Monday 25 May 2020

Dosi doh

Old Dog, not dead. I woke up the other night with a nagging sense of unfinished business about . . . Food Fermentation. Five+ years ago when The Institute floated the idea of a new BSc in Brewing and Distilling, I blagged my way onto the curriculum committee and insisted that the course needed a module in Food Fermentation. Without that the course was in danger of becoming boringly parochial and Hibernified. For most Irish people the only thing that's brewed is beer, Well I was little brewed off when the course launched 4 years ago in September 2017; because Food Ferm had been side-lined by the slightly boring course director to the final year and demoted to a 5 credit half-module. Then I got my fingers out to do the math and realised that I wouldn't be there for teaching in 4th year this September so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and, like, whatevs. My business with Food Fermentation is not so much unfinished as unstarted.

When I started work at The Institute 7½ years ago, I was given a timetable with rooms and courses and told to get on with it. There is an ugly untold story that might help explain why everyone was so unhelpful to the New Guy, but I was really too busy to think about that, let alone allow it to prey upon my equanimity. Come full circle, it seems churlish to have The Man dump "my" course on my replacement's desk and expect her to suck it up and teach. If I was going to start clagging material together, I'd better see what "we" had promised to deliver, so I went on-line to get the Learning Outcomes LOs. LOs are much beloved by bureaucrats because they can be counted and having them greatly facilitates assessment. But they are really inimical to spontaneity and because they are written [in stone] they effectively prevent the course from getting updated to current knowledge and practice. Anyway, Thar she blows, the LOs:
  • LO1 Summarize the relationships between the intestinal flora, the immune system, diet and health. Describe the range of Irish & global fermented food products and appraise their value in good health and the economy. Recognize the role of chemical preservation in the food industry: discuss cheap soy sauce, pickled onions, Chorleywood process. Evaluate the production of carcinogens as the downside of fermentation. 
  • LO2 Identify the principal Lactic Acid Bacteria used to transform grains and milk into digestible food such as sourdough bread. yoghurt, quark, koumiss and kefir. Appreciate the value of cheese as long-life milk differentiating among the bacteria and fungi that create it. 
  • LO3 Catalogue some foreign fermented vegetable products (sauerkraut and kimchi); dry fermented meat products (chorizo, pepperoni); filamentous fungi fermented beans (tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, miso). and assess their potential in the Irish market. 
  • LO4 Describe the production of acetic acid as secondary product from ethanol and its industrial and economic importance. Categorize organic acids (citrate, lactate and glutamate) as food industry products: and appraise their economic importance. 
  • LO5 Create a delicious fermented food product and eat it.
Hey, that's pretty cool, no? You could have a lot of fun on that course. I had just downloaded the list of LOs when Dau.II aka Cookie O'Corcaigh called for her daily check-in with the parents. She started talking about a really interesting episode Brad and Sohla Make Dosas of Lockdown Cooking on the Bon Appètit channel. Dosas are pancakes, not a million miles from Pakori, except that a) the batter is made from the seeds of Vigna mungo, black gram, urad dal  (उड़द की खेती) [on the stalk R] b) it is fermented. There is lots to like about this filmlet, not least because because Sohla El-Waylly, the expert, is really non-proscriptive in her recipes in an "are we going to measure or are we going to cook?" way. After soaking the beans and rice [like soya + barley for making soy-sauce], they are blended up into a batter and allowed to ferment for 8-20 hours. The bubbly brew is then spread crepe-thin on a hot ghee-smeared skillet and fried to crispy. Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum which I love, is a key magical booster to the process. But Urad isn't! Sohla proceeds to make dosas with an astonishing variety of pulse+grass ingredients: rice & urad; red lentils & oats! Each combo will need watching because some get frothy quick and others take their time; and it is, of course, temperature dependent. Every batch is different and every batch is good [like my sourdough]: well almost every batch - use yer nose!

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