My nasturtiums always go a bit crazy over summer, self-seeding everywhere and covering my terraces in a bright green and orange blanket. I use the flower petals in salad and pickle the seed pods but their beautiful green leaves are often missed, and they too are peppery and delicious and so good for you! They are nature’s antibiotic, packed full of vitamin C so it’s only fitting I write up a nasturtium recipe right before winter.
Nasturtiums are frost tender and we have been having the odd frost in the mornings so the leaves are starting to look bedraggled and worn. Harvest them now before it’s too late!
Today’s recipe is my take on Kimchi, the spicy fermented vegetable dish that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. Traditionally it uses napa cabbage and Korean radish, similar to daikon and it’s mixed with gochugara chilli pepper, garlic, ginger and fish sauce or shrimp paste.
There are over 200 kinds of known kimchi as the ingredients change depending on the region, or what’s in season. I’m going to add to that number with this version. I barely had any of the traditional ingredients, except for spring onions, garlic, ginger and fish sauce but I had enough substitutes to make something that tastes delicious and resembles Kimchi.
The nasturtiums have a radish-like, peppery taste so this made a great substitute for the Korean radish, taste-wise. Obviously, nasturtium leaves don’t have the crunchy texture that radish does so for that I added in a whole lot of other greens from the garden including some sliced silverbeet, with the crunchy white stalk, some diced turnip and a bok choy cabbage. Because the flavour mainly comes from the fish sauce, chilli, garlic and ginger, the vegetables you choose to add can be up to you!
Fish sauce adds amazing flavour but if you are vegan or vegetarian, you can substitute the fish sauce for some chopped up nori (seaweed).
Serrano chilli substituted the traditional gochugaru chilli. Unfortunately, as serrano chilii are much spicer, this did not have the brilliant red colour a gochugaru paste has as I used a whole lot less, and my ‘paste’ was more of a chunky sauce.
Kimchi is made through ‘Lacto Fermentation’ which is when vegetables are fermented in a salty brine and beneficial bacteria called Lactobacillus organisms convert the sugars and lactose in the vegetables into lactic acid. This acid stops bad bacteria growing in the fermented food. This process creates heaps of beneficial probiotics and enzymes which are vital for a healthy gut.
When you jar your vegetables, they need to stay submerged in the brine. You can use an outer leaf of your cabbage, silverbeet or whatever you are using to help hold the vegetables down in the brine.
Once in the jar, put a lid on it and leave it for 24 hours. Unless you have a special fermenting valve which allows gas to escape, you’ll need to ‘burp’ your jar after the 24 hours. This means, letting the natural gases that have started building up, out. If you miss this step your jar can explode. Then leave your kimchi to ferment in a cupboard for 2-5 more days, burping and tasting it daily until it’s to your liking. Then store in the fridge for up to a month.
- 2 cups chopped nasturtium leaves
- 4 cups chopped leafy vegetables with stalks (silverbeet, bok choy, pak choy, cabbage, radishes, turnips...)
- 3 Spring Onions
- 3 tablespoons rock salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2cm fresh ginger
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2-3 red chilli (depending on taste)
- Chop up all your nasturtium leaves and vegetables into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Sprinkle over the salt and massage it into the vegetables using your hands. Cover the vegetables with a bowl or plate to weight it down and let it sit for two hours. This will release the water from the vegetables.
- After two hours, drain the water and rinse the vegetables really well, three times.
- In a blender, add the sugar, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and chili and blitz together to make a paste.
- Massage into the rinsed vegetables.
- Pack the vegetables into a clean jar and press down hard. There should be enough brine left in the vegetables, that when squished into the jar it will submerge the vegetables. Add some water if there is not enough brine.
- Place an outter cabbage leaf or silverbeet leaf on top of the vegetables to help keep them submerged under the brine.
- Seal the jar and store in cupboard for 24 hours.
- Burp the jar after 24 hours buy releasing the lid and allowing the gases to escape.
- Re seal and store for 2-5 days more. Taste daily until it is up to your liking.
- Store in the fridge for up to a month.