I am sure will be part of the fermentation fever.

In the meantime, I have a sourdough starter from Dimitar Dosev of My Strandhill Bakery to introduce with to our own starter.  I have a wonderfully medicinal Turmeric and Ginger apple cider vinegar cultivated by April Danann of Rebel Foods in Skibereen, Co.Cork.
herbal kefirs13450908_647354612088784_5941487508545874999_nI have a belly full of wonderful herbal kefir concoctions from Gaby Wieland and all kinds of Kombuchas from Hans Wieland Fermentation bar.


I have this inspiring read to keep me right from Oonagh Monahan- Money for Jam. It is a wealth of information to channel and preserve the passion involved in these wonderful foods into a successful small business.

bookMore small scale fermentation businesses, yes please!

Live fermented foods disappeared from our diets for many reasons.  One plausible reason is due to the commercialisation of the food industry which favoured pickling in vinegar, a much cheaper and stable process. These pickled foods are the product of high heat and pressure which destroys nutrients and do not in any way enhance health.

So perhaps every large town should have its fermentation expert, producing and providing live, probiotic foods for their communities?  Imagine the epidemic of wellness and joyful neighbours?  These are the thoughts one leaves a festival with!


Other inspirations included Paul Monaghan from FEED restaurant in Sligo, who will feature my fabulously funky purple beet kvass eggs in his restaurant. Probably someones lunch as I type.  I am honoured!

JP Mc Mahon and his culinary creativity, bringing fermentation to the plate and the palate of those lucky to dine in his fabulous fine dining restaurant Aniar in Galway.  This will have to be a stop on my annual west coast adventures this year.

13507222_647604505397128_2446871617164157683_n I am beyond delighted that I get to take home the freshly harvested seaweed collected yesterday morning by the hands of a master.  This will feature on The Cultured Clubs Tasting Table experience this weekend in Helen’s Bay Organic Gardens and is making its way into seaweed falafels today.

See more on that here.  No doubt the excitement will exude into this food prep this week.




Dr. Prannie Rhatigan is huge inspiration for food, foraging and creatively using an abundant food source in this part of the world. Her lifetime experience of harvesting, cooking and gardening organically with sea vegetables has been published as a extremely handy (and clever) pocket size, key chain guide for when you are strolling the coast.  It will definitely be coming with me next month on my holidays out west.

So with much thanks to Hans & Gaby Wieland for hosting this wonderful event.  We have consolidated the Irish contingent of SCOBYs thriving of the shared passion from reviving these foods. No doubt we will continue to thrive and next year we will welcome more ‘Fermentistas’ to the festival from near and far.

In the meantime, I have a book to launch on the topic.  It will be out in September with Gill books.  There will be a launch in Dublin and one in Belfast to honour the first Cultured Club members who started this journey with me way back in 2012.  I feel beyond inspired to make that a nation wide tour, so stay tuned,  I anticipate similar excitement and giddiness all round.

Fashion, Fad OR Food that matters?

After years to slowly BUT surely delving into the wonderful world of fermented foods, I am delighted that I am no longer alone.

They have become quite the buzzword on the food scene amongst chefs and health food enthusiasts alike and the requests for kimchi have knocked coleslaw off the plate.

So whilst we throw words like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir around with ease, what are these foods? The science behind fermentation has a complex and confusing sound. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization describes fermentation as the “slow decomposition process of organic substances induced by micro-organisms, or by complex nitrogenous substances (enzymes) of plant or animal origin.”  In the simplest terms,  fermentation is the process of breaking down the carbohydrates and sugars in food to produce a lactic acid OR an alcohol.  In the case of our food, it is the lactic acid we are after as it is in this process we create a predominance of lactobacillus bacteria, which moves the whole process into the realm of probiotics.

So now you get, whilst these foods nestle somewhere between fresh and rotten (what I like to refer to as funky!) it is the good bacteria (the probiotics) which are doing all the work holding them in this preserved place. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help maintain the balance of microorganisms in our digestive tract.

Probiotics have been widely studied for treating gastrointestinal distress, but newer research suggests they can help with cancer, inflammation, autoimmune disorders and even weight loss. The research goes on with promising results so far.

Are we on the frontline of a food revolution?

Screenshot 2016-06-01 13.21.31

Tomorrow at Bloom Garden Show in Dublin

Food matters tent @ 5pm

Join the discussion.




All kinds of Kimchi

I am delighted that food heros such as Jamie Oliver and Sarah Wilson are extolling the virtues of fermented foods, in particular a certain national favourite of Korea: KIMCHI.

Kimchi and other fermented vegetables are a powerhouse of goodness containing a favourable dose of good bacteria for optimum gut health, organically created through the process of fermentation.  Something as good as kimchi has earned its place as a world heritage dish and has a festival dedicated to it.

Once discovered this food never leaves your taste memory.

Making kimchi for me, is more than a weekly occurrence, I make it a range of Fabulously Funky Ferments on demand and I see the growing desire to get our hands on this heritage food growing week after week.  In fact I cannot keep up and it is truly my desire that you clear YOUR kitchen counter and make space in your life to make a batch of kimchi.

So, for the kimchi kraziness of it, I put the three different recipes to the test.

Read More

Tasting Table Teases



After a hugely successful pop-up dinner last year at Helen’s Bay Organic Gardens, we are delighted to welcome you back for an evening of taste bud tickling treats.  The tasting table is a 6 course meal set in the very farm that grows some of your food.  Our focus is to present food in a clean way employing some traditional fermentation techniques and  raw food preparation to deliver new tastes to the plate.   Fermented foods will weave their way into each plate as part of a tasty nutritious serving. We have been slowly foraging, gradually gathering and internationally perserving some treats for you already and now the fun part begins as we plan a tasting menu for you to explore many new flavours.

Our menu is shaping up nicely and at present we have the hard task of taste testing these dishes:

Aged miso egg, smoky pesto, dukkah, wild flowers

Indian buttermilk soup, buckwheat cracker, nut cheese


Beet Kvass & Saurekraut soup Polish style

 Cabbage roll tamale, mushroom & nut stuffing, celeriac, apple, kimchi dust

Fermented daikon radish carpaccio, beetroot & horseradish, wild garlic chimcurri

Raw seaweed falafel, sticky seaweed pickle, asian cucumber pickle salad

Fermented apple & goji berries compote, coconut yoghurt, buckwheat crispies


There will be a welcoming beverage from Panacea drinks.

You are welcome to Bring your own alcohol

 BOOK YOUR SEAT at our Tasting Table.  We look forward to spoiling you

(Vegan alternative will be provided upon prior notification.)

The Culture of Culture.

As I wait for my soul to catch up with the fact that my body has flown across 11 time zones, I can indulge in the dreamtime state that is jet lag to reflect upon the journey we have been on before it seems like a distant memory.

I feel grateful for the opportunity I have recently had to travel back to Australia with my family in tow. It has only been 8 years of longing to be reunited with some dear friends there and to relax into the warm glow of the southern skies.  Ok, it is more like a harsh, burning sun, but when you come from Ireland, any suggestion of blue sky is welcome!

The energy from the sun inspires me naturally towards a healthier way of life, so taking up the role of resident fermentation expert and chef on a sustainability project really was a dream come true.  Eating whole, real food is joyful, abundant and true.

What better place to experiment with those recipes I have been dreaming up in my mind than on a willing and hungry audience of like-minded folk.


And so the kitchen journey began, with jars of Kimchi, Salsa, Sauerkraut, Dilly beans, Radishes, Carrots, Broccoli stems, Kombuchas, Jun, Kvass, whey drinks, ginger bugs, switchel and kefir all fermenting away in the sun, to be worked in and out of every meal.

All three weeks of Breakfast, Lunch and dinner, with rarely a meal repeated, was a creative flow of giddy, bubbling, foodie imaginings with lots of meal plans scribbled, as below,  not only keeping everyone fed, but keeping me challenged and  interested.



Breakfasts including:

  • Banana polenta with LSA, vanilla kefir, maple syrup.
  • Buckwheat Porridge with apples, greek yoghurt, nuts, honey,
  • Over-night summer oats with berries, tahini, Kefir, seeds, maple syrup
  • Millet, buckwheat & chia, porridge with banana, coconut flakes, walnuts, goji berries and moringa
  • Rice porridge with carrot, apple, raisin, ginger, lemon, nuts, honey

Lunches featuring all manner of fermented goodness hidden in various ways:

  • Kimchi pancakes with broccoli satay salad
  • Chilled BeetKvass & Saurekraut soup with Nut & Seed Bread
  • Raw Falafels, Cauliflower tabboleuh, fermented Radish and eggplant
  • Watermelon Gazpacho served Purple eggs & Fermented Mayonnaise
  • Buckwheat crepes, Bean slaw, fermented red pepper dip, fermented mayonnaise
  • Chilled Avocado and fermented cucumber soup with beetroot burger and spinach dip

Various dinners abundant in energy giving goodness including:

  • Moroccan tagine & herby quinoa
  • Chocolate chilli with buckwheat crepes
  • Lentil & sweet potato salad with fermented eggs and dilly beans
  • Laksa, enough said!
  • Curry with Indian Socca and fermented relish
  • KIMCHI, KIMCHI, KIMCHI everywhere with all kinds of salads.

That is just an idea.  Three weeks of food, a menu free from gluten, diary, refined sugar, full of energy, probiotics and love and relatively no waste.  Fermentation fits beautiful into the sustainable dream, whether you are trying to achieve that in the house you build, the garden you grow or the food you eat. It awakens your connection to your body and to the earth. It feeds your life whilst respecting every living thing and the planet we share.

Could I do it again? Yes, in a heart beat.

Could I open a restaurant? I don’t think I have enough hours in the day.

Could I detail all the recipes for you?  Hell yeah, I am just about too and the book will be available SOON.



I forgot to mention what happened to all the fermented drinks on the go.

Depsite the milk kefir, which made its appearance mostly at breakfast or as a savoury salad dressing,  mid-morning refreshments were a necessary part of the day.  Kombuchas, Traditional lemonades, ‘Fizzy grapefruitade’ orangeade, lemon & limeade (all made with kefir whey), Ginger bug drinks and the hugely thirst quenching and “hip” SWTICHEL, as illustrated, hydrated the team.

This was a kitchen of abundance and filled with jars and bottles displaying different projects feeding the bodys and minds of inspiring folk.  Every bite of good food is an invitation to be healthy, happy and whole again. If truth has a taste, is it alive.

If you would have me, I’d glady come to a sustainability project to spread bacterial goodness with you.



“Every meal a surprise of different flavours, colours and textures.  Guaranteed a meal full of nutrients, life and love- everything your body needs.”

“Every meal unique and beautifully presented.  Each ingredient lovingly sculpted, raw, fermented, blended deliciousness that tantalises the tastebuds and gives the stomach a big hug”

“Noting wasted but resourcefully crafted to create a new delicious healthy meal”



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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