This is a good recipe if you are in need for an umami kick, or just craving some nourishment to reset you (and your gut) after December.
I make ferments when I can using produce from my veg box – there’ll be much more good bacteria naturally occurring on a carrot freshly pulled from the ground and I believe this increases the health benefits, as well as being tastier!
Cooking mainly for myself, I see ferments as an instant meal or quick fix, a few minutes of work to begin with, then after time has done its thing, they are preserved and ready for use. In some areas in eastern Europe they do this with their equivalent of mirepoix, which is cooked until soft and sweet and then jarred, preserving the goodness of veg in their peak and also saving a lot of time at the start of soups and stews.
This is a super speedy soup that can be thrown together in 10 minutes but with the addition of sauerkraut and mushrooms has a rich deep savouriness.
1 bulb fennel, sliced
Bunch spring onions or a few shallots
Big handful of button mushrooms
Juice from ½ a jar or cornichons / gherkins (or a good slug of white wine and squeeze of lemon juice / slosh of vinegar)
Handful of sauerkraut* (or finely sliced cabbage)
1 litre veg stock with 2 Tbsp rye flour whisked in
1tsp smoked paprika
Leftover cooked potatoes / mash or cream if desired
Some chopped fennel tops or dill
For the soup
On a medium heat, cook the fennel and spring onions or shallots for a couple of minutes then add the mushrooms, keep everything moving around on a high-ish heat so that they get a bit of colour and catch, rather than sweat. then add the pickle juice or wine, reduce it for a couple of minutes and add the remaining ingredients and season, cook for 5 minutes or so and serve with creme fraiche and rye bread.
*To make sauerkraut
Sauerkraut couldn’t be simpler – but you do need a magimix with a slicer attachment or someone brave enough to use a mandoline – slice up any white or red cabbage and an onion and weigh, then add 2% of the weight of sea salt, mix and let sit for 10 minutes. Really crush in your hands until liquid can be squeezed out, then push down in kilner jars as hard as you can until a layer of liquid covers the veg, add any cabbage trimmings to the top to press down if needed. leave at room temperature for a week or two until its reached your desired sourness. I usually discard a bit at the top of the jar if it’s gone soft, the stuff underneath if much better.