what i’m cooking … alison lambert

Dunedin’s Alison Lambert celebrates Otago’s best produce in her cooking, and this year has been experimenting with fermentation.

December has sprung up on me and so has the summer produce. Living in Dunedin and living solely off what is grown locally can be a test at times. We may have to wait a little longer than the rest of the country for produce due to our temperamental climate, but the wait is worth it! Sweet, juicy strawberries and raspberries are now filling our farmers’ market, along with the not-so-sweet but mouth-twisting rhubarb and gooseberries, which are a welcome addition to my recipes. I also love to forage and this year I have found it rewarding in so many ways. It gets me outdoors with the kids and it’s a great feeling to find food which is free, intensely flavoured and full of goodness.

This year I have become more conscious of what I’m consuming and what I’m providing for my family. I have always eaten local food but I needed to step up the nutrition and get the good bacteria going in our guts once again, which got me to experimenting with pickles and ferments. So many cultures throughout the world have some form of pickle and/or fermented food in their diet, and I was previously ignorant about their importance. These kinds of foods aid our digestion and help with gut flora, boosting our immune systems, to name but a few benefits.

As a result, I have been pickling and fermenting almost anything I can get my hands on this year. Some of my concoctions have been outstanding and rewarding on the body and the palate; others not quite so! But overall I have thoroughly enjoyed having jars full of seasonal pickles and ferments which now adorn the table at any time of the day or night. I would recommend branching out with the pickles and ferments as they are very easy and always a great way to jazz up a meal when in a hurry.

Pickled elderflower buds
For this recipe you want the buds of elderflowers, so make sure to pick them before they’ve burst into flower.

1 litre cider vinegar
30 elderflower buds (stalks as well), rinsed
Sterilised 1-litre jar with a seal

Bring the cider vinegar to the boil then remove from the heat. Put all the elderflower buds and stalks into the jar and pour the hot vinegar over them. Seal. You can eat these almost immediately, though I like to let mine pickle for at least a few days. The pickled buds are delicious served with fish, especially salmon. I use the elderflower-infused vinegar in hollandaise, mayonnaise and dressings.

www.tasteofmylife.org Recipe and Photography by Alison Lambert