Make your own ke­fir

Stanthorpe Border Post - - FINDA - ED HALMAGYI fast-ed.com.au

THERE’S a mon­ster in my fridge. It’s bright white, about the size of my palm, and rip­ples in odd di­rec­tions like a mu­tant cau­li­flower.

Oh, and it smells. Not bad, but strong and vine­gary.

This is my dear lit­tle scoby.

Scoby is bliss­fully un­aware of how un­usual he seems, be­cause scoby is too busy do­ing his im­por­tant work, trans­form­ing fresh milk into de­li­cious and healthy ke­fir.

You see, scoby is an acro­nym, for “sym­bi­otic cul­ture of bac­te­ria and yeast”. It’s the liv­ing ac­tive driving el­e­ment that en­ables the fer­men­ta­tion of dairy into one of the most un­usual and health­ful foods — ke­fir.

You can get your own at most health food stores, and mak­ing ke­fir is just about the sim­plest process imag­in­able.

You com­bine the scoby (also re­ferred to some­times as “grains”) with fresh milk in a glass con­tainer leav­ing a rea­son­able amount of air on top, then fit the lid. Leave on the bench for 24 hours, then strain through a plas­tic sieve. The scoby can be kept in the fridge for up to three months to make your next batch, while the re­sult­ing liq­uid is your ke­fir.

Tart, slightly bub­bly, and in­tensely flavour­some, ke­fir is prized through­out Cen­tral Asia, East­ern Europe and the Mid­dle East as a drink, a break­fast food, and as an in­gre­di­ent in pas­try and bread mak­ing.

Used in place of but­ter or oil, it im­parts a del­i­cacy to your baked goods with­out the need for high oil lev­els.

OSSETIAN CHEESE AND SPINACH PIES serves / 4 In­gre­di­ents

1½ cups bak­ers flour

1 cup ke­fir

1 tsp in­stant dried yeast

½ tsp fine salt

2 tbsp ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil

1 tbsp un­salted but­ter

6 green shal­lots, finely chopped 8 cloves gar­lic, minced

1 bunch sil­ver­beet, chopped

Sea salt flakes and freshly-ground black pep­per

1 cup feta, crum­bled

½ bunch dill, finely chopped

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1. Pre­heat oven to 180C. Com­bine bak­ers flour, ke­fir, yeast and fine salt in the bowl of an elec­tric mixer and beat with the dough hook for 5 min­utes, un­til very smooth. Cover with cling film and set aside for 1 hour, un­til dou­bled in size.

2. Heat the oil and but­ter in a large fry­ing pan and fry the shal­lots and gar­lic for 5 min­utes, then mix in the sil­ver­beet and cook un­til wilted. Transfer to a colan­der and set aside to cool. Sea­son with salt and pep­per, then mix in the feta, dill, zest and juice.

3. Di­vide the dough in two, roll each out to a 40cm disc, then place the sil­ver­beet mix­ture in the cen­tres. Fold the doughs over to en­close, then twist to seal. Flip over, then flat­ten to make 20cm squares. Place on a lined bak­ing sheet, make small in­ci­sions in the cen­tre. Stand for 10 min­utes. Bake for 25-30 min­utes, un­til golden and crisp.

KE­FIR IS PRIZED AS A DRINK, A BREAK­FAST FOOD, AND AS AN IN­GRE­DI­ENT IN PAS­TRY AND BREAD MAK­ING.

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