Book Recommendation: The Cultured Club by Dearbhla Reynolds

This is a book that I always recommend on my fermentation workshops. Its written by the Irish author Dearbhla Reynolds and is packed full of easy to follow recipes. And not only how to make the ferments, but what to do with them!

I spent many a fermentation crazed 3 or 4 day and night frenzy whipping up her recipes.

Delighted to be reunited with this wonderful book after having ‘lent’ my copy out and never got it back!

Here is a Rice Miso Breakfast idea that I am going to make in the morning:

Doesn’t it sound good? Are you a savoury breakfast lover also?

Rice Miso Breakfast recipe by the Cultured Club.

In conjunction with the book or instead of, another resource of hers that I cannot recommend highly enough is her online course: Saucy- The Secret of Sauce. I love it because even I am guilty of having soggy kimchi at the back of the fridge or preserved lemons lingering and languishing in my pantry- unsure of how to use them to their potential. This course gives you 26 saucy recipes of how to use ingredients like those to transform them into incredible tasting and probiotic live sauces.

Do yourself a favour and check it out!

Miso magic in Belfast with The Koji Kitchen and The Cultured Club

I spent a couple of wonderful days with my friend Dearbhla (The Cultured Club) in Belfast the other day. She was hosting a workshop by Robin of The Koji Kitchen.

We spent a full day and night soaking and cooking kilos and kilos of beans in preparation for the workshop.

There were lots of lovely folk in attendance: lots of nutritionists, chefs, beginning to advanced fermenters, and all around cool people.

Here are some images of the workshop. I’d highly recommend a workshop with Robin if you are interested in expanding your knowledge of the magic that is koji.

We all went home with our own jars of sweet miso- and it should be ready to taste in 6-8 weeks.

On a totally separate but very important aside- we were lucky enough to eat the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted on this trip. EVER! My tastebuds almost couldn’t cope. And it just looked like a nondescript bog standard take-away. If you are in Belfast you must taste this food! Bites of India at 97 Ravenhill Road. I will be dreaming of that dinner for a long time to come!

Books, books, books! Recommendations

There are soo very many books that inspire me and that I learn from. Here is a small selection of books and authors whom I admire and respect. Among many others! I’ll do more posts with other books to share with you another time as well.

This is one book post of many: as I am a huge book-aholic! It’s an addiction that I am happy to feed. There are more book posts here in my blog and on Instagram.


I get asked so often to recommend books and resources that I like to learn from. The following are some excellent places to start! 

Hedgerow Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal. The book focuses more on medicinal plants, how to identify, harvest, process, recipes. A great place to start from and a beautiful book, full of recipes and methods to use these local wild plants as medicine. (Plus, having met them a couple of times- they are beautiful people!)

River Cottage Mushrooms by John Wright. A great beginners guide to edible fungi and their dangerous lookalikes. I also enjoy listening to his other Foraging books on Audibles. 

Edible Mushrooms by Geoff Dann highly recommended.

Trees in Britain by Roger Phillips (also any or all of his Foraging books, he’s a legend, who sadly just passed recently). If you’re interested in mushrooms, you’ll soon learn that you need to know the trees!

The Forager Handbook by @miles_irving_wild_food High end and Chefy recipes and an excellent resource of edible wild foods found in the UK and Ireland. A fellow Association of Foragers member. Not a beginners book I would say but it’s a great compilation of wild plants and elaborate recipes.

Eat Weeds Cookbook by @eatweedsuk Robin Harford. Another Foraging wild food legend and fellow AoF member. His website is comprehensive and I’d recommend signing up to his mailing list.

Extreme Greens Understanding Seaweeds by Sally McKenna a great book with seaweed ID and delicious easy to use recipes to incorporate seaweeds into your every day diet.

New Wildcrafted Cuisine by @pascalbaudar I love all of his books, a pioneer in new wild food processes including Fermentation. Follow him on Instagram and you can also sign up for his online classes.


@alysf Alys Fowler The Thrifty Forager
. Beautiful simple to follow book, she has another one about preserving also. Great for urban foraging.


Botany in a Day @thomasjelpel I’m excited to be learning more about identifying plant families with this book. He also sells a card game to help learn these skills.


#foraging #wildfood #fungi #wildmushrooms #fermentation #preservation #selfsufficiency #books #workshops

Vegan Cashew Cheese recipe and book recommendation

I am intolerant to most dairy so Iove to find ways to still be able to eat cheese!

I love this book Artisan Vegan Cheeses by Miyoko Schinner

I’ll share here a photo montage I shared as a story on Instagram of the process:

This last step with blending in the oil is what gives your cheese a cheesy texture when kept cool in the fridge, much like a brie consistency. The nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavour.

Gift Vouchers for an experience – mushroom foraging, wild food, food fermentation, medicinal mushrooms, herbal medicine

Should you be looking for a perfect gift for someone you love and tired of buying more things?

A gift of an experience is something that will never be forgotten.

I offer experiences, events and workshops in wild food, herbal medicine, fungi, medicinal mushrooms, foraging, and more.

Here is a link to buy a gift voucher: https://www.hipsandhaws.com/shop/

Testimonials and feedback from past participants of Hips and Haws Wildcrafts events

This photo was taken at Dulra at the Permaculture Design Course where I have been a speaker for the past 4 years in Glenealy, Co. Wicklow. This was June 2020.

With so much gratitude to all of my connections and customers who allow me to live out the dream of working with sharing my greatest passions. Thank you!

You can click the link below to read the reviews directly on Facebook or some of them have been added below.

https://www.facebook.com/hipsandhawswildcrafts/reviews

Had a wonderful time at Courtney’s workshop learning about wild food and medicines. Fun, informative and inspiring. Beautiful blend of stories, science, skills and plant magic. Evidently rooted in both experience and study, very grateful for the knowledge and skills she shares, which makes forging seem way more doable than I thought!
-Lauren Owens

I spent several hours today in Kindlestown Woods in the company of Courtney of Hips and Haws Wildcrafts on a wild mushroom ID walk, and came away deeply impressed by her generosity in sharing so much knowledge and lore. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and she brought every species we found to life with anecdotes and back-stories. That dozen or so fellow attendees were friendly and sociable and we were blessed with a delightful bright autumn day. We broke up for foraging for a 10 minute “Forest Bathing” mindfulness exercise which left me feeling very up and relaxed. All in all, a super day and I would gladly recommend any similar activity by Hips and Haws to my friends.
-Norman Darlington

I went to a wild plant foraging outing with Hips and Haws Wildcrafts last Friday and I can safely say I am bewitched! It was so so enjoyable. Courtney’s passion for wild plants is so contagious. She makes the whole experience very accessible and so enriching. I also really appreciate how respectful and considerate she is with the wild. I am hooked and will be back for more! Thank you.
-Sophie Rieu

Brilliant day with Courtney she is an amazing person so knowledgeable and interesting. Gourmet healthy food in the sunshine on the beach, it was a gift to be lucky enough to experience. Thank you Courtney you exceeded expectations keep up the great work.
-Emma Strain

What an amazing day today. This is my second course with Courtney and Hips and Haws Wildcrafts and I could not recommend them highly enough, her knowledge and passion is infectious. An amazing amount of information, how to use and fantastic recipes to use at home. Thank you also for the beautiful food prepared, delicious. Love spending time with the wonderful like-minded people on the walk today also. Looking forward to attending more.
-Fiona Byrne

Cannot recommend one of these events enough! Courtney is so knowledgeable and easy-going. I could walk and listen to her talk about plants and mushrooms all day. Even if you think this isn’t your cup of tea- give it a try- I am certain she will change your mind! This is my second event with Hips and Haws Wildcrafts and I can’t wait for the next.
-Julie Taylor

I cannot recommend Courtney’s walk in the woods “Wicklow Spring Greens and Wild Garlic Forage” workshop enough. It was a wonderful experience and what really shown out was Courtney’s passion for passing on her knowledge of the woods. Being a country boy myself I thought I knew a lot about the plants and what they can be used for but I soon learned how little I really knew. How to tap the birches for sap and what was not safe to eat. Of course nettles now take on a whole new life far from being something that stings you but a venerable whole food source in it self. The main purpose of course what the wild garlic growing in abundance. The flowers soaked in vinegar became a dressing and the leaves are added to all sorts. Who would ever think that combining honey with garlic would produce such a wonderful accompaniment for a fresh green salads or pasta. So as you can tell I’ve got the bug from Courtney for all things foraging. I must admit the following day we went back again to collect some more wild garlic. Thank you Courtney for igniting my new found interest in eating what is available in the woods. In the words of Nike “just do it’- foraging with Courtney.
-Brendan Looney

Wow wow wow! Hips and Haws Wildcraft events are a special opportunity to connect with beautiful people in an amazing space. I was fortunate enough to have the privilege to attend a Fly Agaric event hosted by Courtney and Fergus the Forager. From the moment I arrived I felt an instant inspiration and warm welcome. We foraged in the nearby woods in fun filled explorations, while learning and connecting with the many species of fungi available. The preparations and dishes we were treated to after our journey in the woods was a unique blend of heartwarming tastes and enjoyable community spirit set outdoors. For a revitalising experience amongst a vibrant loving group a Hips and Haws event is the place to be.
-Riain O’Táth

I love passionate people. I believe that if you want to try something in your life, it’s best to learn from people who are passionate about it. Last year I started reading a lot about plants herbs and how what we eat has a huge impact on our body spirit and well-being. I remember that as a child, my grandfather often took me on trips to find herbs, nettles, mushrooms, wild fruit and buds and everything that nature gave. Unfortunately, as a child, I wasn’t interested in what was edible or not was not, because that’s what my grandfather was for. Courtney reminded me a lot of the facts and stimulated my desire to learn more about using what is seasonal and at our fingertips, for which I thank you very much and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more. This woman can infect positive energy. With a person like her you can easily develop your interests. I made wild garlic in olive oil in yoghurt topped salty and sweet pesto and thanks to this activity and knowledge I discovered a new favourite delicacy for my children. I never would’ve thought that nettles crisps could be so crunchy and the vinegar oxymel is perfect for salads and as a side dish. I am glad that I could take part in the classes and it will certainly not be the last time. I love learning new things through interesting classes and these were such. Courtney I know that your classes will be the perfect gift for my friend from me for her next birthday. Learning, practising and relaxing in nature in good company.
-Roksana Grubba

Such a great experience. Courtney has lots of knowledge and is a wonderful guide. The location is immersive and the mushrooms we collected and ate were absolutely delicious! A feast for the senses!
-George Edgeworth

If you have any interest in foraging and mushrooms this is the place for you. Groups are small which helps as you don’t get lost in the crowd. Everyone has the opportunity to explain they’re interested in what they’re looking for on the day. Courtney is such a lovely person with a wealth of knowledge and is not afraid to share it. Happy to help ID and discuss. It was probably the guts of three months ago and I still bang on about this day and how much fun it was. If you’re not it’s like I am it’s perfect for you. If you’re an expert it’s perfect for you too. Thanks Courtney
-Houdini Galahad

Had a great day wondering around Avondale Forest Park, I learnt loads about the types of mushrooms I have no experience with and it’s given me the confidence to go and identify the species with a little more ease.
Courtney is very knowledgeable and an excellent guide and speaker and I would recommend it to anyone who has no experience and would like to start and likewise I would recommend it to anyone who has knowledge and would like to refresh. I will definitely be back.
-Kastro Freeman

What a fantastic day in the woods hunting for mushrooms. Learnt so much in the five hours. And at the end Courtney cooked for us a gorgeous meal and shared with us for home-made brews and food. Thank you so much.
-Nadine Fitzgerald Selby

I went on a very fun and informative mushroom foraging trip with Hips and Haws Wildcrafts in August this year I definitely recommend their foraging trips anyone with an interest in this area. I had a splendid day looking for and learning about mushrooms, both edible another wise.
-Farah Imran Shams

I have had the pleasure of being on a both a mushroom foraging and a fermenting workshop with Hips and Haws Wildcrafts and both have been delightfully informative. Courtney’s passion for what she does fills you with enthusiasm to get pickling and fermenting- highly recommended.
-Clare Griffin

Just after my first class with Courtney and what a day she orchestrated for us, a lovely lunch included. I can’t imagine the work that went on behind the scenes. So happy to share her methods and resources and all things fermented not to mention her fantastic kefir starter. Very excited to continue the strains on at home. This fermentation masterclass was hands-on and Courtney really lives up to her wonderful reputation, so passionate about passing on this knowledge and practice. I can’t wait for my next day out with her.
-Sarah-Lou Malone

Excellent knowledge, clear passion for the subject and warm welcoming approach to passing that knowledge on. And a huge amount of work done behind the scenes to make the day such a wonderful experience. Many thanks Courtney
-Mike Hibbett

Fermentation day with friends

I often feel so lucky and grateful to be surrounded by such loving and incredible people in my life.

I’ve gone to visit my friend Annie over the last few summers for a polytunnel clear out fermentation session. We were joined by Kittie, Tina, Annie, myself and Petra (who was behind the camera).

Here are a few pics from the day. Annie Holland Photography took many of these photos and many more (I have yet to add- I cannot locate them now, and will add soon).

Irish Fermentalists

For the fermentation enthusiasts out there, I’ve started a Facebook group called Irish Fermentalists.
This is a friendly informative group for beginners through to ‘experts’. Please use this group to ask questions about your ferments, kombucha, kefir, pickles, cheese, yogurt, miso, ginger bugs, sauerkraut, wild sodas etc. Show us photos of what you’re making, share interesting documents in our library- and connect with other like-minded individuals.
If you have cultures or scobies to share, please post that here for others who may be looking. Please feel free to share your fermentation related events on this page.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/irishfermentalists/

How to brew water kefir

How to brew water kefir.

I think I’ve decided that water kefir could be my favourite ferment of them all.

It’s exciting to me to have such a healthy fizzy herbal soda, where I can control the quality of the ingredients. It’s also done in such a relatively short period of time from start to finish.

I’ll try and lay out the bare bones basics of how easy it is for those of you who ask me!

  1. Dissolve approximately 3 tablespoons of sugar in a mug of hot water. Stir to dissolve. Top up with another 3 mugs of cold water. Add the grains. I usually use a glass vessel of 1-2 litre size for this- and once the grains have been added to the sugar water I cover the top with a cloth or tea towel and rubber band. If I have a spare lemon in the house, I might also squeeze in a half lemon at this point, but this isn’t necessary.
  2. Let this sit out at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Taste from time to time and when it’s at an agreeable level of less-sweetness and not too tart, I strain the grains from the liquid.

Repeat the 1st step with the grains- as they need this sugar water to ‘survive’.

3. Take the strained water kefir liquid and here’s the fun experimental part: either drink as is/ add lemon or flavouring, add to a smoothie or fruit juice if you don’t want carbonation- it’s ready to drink anytime!

or if like me, the fizz is what you’re looking for- bottle the water kefir liquid into a Grolsch beer bottle style clamp down lid bottle (or a plastic bottle for those who err on the side of caution- take note that this can create a dangerous amount of carbonation- be warned!) and sweeten with a cordial, syrup, fruit juice, fresh/dried/frozen fruit of choice, ginger, lemon juice, or a sweetened herbal tea. It’s best if you make it slightly sweeter than your preference at this stage as the extra sweetness will be what creates your carbonation. Clamp down the lid firmly, label your bottle with your flavourings and the date- and leave out another 12-24-48 hours at room temperature, then move to the refrigerator. Chill and enjoy!

The benefit of the plastic bottle, especially as you are learning, is that you can ascertain when the bottle has fully carbonated, as the fizz will expand the plastic bottle and it will become rock-hard. As soon as this happens, you can move to the fridge and enjoy when cool.

Be warned: If you don’t use a glass bottle with the rubber grommets/ gasket, there is a very real risk of the glass exploding.

Best if made and drank within days as the carbonation will keep building up as fermentation progresses.

My favourite flavour combinations:

ginger and lemon

elderflower cordial makes a nearly exact cheat version of elderflower champagne

elderberry or blackberry and ginger

fresh pineapple

fresh apple juice added 1/4 to 3/4 water kefir makes a lovely light effervescent apple fizz.

This website has another nice explanation about how and why to brew water kefir:

Water Kefir

Or as always, I highly recommend you visit Cultures for Health website and find a rich resource of information including their free ebooks which you can download.

http://culturesforhealth.com/media/docs/Water_Kefir_Ebook.pdf

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/water-kefir/how-to-flavor-water-kefir-video/

How to make the best homemade yogurt

Homemade yogurt recipe
After many failed homemade yogurt attempts I was delighted to finally discover this method.
Process:
  • Heat the milk to at least 180°F/82°C.
  • Heat milk slowly and gently, with frequent stirring to avoid scalding.
  • It is possible to omit this heating step and make raw yogurt, never heating the milk above 115°F/46°C. But raw yogurt will never be as thick as yogurt from milk that has been heat-treated.
  • Holding the milk at this high temperature, with constant stirring, will result in evaporation and concentration of milk, further contributing to a thicker end product.
  • After heating the milk, you must allow it to cool before adding the starter culture.
  • Once the temperature reaches 115°F/46°C, remove a cup of the milk into a cup or bowl, and stir in starter. I use 1 tablespoon of starter per quart/liter.
  • Thoroughly mix the starter with the cup of heated milk; once it is fully dissolved, mix it back into the full pot of heated milk. Then transfer cultured milk to preheated jars, seal, and place in the incubation chamber, leaving it to ferment undisturbed.
  • Incubated at 115°F/46°C, yogurt will coagulate within about three hours, but if left too long it can easily curdle. I prefer to ferment it a bit more slowly at a slightly lower temperature, four to eight hours at a more forgiving 110°F/43°C. Even longer fermentations can yield more tangy flavor and fuller digestion of lactose.
My Tips:
-My favourite live commercial starter is Mossfield’s organic yogurt. I buy this and then freeze it into smaller portions.
-Less is more! I use only 1 tablespoon of starter to every litre of milk. Many recipes recommend a cup or more. I’ve found better results and a thicker yogurt with less.
-I find a huge difference in flavour of the finished yogurt from using different commercial bio-live yogurts. Some are more tart, some more smooth, etc.
-Use the best quality milk you can find. Full fat is always best. Organic. It need not be raw milk though as you are effectively pasteurizing it before you inoculate it with the new bacteria.
I personally do a large batch at a time and fill a 5 litre cast iron Le Creuset heavy pot with the milk. It helps to hold the heat in, and doesn’t burn the milk on the bottom easily. I then put this into my food dehydrator to incubate, keeping the temperature at around 110°F/43°C for 6-8 hours.
If you don’t have a large food dehydrator, it isn’t necessary and you can use an insulated cooler, a thermos, an oven with just the pilot light on, etc. Many other options available online.