Make your own kefir
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.