The Beach House Kitchen has evolved into a vegan food corner, but Jane still loves the Kefir, read on to find out exactly why:
I didn’t know an awful lot about Kefir the wonder-culture, until the day I wandered into Solitude farm, Auroville, India, where a fantastically interesting woman, ecologist and shining light called Aline happened to be volunteering. Seldom found without a hose pipe in one hand (watering her lovely herb garden at the farm), and her jar of kefir yoghurt in the other, she always had a great big grin on her face.
The Origins of ‘Bob’
Aline joyfully travels around the world volunteering at organic farming organisations with an abundance of enthusiasm and her yoghurty-culture in her bag. She is a self-taught kefir ambassador for the world, gladly (and with genuine enthusiasm) educating everyone with her big brain full of knowledge about the clever little bacteria/yeasties. Her particular kefir originated from her friend in Scotland, and since then it has probably become the most travelled bacterial-fungal culture ever. It has flown half the way round the world to several continents, on aeroplanes, trains, and buses, enjoying many a chilled nights’ rest from the tropical madness in numerous hotel fridges…. Most importantly it survived being thrown into the bin every single day (luckily in it’s jam jar and milk bath) by a well-meaning old man who’s daily routine included clearing out ‘off stuff’ from the communal fridge at Solitude farm. Believe it or not, Bob (the Kefir) was mistakenly confused with off-cheese. Poor Bob.
So you can imagine my delight when one day, over vegan chocolate ice cream to die for, Aline offered to give me some grains of Bob to take on my very own special kefir journey! Knowing nothing about how to look after my new friend, and with no time to get ‘kefir lessons’ from Aline before Lee and I departed Auroville, I was suddenly on the road with a fizzing gassing jar of little cottage cheesy looking lumps, demanding milk on a regular basis and semi exploding in 30 degree heat.
Bob on tour
The first destination on our travels was Assam which happened to be boiling hot and we stayed at a place with no fridge and milk was in short supply. Feeling a little out of my depth and concerned that I was going to kill off my little lumps of Bob before the journey had even started, I went on a long and protracted hunt for dairy (milk is pronounced ‘dood’ in Assam), and a fine tea strainer which I found in Pondicherry for 8 rupees. Thankfully Bob was kept alive on UHT dood for most of the remainder of the trip, and as we travelled further North into the colder regions of Arunachal Pradesh, Bob relaxed and took it easy in his jar (more often than not carried around in my handbag in the back of bumpy jeeps and on crazy buses). He grew slowly in his ultra-heat-treated milky bath and we became good travel companions. Sometimes he went a bit cheesy though, but I drank most of the yoghurt that he produced and despite tasting sometimes pretty extreme it always settled in my stomach fine and I actually did feel the benefits of having a stomach supporting drink with the highly spicy diet.
Now we have been back in the beach house for a few months I am happy to say that Bob survived the Delhi heat and flight home. He is still with us, thriving fine and dandy. Kefir is pretty much the only non-vegan thing I eat now, and I am determined to start experimenting with it to see if I can make yoghurt out of soy, cashew milk and coconut milk too – yum!
How to make Kefir?
The culture prefers being in a glass jar rather than plastic. My mother-culture lives in the fridge in an old glass jam jars, because old jam jars clean out great with no smell. It’s really easy to make the yoghurt. Spoon a teaspoon of culture into a ramekin, and fill with milk, and stir. Leave out of the fridge in a warm place to ferment for a day, then put back in the fridge after straining the lumps out (re-use the lumps straight in the next batch). Eating a tablespoon of yoghurt with or after eating meals is enough to give the digestive system a boost. When the kefir ‘grains’ grow and multiply you can then give them away to friends and family to start their own culture…. I can’t think of a more fabulous pressie!
Why eat Kefir in the first place?
Originating from the Caucasus mountains in the former Soviet Union, it is a fermented drink, loaded with nutritional benefits. The yeast and bacteria kefir grains (they look a little like cauliflower) ferment the milk, using up most of the lactose making a slightly sour yoghurt filled with friendly bacteria – it is one of the most potent forms of probiotic. Regularly eaten it helps to clean the intestines, maintain a good balance of stomach bacteria, promotes a healthy immune system, as well as being an abundant source of vitamins (B12, B1 and Vitamin K and Biotin), minerals (calcium and magnesium) and essential amino acids. It even balances the nervous system (thanks to the tryptophan).
Kefir has also been used to help patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer, and has benefited many who suffer from sleep disorders, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)! It reminds me of Spirulina in a way – these little critters are so good for us.
Thank you micro organisms!
Actually, now I am already off on a microbial tangent I just want to take this chance thank our microscopic friends all round the planet for doing what they do. Incredibly microbes make up around 60% of the world’s biomass, including a large proportion of our own body mass. They generate a staggering 50% of all the oxygen that we breathe! So this is a big and overdue thank you, dear fungi and bacteria. You who break down leaf matter in our forest floors and give us nutritional humus, you who live inside us and help us to digest our food, you who grow on tree trunks and help us in our research about pollution. Thank you for sustaining life on our planet!
Love and Smiles, Jane x x