The Contented Vegan Peg's Monthly Newsletter
Always Fermenting

by Peggy Brusseau

A very warm welcome from London!

This past month has brought luminous evenings, great for walks in the park, as well as changeable weather including rain, golden sunshine, snow and hail – sometimes all in one day! I love that: such dramatic weather seems to express the mood of the world at the moment.

Sarah read the April Newsletter and asked, ‘Do I need to add plant milk to a soup if I want to create a thick, creamy texture?’

The answer is ‘No!’ if you are making soups such as Leek & Potato Soup or White Bean Soup. For these, you saute the vegetable ingredients then add the broth and puree them together to create that luscious texture. You can keep a few beans or vegetable chunks to one side and add them back to the pot if you wish, or simply garnish the soup with fresh herbs or finely cut, colourful veg.

The answer is ‘Yes!’ if you want to make, for example, Cream of Mushroom Soup. This type of soup is based on a White Sauce, which is made with a roux – a cooked flour and oil paste that will create a creamy texture as the plant milk is slowly added. Another tip to make this type of soup a success is to include spices, such as Chinese Five-spice and black pepper, whose flavours are ‘carried’ easily by the creamy broth. Saute the spices with the mushrooms, then add the roux and gradually the milk. Lighter flavours such as fresh herbs can be added toward the end of cooking.

Home-made tempeh sandwich

Always Fermenting...

Lately, I have been experimenting with fermented foods and focussing on two in particular: tempeh (see my picture above) and water kefir. The tempeh came first. I have always enjoyed it immensely and have been a frequent customer of the local supplier, from whom I bought it frozen. However, I love preparing food ‘from scratch’ and am always eager to investigate a new food. Someone dear to me noticed!

Home-made Tempeh

I was gifted a tempeh starter kit that included cracked organic soya beans and the starter culture (Rhizopus oligosporus) as well as some instructions and an email address in case I got into trouble. Fortunately, I didn’t – at least, not with that first batch! I’ve made nearly twenty batches to date and, though a couple of them have failed, the great majority have succeeded. The attempts that didn’t work probably failed because I tried to combine kidney beans and butter beans. Both are large beans and, yes, I did use that email address! I was given brilliant advice, which I will put into practice in a week or two, when I try that combination again.

For the other batches I used soybeans, black-eyed beans (cowpeas) or soy mixed with turtle beans. These have all been successful and easy to prepare. I encourage you to try making tempeh yourself. After you have gone through the process once, you will see that each step is very simple and that – rather like bread-making – it uses small amounts of your time spread out over a day or two. It is pleasing to ‘check up’ on how your batch is doing; to notice the changes and then to enjoy the ultimate in fresh tempeh.

I usually slice and lightly saute the finished tempeh. Then I marinate or roast it and sometimes I make it into a TLT: Tempeh, Lettuce & Tomato sandwich. Tempeh is a versatile food to cook with; it’s high in protein and wonderfully easy to digest. I am having great fun discovering ways to include it in a meal. My starter kit was from They are wonderful!

Water Kefir

While making tempeh requires a little bit of organized space, water kefir is happy in a large jar on a warm shelf. Water kefir is a lemon-yellow beverage, slightly effervescent and with a tangy, sweet-sour flavour a little like home-made ginger beer. It is refreshing and, in my opinion, irresistible.

Water kefir is thought to produce an abundance of probiotics that offer significant health benefits. While there is a great deal of research available on probiotics and dairy kefir, there is little research on the probiotic profile of water kefir. I will find what I can and hope to share this at a later date.

The kefir culture is a mixture of yeasts and benign bacteria that cluster together into what are called kefir ‘grains’ or ‘tibicos.’ You can buy kefir grains online for either dairy or water kefir. (I got mine from ) While dairy kefir has a yogurt-like texture, water kefir is a beverage. Its grains can be added to coconut water or pure water. When you place them in a jar with water, dried fruit and fruit sugar, the grains convert the sugars and, in the process, produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide, the distinctive flavour and perhaps the probiotics of kefir.

It’s important to keep the process going, because the kefir grains use up the nutrients you provide via the fruit and sugar. I make a new batch twice a week. It takes only a few minutes and the drink is delicious. I can play with many variations to this basic process: such as fit an airlock into the lid of the jar; use dried figs or raisins instead of apricots; add fresh herbs to the new batch in the bottle.

Fermentation uses microorganisms such as yeasts, moulds and bacteria to alter or transform a food. I know this doesn’t sound very appealing! However, think about coffee, tea, bread or beer… all fermented foods that are widely appreciated. The fermentation process creates, or makes available to us, new nutrients, flavours, textures and aromas. Amazingly, the resulting food is often more easily digested, too.

I have been ‘won over’ and realize that I am fascinated by fermentation. In fact, I might brave up and try my hand at natto…

I usually post a food / technique picture or two on Instagram most days, so if you feel like following me there - and maybe chatting - please do.  Links are below.

See you next month!

Peggy  xx

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Peggy Brusseau
The Contented Vegan