• Nikki Wagner

Cultivating Community, Issue 1: Spring 2019


Cultivate (verb): try to acquire or develop a quality or skill; try to improve or develop

Community (noun): the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes or interests in common.

- Oxford Dictionary

Cultivating Community focuses on ways you can build community around you by regularly connecting with others, involving others in your life & projects and getting involved in events, activities & groups.

Through cultivating community you build trust, learn from others, share your passion and knowledge, as well as connect people together.

Communities grow stronger through each little action.

Cultivating Community is a forum which offers ideas, inspiration and starting points for you and your community. My hope is that you start projects, community groups and discussions around things you can do together, whether it is a food share group or Momma Bake, a mending/sewing group, a work-share/crop-share group, or whatever you're into.....we are all better together.

In this inaugural issue of Cultivating Community the focus is on food - sharing, preserving, cooking, fermenting, creating.......

ISSUE 1: Spring 2019

The Vernal, or Spring, Equinox marks equal day and night. It signals the waxing of the sun. Vernal Equinox celebrations focus on giving thanks for new life after the the long, cold Winter. This is a time to come back out into the world with renewed energy and enthusiasm. It also signals us to get into Nature - take long walks, plant seedlings in the garden, go forest bathing, cut flowers.....

The symbols of the Vernal Equinox are eggs (to symbolise renewed life), rose, daffodil, herbs, strawberry and honey.

In the Kitchen

Here's a list of things I'm into at the moment - just some ideas to do in the kitchen with your friends when you get together for your Food Share, Momma Bake, Fermenting Group.....

Flavoured vinegars can be used to enhance your cooking or for medicinal purposes. The link below has two very nice herbal vinegar recipes that can be used to make salad dressings or the basis for'shrubs' - a drink made generally with fruit and vinegar. Herbal vinegars can also be used to assist digestion - 2 tablespoons in water, fizzy water or (my favourite) kefir water, stir and enjoy prior to meals. Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, has been shown to help your body break down nutrients and stabilise blood sugar levels.

DIY Herbal Vinegars

How to Make a Shrub

On the same theme, I've been making and using digestive bitters for several years now and I love them! Digestive bitters have been around for centuries, used to aid digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bile, as well as stimulating the liver. Bitters can also calm an upset stomach and reduce inflammation.

Digestive bitters are made by steeping herbs in alcohol along with flavourings. The recipe consists of combining three flavour elements - bitter, sweet and aromatic, in brandy (or vodka). Below is a guide and the recipe for my latest batch of bitters, along with an article about the benefits of using digestive bitters and an article recounting the history of bitters.

Digestive Bitters Guide

Urban Moonshine article: About Bitters

Bitter Medicine: Gout and the Birth of the Cocktail (article from The Lancet)

If you are interested in cheese-making, then homemade ricotta is the place to start. Ricotta requires minimal effort and equipment - you probably have everything you need already.

Another nice thing about ricotta cheese is that it can be used both in savoury and sweet recipes. As a child my mom used to make a dessert with honey-sweetened ricotta served with berries and it was divine! Ricotta also works well in cheesecakes.

Below is a link to a ricotta cheese -making tutorial and my recipe for baked ricotta with lemon thyme.

How to make ricotta cheese

Lemon Thyme Baked Ricotta Recipe

Verdurette is the original soup flavouring, but unlike its cousins of today – ultra-processed bouillon cubes or powder – it is made with wholefoods. Basically, it’s a formula or template to follow. You can create different flavours based on what’s in season and in the fridge at the time (or excess in the garden).

Verdurette keeps in the fridge for up to a year as it is preserved in salt (much like capers or olives). Add a small amount to broths, soups, stews or anywhere you want to add flavor and saltiness.

Verdurette makes a nice gift to give so make a big batch!

Verdurette recipe

Once you taste fresh-made corn tortillas you will never eat store-bought ones again…..they are amazing! Kids and adults alike enjoy making (and eating) tortillas.

You will need to source masa harina – ground corn flour (gluten-free) that has been nixamatized. Nixtamalization is a process in which corn is soaked in limewater or wood ash (alkaline solution). This process removes mycotoxins and increases the nutritional value of the corn meal by liberating the niacin (B3) in the corn.

The recipe and method for making corn tortillas can be found in NWN A Taste of Mexico cookbook that you can download from my website.

NWN A Taste of Mexico cookbook

When there's lots of coriander (cilantro to those in the Americas) in the garden, threatening to bolt, we make falafel and z'houg. You are probably familiar with falafel - fried chickpea (and/or broad bean) and herb balls, but maybe you haven't heard of z'houg. It's a spicy dip/sauce made with a ton of coriander, garlic, chilies, salt and olive oil.

I don't really have a recipe for z'houg, it was introduced to me by an Israeli friend who gave me a verbal account of what he does......basically, you put as much coriander as you can fit into your food processor and blitz with the other ingredients, then keep tasting and adjusting until it's how you like it. Z'houg is quite 'hot' (spicy) traditionally. You can also add parsley or lemon or spices to the mix as well. Make extra because it freezes well - place in small containers in the freezer for when you next make a Middle Eastern dish or when you are out of fresh coriander.

When serving falafel we always make tahini dressing to pour over the top. Mix tahini, lemon juice and fresh minced garlic together, then thin out to pouring consistency with warm water (mix well as the water will stiffen the mixture first, then it will liquefy again). Add salt and taste, adjust flavours as desired.

Falafel are great to make in large batches with friends and family. Children love to help (and taste) as well. Below is a chickpea and broad bean falafel recipe from the cookbook Falafel For Breakfast......enjoy!

SBS Falafel For Breakfast recipe

Fermenting

Fermenting is a traditional way of preserving foods; it makes them more digestible and more nutritious, as well as increasing the complexity of flavours.

When I get together with my girlfriends we generally spend the day fermenting vegetables and fruits we have in excess in our gardens.

In Winter we tend to preserve lemons, make sauerkraut and beet kvass; in Spring we make kimchi, mustard and fermented turmeric paste; Summer is for lacto-fermented cucumbers (dill pickles) and green beans, zucchini 'pickle' and fermented fruit chutneys; fermented salsa and other tomato-based ferments and hot sauces in Autumn.

The way we organise it is this: we each decide on a recipe we want to make, bring enough ingredients to divide the final product between everyone who attends (basically, multiply the recipe by the number of people participating), show up on the day with your ingredients, equipment and a plate to share.

It's also good to bring a sense of adventure. It's fun to try new recipes, substitute ingredients and make up your own ferments. A friend of mine once made a lacto-fermented bean dip, a recipe from Nourishing Traditions cookbook, which I was quite skeptical about I have to say. The bean dip made it's way to the back of the fridge until one day, weeks later, my partner discovered it. We ate it for lunch and it was beautiful! We now often make it in Summer and Autumn to go along with fermented salsa, cultured kefir cream and homemade corn tortillas! That taught me a good lesson.....show up in the kitchen with an open mind.

Below is a link to making basic sauerkraut. If you are just starting out in fermenting, this is a good place to begin as it teaches you the basics and you get a feel for what fermented vegetables taste like. There is also a link to a podcast on the benefits of eating lacto-fermented foods on the Weston A. Price Foundation website with Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, and a comprehensive article on the fermentation process.

Sauerkraut, basic recipe

Lacto-fermented foods podcast with Sally Fallon on Weston A. Price Foundation website

Fermentation: The Basics

I've been experimenting with sourdough breads lately. A beautiful Steiner Kindy teacher gave me her gluten-free bread recipe and brown-rice starter; I have to say this is the perfect bread for my family - it's coeliac-friendly, makes a large loaf of bread that keeps well for a week in the pantry and it's results are consistent - crunchy on the outside and soft inside. It makes wonderful French toast and the best cheese toasties (served along side tomato soup)!

My daughter loves bread-making so much she has created her own special buckwheat and sorghum loaf - Fig & Walnut Bread with Molasses. The molasses gives this bread beautiful colour and adds extra minerals to it, including iron.

If you are interested in creating more sourdough recipes - pancakes, waffles, etc., I have added a link to an article about adapting recipes to use a sourdough starter. This is particularly helpful if you have bread recipes you enjoy which call for yeast or are quick breads, but want to use leaven instead.

Below is a link to a lovely zine on rye bread which I though you might enjoy.....

Rye bread making zine

How to adapt recipes to sourdough

NWN Gluten-free Sourdough Bread recipe

NWN Fig & Walnut Bread recipe

I hope this has inspired you to connect with those around you and cultivate your community.

Future topics for Cultivating Community issues will include:

Mending

Gardening

Herbalism

Dyeing

Upcycling

Cheese making

Basketry

Pottery

Homemade cleaning products

Homemade personal care products

Sewing

Knitting

Crochet

Bushwalking/forest bathing

Meditation

Book clubs

Slow living

If you have topics that interest you, please let me know and I will incorporate them into future issues; or, if you have resources (e.g. FB pages for existing groups, web pages, etc.) you would like me to add, let me know that, too.

Visit the Home page of Nikki Wagner Nutrition and scroll down to the bottom of the web page to "Get In Touch"....


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