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Gastrono-me’s Gemma Simmonite hails the indomitable spirit of people and brings some festive cheer to the table with her HoHo Hotdog Sproutkraut




Somehow, amongst lockdowns and terrible tiers we suddenly find ourselves well and truly into Christmas. Lights have sprung up around us without the usual fanfare, shop doors have only just been allowed to reopen to us once more. In fact, everything that we normally take for granted in the traditional run up to Christmas was well and truly taken away – almost as if we were put on November’s naughty step. And yet the human spirit has once again proved indestructible despite all these closures and segregations. I’m constantly amazed at people’s tenacity.

I watch in wonder as I walk around town as businesses adapt and morph into new shapes. It almost seems as if their very survival has made them shed their old skin and, in its place, sprung new vibrant hues. Such is the human spirit; such is survival I guess.

I can remember as incredibly young parents the dread of a ‘poor’ Christmas. We’d had the very worst happen to us, a devastating redundancy and the very real fear of not surviving financially. But somehow it kicks in, that thing that stops you from sinking – we did whatever it took to keep breathing, however hard, and we were blessed to have had the help from the greatest of friends and family. Some are sadly not so lucky. But it was that devastating blow that led us to never be at the mercy of someone else again. It gave us the prod to follow dreams and to strike out on our own. Many, many years later here we are. We have the same amount of fears, probably more, but at least we are able to deal with them in our own way. We can adapt and steady our own ship, even in the maelstrom of a worldwide pandemic.

Sproutkraut (43474481)
Sproutkraut (43474481)

Like everyone, we’ve watched this disease rip through the world leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. It’s separated families at their time of most need and left people in financial ruin. But in the midst of it, there has been an indomitable almost wartime spirit – one of a ‘no one gets left behind’ mentality.

Marcus Rashford, truly an incredible young man, lit up October with his dogged determination to let no child go hungry. He continues to fight for things that should no longer be issues in 2020, in a civilised society. It’s people like him that make the difference. He inspires people, and that creates a humanity ripple that changes things for good. We need more of that, more people saying ‘damn it, that’s just not good enough’.

It may feel hard, especially when times are hard, to locate our altruistic bone. When we’re already struggling ourselves, is there anything really left for anyone else? But it doesn’t have to be a monetary kindness, even a commitment kindness, just good old kindness. It can be as simple as saying something nice to a shopkeeper about the Christmas display that they probably didn’t feel like putting up this year. It could simply be saying a special thank you to a young waitress who was nervous to get things right at your dinner. It could even be helping someone in the supermarket to source something when they look confused and lost.

Covid has taken a lot away but it is powerless against kindness.

We gathered at the restaurant before reopening once again, and the overwhelming feeling amongst us all was “we just want to get back to normal”. We of course wonder what our December will be like without the eponymous Christmas Fayre and the slew of parties that we’ve gotten used to hosting, and at one point we even felt ‘would it actually be worth creating any festive menus this year?’ But I eventually kicked my inner Grinch in the shin and realised that customers need every single bit of help keeping their spirit at the moment. This is ESPECIALLY needed this year.

We never do traditional at Gastrono-me, and Christmas isn’t any different. Over the past years we’ve devised much craziness – ultimate Christmas sandwiches and wraps where we’ve crammed an entire roast between bread, pimped burgers and cocktails with every bit of festivity imaginable, and I’m pleased to say that this year, despite being like no other, is no exception, which is why I’m going to show you how I created our Sproutkraut that fills our HoHo Hotdog. . . see not easy to be blue when uttering those titles is it?

I truly hope you enjoy your festivities; I hope that you find the thing that sees you through this year, despite the challenges that this Christmas brings, and may I wish you, albeit prematurely, a very merry Christmas and I look forward to writing to you again in January 2021.

SPROUTKRAUT RECIPE

I created this supremely named kraut as I mentioned to be crammed into our Ho Ho Hotdog – it’s a vegan hotdog, but could easily be any type of dog. For this one we cram a super soft locally-made bun with some perfectly quirky fillings – we pile it high with crunchy golden tater tots, a Mexican inspired crema, American cheese and normally a really good house-made sauerkraut. But this kraut made from sprouts makes a fresh and perfectly festive addition. I completely love the zing that a kraut or kimchi brings to any dog, sandwich or burger. This would be especially delicious as an addition to some leftover cold cuts, but get making it quick as it needs a little time to reach its full funky fabulousness.

Makes 1 x 945ml jar

Ingredients:

1kg Brussels sprouts finely shredded

28g table salt

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

½ teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon of black peppercorns

Method:

Have ready a fully sterilised jar, it must have a tight-fitting lid.

In a large mixing bowl, massage the leaves with the salt until they begin to wilt and give off their juices, this will take about 10 minutes, a good way to get rid of pre-Christmas stress.

Place the sprouts and their juices, and the rest of the ingredients into the jar.

Make sure to weigh the sprouts down fully, then after a couple of days the sprouts will have produced enough juices to cover themselves completely.

Then it’s a waiting game. Let the jar sit at room temperature for at least 10 days to allow the sprouts to ferment. Keep an eye on the pressure – bubbles are completely normal, in fact that just shows the magic is happening. If you have a very tight-fitting lid though, you may need to release the pressure every now and then.

Once opened, keep the sproutkraut in the fridge, it should keep for months – but be warned the flavours will get stronger, but I say embrace the funk and I promise it will bring all your festive leftovers to life.

Gemma is executive chef and co-creator of Gastrono-me, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Read Gemma’s blog at gemwithrelish.com

See gastrono-me.co.uk

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