Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nigella-Style Lacto-Ferment Salsa

Ah, Nigella Lawson. When I saw her new cookbook at the library I had to pick it up. I was shocked at it's weight, promptly ran home, and set it on my kitchen scale. 3 lbs, 12 oz. (1710 g.) of reading material, kitchen preferences, and generally good photography awaited me. I actually like reading Nigella, since she seems to be a person who writes exactly as she thinks, not pondering too long over the usage of particular words since she's hungry and wants to get to the point. I tend to like the ideas in her cookbooks as well, many of them are highly adaptable and quick since she famously loves to eat well but not too involved.

Reading through the introduction and her "batterie de cuisine" one night before bed, I couldn't help but notice the differences she and I share. She dislikes cast iron for it's heft (calling herself a "lazy wimp"), I grow to love it more every day. She sings the praises of her local canola oil (which - I'll bite, she makes me want to try - calling it's flavor "gorgeously mustardy and nutty"), I have been using olive or coconut oil religiously for over a year. But peppered in among the differences are the things that I also can't live without: the cast iron enameled Dutch oven, the bottle of vermouth, the box of vinyl gloves that protect my sensitive skin from such kitchen demons as lemon juice, chile pepper residue, raw corn and potato believe it or not...

Reading a detailed list of what people like and why is actually one of my favorite things to do. It highlights exactly why I like someone or why I should continue reading their book to get to the recipes. It lets me know why the book will be valuable to me as a resource long before I ever get to the one thing that is indispensable to me, the one thing in the book that I'll be addicted to for a long time, maybe even forever.

Early on in the book, under the heading of Easy Does It, comes a recipe for Jumbo Chili Sauce. Calling for red peppers and 3 1/2 cups of cilantro leaves, it piqued my interest. If there is one out of season thing I buy regularly all Winter and Spring long it's cilantro. Trucked in cilantro never lasts as long as the stuff grown steps from the kitchen, or picked up at a farm market, yet it beguiles me every time I stand amongst the produce thinking about what looks good, what's the cheapest, and what I have a taste for. Cilantro it seems, no matter the cost, always makes the cut.

It goes without saying then that I usually have some that needs using up, when the leaves around the edges start turning yellow 48 hours after their arrival home, reminding me always of the brevity of life. I am hopelessly addicted to this fermented raisin cilantro chutney, which I just made another small batch of the last time I was in this predicament, so I thought I'd try lacto-fermenting up some Nigella-style sauce. I cut the recipe in half, using all the half bunch of cilantro clamoring for my attention on the counter. I also blended the sauce on the well-combined side, masking all the bright red of last year's red peppers. It may not be the prettiest thing I've ever made, but the flavor is indeed it's saving grace.

I used already roasted, seeded and peeled red peppers that I had in my freezer, you can use canned or roast some up fresh yourself. You can play around with proportions to what suits you - after all that is the way of Nigella. I only let the ferment go about 24 hours, but when I make it again (and make a larger batch), I'll let it go 3 days at room temperature before transferring to cold storage. You can also blend it more on the chunky side, it may be a more attractive red instead of a muddied mustard yellow...

Nigella-Style Lacto-Ferment Salsa (adapted from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Kitchen book)
  • 6 oz. roasted red peppers
  • half small bunch cilantro, thick stems removed but some stems ok
  • half a lime, plus half a lime's zest
  • 3 chiles de arbol, rehydrated in boiling hot water for 10 minutes or so to soften
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. whey
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 small garlic clove
Blend everything except cilantro in a blender or food processor until as smooth or chunky as you like it. Add in cilantro, and blend (pulse) until chopped or blended to desired consistency. Pack into a clean jar (I left too much headspace in the photo above, but didn't worry about it since I knew I was going to eat it all right away!), and let sit at room temperature for 3 days in a more appropriately-sized container to ferment before transferring to cold storage.

Eat it on everything.

In classic Nigella fashion, I began thinking of all the stuff I could eat as a vehicle for this condiment. Yesterday, I had to pack a lunch for the Boy-O and I to eat at the museum we were going to after I picked him up from school. I knew I needed this sauce, and at the same time eyed a leftover half block of silken tofu in the fridge. I used an immersion blender to mix a heavy few tablespoons of my new favorite thing, the tofu, and some cashews for thickening and delicious sandwich filling was born. I wished I had some fresh sprouts to go with it, but made do with the butter lettuce that also called my name last time I shopped. The spread was so good, I could also see making some pasta and adding some height of the season cherry tomato halves, but sadly I'll have to wait awhile for that.

dip/sandwich spread.

I love kitchen projects for things like condiments. It allows me to eat the way I want to, without subjecting the boys to super spicy and fermented flavors if they should choose against it. I've been known to make a leftover lunch for myself using up spoonfuls of numerous half-filled jars with minuscule amounts of whatever I ate for dinner the night before. I like to hoard things I love with the best of them, but for some reason, I don't find it necessary with condiments. The next batch will taste different, and be as addicting I'm sure. I may even add more chiles, and it could then be worthy of scrambled eggs.

Nigella-Style Lacto-Ferment Salsa on Punk   Domestics


  1. It would be so good with chickpeas.

  2. My apologies that I didn't get back to you sooner. Yes, my father did leave it at room temperature. Now in saying this we live in the hot wet tropics and he has a brick, windowless room he call the "cantina" for storing homemade preserves and wine and this is where he would keep the vinegar. It was a fairly constant temperature and no sunlight. It is I consider cool but not cold (can never be cold here!!!) I hope this helps. BTW I didn't realise Nigella had a new book out, I've only just got her "Kitchen". Yes, I not a big fan of canola, either.

  3. Oh, I just realised her new cookbook IS Kitchen! Sorry, I should have click on your link. I actually mustn't have read it properly I didn't read about the canola oil. Going back to it because I just saw someone else review lots of her recipes and I'd like to try the African Chicken and the Teryaki Chicken.

  4. Sowenearth: yes! A hummus spread would be good flavored with it, I ate some mixed in with roasted chickpeas a friend brought over (with olives and feta) and it was great.

    Marcellina: I did see the African chicken, it caught my eye! Thank you also for the vinegar info...I'm going to transfer it to the dark.

  5. Not that it really matters, but I'm so confused as to why this would have turned out yellow and not red!

    But on to an actual question of significance: I've never lactofermented before. For whey, can I use the liquid that separates at the top of a container of yogurt?

  6. (never mind, I just clicked over to your chutney post and I see you used yogurt whey for that, so I'm guessing the answer is yes?) :)

    That chutney sounds very intriguing, btw. Might just have to try it with the cilantro currently yellowing in my fridge.

  7. Noelle: When I need whey, I strain my yogurt through a piece of unbleached muslin. It's fine if a little of the milk solids come through, but I find using muslin keeps it clear. Just make sure the yogurt you use is plain, not flavored, and has active cultures. I think it turned color because I blended it up so much: red+green=yellow/brownish?

    (You can also lacto-ferment using salt only, but typically you need a bit more salt to preserve the veg until the fermentation takes off.) If you are going to eat it pretty fast (hey, it happens!), you don't need to ferment at all - it will still taste great.)

  8. wow! this looks amazing. i am a fermenting fool, but have not gotten into a regular habit of fermented condiments. inspiring! :)


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