A few years ago, a small but significant transformation started to take the dining world by storm. Yes, we’re talking about fermentation.
Whilst it has been part of almost every culture in history, it’s only in the past few years that the art of fermenting has started to really take off here in Manchester.
Indeed, just two years ago whilst on holiday in Vancouver, my hosts were surprised to hear the kombucha revolution hadn’t made it to Manchester yet. Well, it certainly has now.
First came artisanal sourdough bread and craft beer – with local producers like Pollen bakery, Shindigger and Cloudwater breweries leading the way forward.
Then, once we were sufficiently hooked, the gates opened, and in came bubbling jars of kombucha (fermented tea), kimchi and sauerkraut.
Korean kimchi is hot and spicy, whilst sauerkraut has a distinctive sour flavour which is the result of lactic acid formed when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage leaves.
No longer confined to small ethnic eateries and delicatessens, you can now order kimchi with your toast and eggs in Trove, enjoy a healthy portion of homemade sauerkraut in your Reuben at Alberts Schloss, or order a portion of homemade pickles to snack on at The Creameries.
It’s also making a big splash on the fine dining scene. Ex-Noma chef Simon Martin is taking fermentation to the next level for the seasonal menus at Mana, using fermentation to add flavour at every step of the process.
When we visited back in October we enjoyed wild mallard tacos marinated in fermented rice and served on cabbage leaves seasoned with a yeast and fermented plum sauce paste; scallops topped with a cucumber and piso fudge (made from fermented yellow split-peas and reduced cucumber juice); as well as more dishes showcasing fermented apple and mushrooms.
Not only do fermented foods taste fantastic, but it turns out that they’re also really good for you.
Researchers have found that the state of our gut bacteria is not only the key to weight loss but also could lead to better mood, immunity and skin – and fermented foods help with all of that.
Now we’ve got a taste for the stuff, there’s a growing demand to learn how to make it at home. After all, for most of us eating out is a luxury not an everyday occurrence.
The good news? It’s not too difficult, and there’s a great cookery school in Manchester that’ll not only teach you everything you need to know for the price of a ticket, they’ll also provide all the ingredients you need and take care of the washing up too.
Food Sorcery’s fermentation class demystifies both ferments and pickles – leaving you confident to get stuck into your own fermenting in your kitchen at home.
You start off drinking both kombucha and kefir (a fermented milk drink hailing from Russia) on arrival, with a talk that will help you to understand both how to make them at home and the best places to buy pre-made versions right here in the city.
Then you move on to making dry-salted vegetable pickles kimchi and sauerkraut, which you can take home at the end of the class in jars – all provided by the school at no extra cost to you.
These famous side dishes can be eaten with any meal and traditionally feature cabbage, although many recipes use additional vegetables for added texture and flavour.
Part of Food Sorcery’s fit food series, the class will be led by their professional chef Jan Cron who has cultivated the series and spends a lot of time researching different diets for the classes.
Priced at £45 for an hour and a half, plus ingredients and your welcome drinks, it’s an absolute steal for the skills you’ll be taking home with you.
The school also offers a huge range of other classes – teaching you everything from bread-making to barista and fish-preparation skills.
Alongside these specialist classes, Food Sorcery also run more relaxed, recreational ‘cooking together’ sessions – which are great to do as a couple and help you focus on the fun there is to be had in preparing a fabulous meal together.