Brought together by a shared love of travel and cuisine, chefs Pat Bingley and Glyn Gordon launched their fermented foods brand, Eaten Alive, in 2016. Now offering a colourful range of kimchis, sauerkrauts and hot sauces, we sat down with Glyn, the Head of Product, to find out why fermentation has found new popularity among foodies.
1. When were the first fermented foods made?
It’s impossible to say – the first recorded fermented foods are the bread and beer made in the Fertile Crescent (an area of today’s Middle East) around 5,000 BC.
2. Are there any particular cultures that we can learn a lot from about fermentation?
There are too many to mention; fermentation is what creates cheese, beer, bread, charcuterie and so many other much-loved foods. There’s something particularly inspiring about Japanese fermentation practices, which turn a single grain variety into a huge number of products – it’s hard to believe that sake, soy sauce, mirin, miso and so many other staples all start by simply fermenting rice and rice dreg protein.
3. What are the health benefits of eating fermented foods?
Eating fermented foods can help give your body a dose of healthy probiotics – live micro-organisms that aid healthy digestion. Savoury flavours within foods like kimchi may also help to satisfy the appetite, which means you could be less likely to overeat.
4. How regularly do you need to eat these foods to see the benefits?
These things tend to be cumulative (a little every day is better than a huge dose once a week). Because products like ours are made from fresh produce, you’re not just consuming the probiotic lactic acid bacteria, but lots of raw vegetables, too. Kimchi, for example, also gives you fibre, along with a range of nutrients and minerals.
5. Where do you find inspiration to develop new recipes and flavours?
For me it all starts with the raw ingredients, so I guess you could say the produce market. As well as our core range of 10 or so products, I generally have another 30 experimental batches on the go. Sometimes I’ll wait months to discover that something is horrible or, perhaps more frustratingly, that something I’ve fermented for over a year is amazing, but it will take a whole year to make another batch! The experimentation is a huge part of what I love about these foods and processes.
6. What was the first fermented product you made?
As a business, it was our Classic Spicy Kimchi (which is still our best-seller). For me personally, it was baking bread with my mother when I was a child. She’s an incredible cook; when I visit my family in Israel we have a great time preserving the lemons and chillies from her garden.
7. What made you take the plunge and pursue fermentation as a business?
Both Pat and I have been fascinated by fermentation for a long time, but we actually started with the aim of opening a fermentation-focused restaurant. The products kind of took over and Eaten Alive was born, though we’ll be realising some of our original restaurant plans when we open our unit up for public tastings, starting in October.
8. Why do you think fermented foods have found new popularity with foodies?
There are a lot of people who are – for many reasons – increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is made. It’s hugely encouraging to see even a small part of the population having a go at making sourdough or kombucha or kimchi.
9. Are there any new fermented food trends that we can expect to see emerging in the next year?
Kombucha will become increasingly mainstream in the UK, though we’re more excited to see that koji, the fermented grain base that goes into mirin, sake, soy sauce and miso, has started appearing on UK restaurant menus this year. Much like British charcuterie began by copying continental recipes before finding its own style, I think we’ll see some British takes on Japanese staples. We recently made a natto miso (a sweet-salty style of miso often used as a condiment) using Hodmedod’s Lancashire brown peas and pearl barley.
10. Which product from the Eaten Alive range are you most excited about?
A couple of koji-based pastes; a hot, savoury chilli soy bean paste, similar to a Korean gochujang, and a koji-based fermented jerk paste. We’ve been supplying a handful of restaurants with these over summer and are excited to launch the retail versions next year.
Eaten Alive will be opening up their fermentation unit for monthly public tastings in early November. Keep up-to-date with their plans and check out their full range at eatenalive.co.uk.