Recipes from Ferment


marlys toasted macadamia and banana pancakes

These pancakes are a variation on a recipe I cook for Marly, for whom I am a private chef. They are fabulous and not difficult to make, though as they contain no grain or dairy products to bind them, they require a slightly different cooking technique than regular pancakes. Try them with a spoonful of cultured apricot spread (p. 154) and a generous drizzle of cashew and citrus amazake cream (p. 44). The toasted nut butter has one ingredient and can be used in any way you might use any other nut butter.

Makes 10–12 pancakes 
Ready in approximately 1 hour 10 minutes

Toasted macadamia nut butter
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) macadamia nuts

Macadamia and banana pancakes
4 eggs
120 g (41⁄4 oz/1⁄2 cup) toasted macadamia nut butter (see above)
2 large or 3 small ripe bananas
125 ml (4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) water
pinch sea salt
pinch ground cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
ghee or macadamia oil, for frying

Deactivate by toasting Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F) and place the macadamia nuts on a baking tray. Place in the oven and toast for 20–30 minutes, or until they are an even golden brown. Cool to room temperature then add to a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Portion out the amount you’ll need for the pancakes and transfer the remaining nut butter to a spotlessly clean airtight glass jar. This will keep in the fridge for a month or more.

Combine all of the pancake ingredients in a blender or food processor, blitzing well until the mixture increases slightly in volume and becomes lighter.

Preheat the grill (broiler) to medium and set up a wire rack with a clean tea towel (dish towel) draped over it.

Heat a 14 cm (5½ in) round cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. (The pan will be transferred to the grill so use one with an ovenproof handle.) When the pan is hot wipe it with paper towel and a little ghee then lift it off the heat slightly and pour in enough of the pancake batter to cover the pan in an even 3 mm (1⁄8 in) layer, tilting the pan to spread the mixture out evenly. Cook over medium heat until it is golden brown underneath and you can see the edges of the pancake lifting slightly.

Transfer the pan to the grill and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the top is dried but not browned. Return the pan to the stovetop and, using a palette knife, carefully flip the pancake over.

Cook for 2 minutes to brown, then transfer the pancake to the cooling rack and cover with another tea towel. Wipe the pan out with paper towel and add a little more ghee, and repeat until the mixture is finished.

Serve the pancakes warm or cold, with a selection of toppings if you like. Once cooked, these pancakes keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for 3–4 days and can be gently reheated in a hot pan.

Download printable recipe (PDF)


Aran breac speckled tea loaf

Also known as barmbrack. ‘Barm’ comes from the Celtic word for fermented yeast and brack describes the light caught by gemstones. This is a delightful addition to the breakfast or afternoon tea table. Not exactly a bread and not quite a cake but moreish and delectable all the same. Traditionally, this loaf is served at Halloween and hidden inside are small trinkets – a ring, a coin, a small piece of cloth, a pea, a thimble or a button. Respectively, these are symbols for an imminent suitor, the arrival of money, the loss of money, abundance, a woman and a man never to marry. Barm is made from the sourdough starter (p. 172) and occasionally fed with dark ale or stout. It has a dark colour and a complex, yeasty flavour. The barm can be maintained as you would a rye starter and can be used as a leaven.
serves 8–10 Ready in 4–6 hours

For the barm (makes 380 g)
100 g (31⁄2 oz) lees (sediment) froma naturally alive, brewed in the bottle, dark ale or stout
100 g (31⁄2 oz) active rye sourdough starter (page 172)
80 g (23⁄4 oz) wholemeal spelt flour
100 g (31⁄2 oz) water

For the loaf
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) brewed strong black tea (I like a mix of Keemun, Yunnan and a small pinch of Russian Caravan leaves)
70 g (21⁄2 oz) maple syrup, plus 1 tablespoon for the glaze
40 g (11⁄2 oz) barley malt or molasses
zest of 1 lemon, plus 60 g (2 oz/1⁄4 cup) juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
280 g (10 oz/2 cups) currants
3 teaspoons caraway seeds
250 g (9 oz/1 cup) float-tested barm, or leaven (see above)
440 g (151⁄2 oz) unbleached white spelt flour mixed with 110 g (4 oz) wholemeal spelt
100 g (31⁄2 oz) ghee or unsalted butter, melted

Make the barm by combining the ingredients in a bowl until no dry spots remain. Cover loosely with a tea towel (dish towel) and leave at room temperature for 6–10 hours, or until it is vibrantly bubbling and alive. Do the float test (see page 173) and use the barm for this recipe, or maintain and feed as you would your starter (see page 171) adding beer lees in place of water, if and when you have them.

To make the loaf, dissolve the maple syrup and barley malt in the tea. Let cool completely. Add the lemon zest and juice, sea salt, currants and caraway seeds. Check the mix is no warmer than body temperature. Add your active barm or leaven and stir, then tip in your flour. Mix well – this is a sticky mixture so you may prefer to use a spoon rather than your hands. Mix in the ghee or butter until the dough is smooth but there is no need to knead.

Grease and line a 20 cm (8 in) round cake tin with buttered baking paper. Scrape the dough into the prepared tin and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise at room temperature for 3–5 hours (longer in very cold weather), or until the dough has doubled to completely fill the space in the tin.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 40–50 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately brush the top with the extra maple syrup. Wait 5 minutes before carefully removing the loaf from the tin and transferring it to a wire rack to cool. This is best cut once cooled completely. Serve with butter or cultured butter (p. 138).

making rye starter from scratch
It takes two to three weeks of daily care to nurture flour and water into vibrant activity, but once you have done this, your starter could become a part of your legacy. I made mine in a class with Australia’s master baker John Downes in 1986 and I gift it freely and have introduced it to numerous other bakers’ starters since. If you forget to feed the mix for a day or two the sourness will greatly increase. This is because you are favouring lactobacilli at the expense of yeasts.

Makes 125 g (41/2 oz) Ready in 14–21 days
75 g (23⁄4 oz) water
50 g (13⁄4 oz) biodynamic or organic wholemeal rye flour

In a spotlessly clean, large non-reactive ceramic or glass bowl, combine the water and flour, and whisk to a smooth batter. Notice how the mix smells.

Cover with a clean tea towel (dish towel) or muslin (cheesecloth) and leave to stand at room temperature, ideally 23–28°C (73–82°F), for 24 hours.

The next day, stir, smell and re-cover.

Each day, for the next 10–14 days, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the mixture (see note page 171). Sniff the mixture and taste – it should start to smell and taste slightly sour and eventually quite fruity and effervescent as it becomes alive with yeast activity. Put the reserved tablespoon of starter in a clean bowl and feed the starter by adding 75 g (2½ oz) water and 50 g (1¾ oz) biodynamic or organic rye flour. Mix together well, making sure the flour is well incorporated. Cover and leave for 6–10 hours.

Repeat the process once or twice a day, for 5–7 more days, or until the mix has a fruity ‘yeasty’ smell and it is filled with lots of large gas bubbles. Put in a glass jar (only ever half fill the jar), cover with a clean cloth or muslin and secure.

After feeding the starter, note the level in the jar. At the next feeding, you should see a ‘tide mark’ showing that the starter rose and then fell. The starter is ready to use when it reliably doubles in volume over a 6–10 hour period at room temperature.

When ready, your active starter can be used as it is or to create a larger volume of active ‘leaven’ (see opposite page).

If you’re not baking regularly, keep your starter in a small, clean glass jar with a lid on in the fridge. A day or two before using your starter, take it out of the fridge and feed it at 6-hourly intervals until vibrant and active. A cold sleepy starter that has not been used in over a week may need three or four feeds to return to a suitable activity level to leaven your recipes.

Download printable recipe (PDF)


maple fennel and peppercorn sirloin

This is a relatively quick to make cured beef rather than a means to preserve it long term. Here, the seasoned salt and sugar mixture prevents the meat from oxidising while drawing out some moisture and adding flavour. The result is intensely delicious, semi-dried tender beef. The longer the beef is left to cure, the stronger the flavour and drier the texture. It is important to use the best-quality grass-fed sirloin beef you can buy or find for this recipe. You might slice this thinly to serve raw or thickly to sear and serve as steaks. If serving raw, drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil and serve with a crisp green salad, brined beetroot with orange and juniper (p. 102) or finely sliced kumquat, cassia and bay (p. 115).

Serves 8–12 sliced thinly or 6 as steaks Ready in 24–72 hours

1 x 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) pasture-raised organic beef sirloin

For the cure
1½ tablespoons mixed peppercorns, lightly crushed
240 g (8½ oz) coarse sea salt
120 g (4¼ oz) maple sugar or light brown muscovado sugar
1½ tablespoons fennel seeds
2 chillies, to taste (optional)

Take a very clean non-reactive container in which to cure the meat – a small enamel baking tray works nicely.

Trim the meat of any obvious sinew and most, but not all, of the fat capping. Leave the cap on if you will be searing and serving as steaks.

Combine all the cure ingredients together in a bowl.

cure Sprinkle an even layer of the cure mixture over the base of the container or tray and lay the beef on top, then cover with the remaining mixture and rub the cure into the beef, making sure to get it into all the crevices.

Cover the beef with a sheet of baking paper and weigh down using a small plate with additional weight on top such as a sealed jar filled with water. Place the weighted container in the fridge for 24–72 hours, turning the beef every 6 hours or so. The beef will firm up as it cures and releases liquid.

Remove the beef from the cure, brush off and discard as much of the cure as possible. Slice into wafer-thin pieces and eat as is or cut into thick slices ready to sear in a hot frying pan. Be sure to sear the fat cap well too, and don’t overcook the steaks.

Download printable recipe (PDF)