Clever guts: the probiotics

This month’s “Clever Guts” diet involves not only avoiding particular foods, but also going out of your way to consume particular foods. These are prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are food which contain all sorts of tasty bacteria which can allegedly help restock your gut flora and fauna.

Some of these foods I was already quite familiar with – live yoghurt, for example. Others have been something of an experiment.


I’ve had shop-bought sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) a few times and have had it in Germany too, where I think it’s probably been more fresh. However I can’t quite remember the taste of the German stuff, and apparently the shop-bought stuff in jars can often be pasturised. As the aim is to eat the bacteria, killing the bacteria prior to eating by pasturising makes the shop-bought stuff no good.

I read tens of recipes for Sauerkraut before starting, then (in my usual cavalier kitchen style) made a few recipes up rather than follow any one recipe.  Basically it’s easy isn’t it? Smash up some cabbage with some salt, add some spices, put it in a jar weighting it down so that the cabbage is underneath the salty cabbage juice, and wait for it to ferment for 1-2 weeks (or more).

The main hiccup I had with this process is that I didn’t actually end up with much salty cabbage juice. With the red cabbage, fennel and caraway (below right) there was enough to submerge the cabbage. With the white cabbage, ajwain and turmeric (below left) there wasn’t so much juice.


I’ve eaten quite a lot of the red one – it’s tasty, better than shop bought sauerkraut, and has a pleasant fennel / caraway tang. The yellow one is still fermenting. It smells pretty bad. I may give up on it soon. My suspicion is I used insufficient salt.

Edit: after skimming off the top layer of the yellow one and leaving it a little longer, I can confirm that it not only worked but is also pretty damn tasty. Fermentation eh? Easy peasy.


Kimchi is like a spicy-chilli-supersauerkraut from Korea, and that’s another thing that was recommended by the diet book. I’ve had it before, in Korean restaurants. There aren’t any Korean restaurants near here though, and there aren’t any asian grocery stores either. So I thought I wasn’t going to get to try kimchi this time, until I found some in Treehouse (a superb health food shop & cafe).


It was tasty. Very tasty. To my mind it could have taken more chilli, but that’s quite often  my response to food. When I went back for more, though, they were sold out. I may have to investigate creating my own; apparently it’s challenging but not impossible.


Another probiotic I tried this month was Kefir. It’s a fermented milk/yoghurt drink, but I think it contains more types of bacteria than most live yoghurt. It’s really rather nice – a kind of fizzy tasting savoury yoghurt drink. Maybe that’s not selling it to you… I liked it a lot though.  In Tesco they have big bottles, in the Polish food fridge. I’ve taken to popping in to Tesco even though I usually shop elsewhere, just to pick this up.


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