I am a plant-based chef and food activist, and a member of the Chefs’ Alliance, which counts 19 cooks in South Africa. I am passionate about the point at which environmental sustainability, nutrition, and gastronomy meet, and I have actively contributed to this sphere over the past 10 years. By creating and sharing good, clean and fair food, I believe that we have the best chance to have a positive impact on the health of our communities, our food system, and our planet.
I try to apply cultural food conventions from my Swedish heritage when working with food: I embrace traditional methods of food preservation and fermentation, and connect to the land by using wild food flavors such as local seaweeds, edible indigenous plants, and wild herbs and greens, all of which contribute to a way of eating that is compassionate towards our own well-being and that of our planet. Discovering and listening to the echo of these food practices—fermenting, foraging, and eating wild greens—in traditional Southern African food culture has fostered in me a deep appreciation of their universal importance.
Having worked as a chef in Cape Town, and within the non-profit sector, supporting environmental and agroecological projects and programs, I currently run food workshops on plant-based cooking, fermentation, and guiding women in cycle-specific nutrition. I consult with restaurants and the hospitality industry and run enviro-edu-dining experiences. Alongside co-creator Daniela Puccini, I currently head up gather, a social enterprise advocating for environmental sustainability through food experiences, activities, and education.
Carissa Berry Kraut with Wild Rosemary and Dill Seeds
This is a simple recipe for a flavorful lacto-fermentation, and a blending of my Swedish roots with indigenous ingredients from my adopted home in Cape Town. This recipe is inspired by the sweet-sour flavors of the traditional Scandinavian cabbage and apple salad, with the addition of carissa berry (Carissa macrocarpa), a fruit indigenous to South Africa, also known as Natal plum.
South African wild rosemary, or kapokbos, is added for its aromatic and therapeutic properties and is complemented with dill seed and wild-harvested laver (wild Atlantic nori) from the Western Cape’s edible coastline. The combination of these raw plants and salt allow the lacto-fermentation process to occur. Lacto-fermentation is a powerful tool for unlocking unique nutrient complexes within plants and grains. A spoonful a day helps to feed your microbiota with healthy, live microorganisms that are highly beneficial for overall health. The chemical-free apples in this recipe feel like something of an endangered ingredient in South Africa, as we have so few organic or chemical-free fruit farms remaining in the country.
- 1 large head of cabbage, white or red
- 1 apple, grated
- 1 beetroot, ½ thinly sliced, ½ grated
- 1 cup fully ripened carissa berries, quartered (if you are unable to source carissa berry, try adding quince or an additional apple)
- 1 sprig of wild rosemary (alternative: experiment with other flavorings, such as lemon zest, juniper berry, or clove.)
- 2-3 strips of laver (alternative: dried nori)
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- Baleni Salt
- 1-litre glass jar (sterilized)
- First, sterilize your fermentation jar and clean everything very well.
- Cut the cabbage in half and slice each half crosswise into very thin strips. Place in a large bowl or container.
- Weigh your cabbage to determine 2% of its total weight—this will be your salt quantity. Combine the salt with the cabbage.
- With very clean hands, begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first it might not seem like enough salt, but gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp. This will take 5-10 minutes of active massaging. At this point, you can set the cabbage aside and prepare the additional ingredients.
- Grate the apple, slice and grate the beetroot, and quarter the carissa berry. De-stem the rosemary.
- The cabbage should now be soft and covered by the salt brine solution released during massaging. If not, massage further. When ready, add the beetroot, apple, carissa berry, rosemary, laver, and dill seed and mix well. Transfer the cabbage to your sterilized jar or fermenting vessel and pack tightly; there should be a few centimeters of liquid above the top layer of cabbage.
- Lightly screw the lid onto your fermenting jar and place in a cool, dark place to ferment. For the first 24 hours of fermentation, you will want to press the cabbage down lightly (with very clean, soap free hands) so that it sits below the liquid.
- Ferment your cabbage for 7-30 days. After 1 week you can begin to taste your kraut and keep fermenting it until it is crunchy and sour enough for your liking! The longer the fermentation period, the more developed the community of probiotic enzymes in your kraut will be!