We chat to Connal Finlay, the man behind the Ferment! Festival before the big weekend!
Tell us a bit about yourself – what sums up Connal?
Oh golly gosh! Most would describe me as a maniac trying to take on things no one else would dare too that or ‘too busy’. It certainly takes a lot of time and bravery to tackle some of the projects I have got going on but I am passionate and believe in being the greater fool – someone who can succeed where others have failed (or not bothered to attempt). I like to say that I am a passionate person with a love for food, wine, theatre, education and people!
What lead you to creating Ferment Festival?
After The World of Wine Festival last year, I had the courage instilled in me to take on a subject close to my heart as an educator, foodie and scientist. Fermentation is behind the majority of the best foods and drinks in the world and it is also vital to our human biological system. I am putting this on to show people that fermentation is more than just kombucha, it is safe, it isn’t scary and it is everywhere!
We hear so much about fermented foods these days – are they really good for one?
They absolutely are!! The most important reason they are is because of the probiotic bacteria they hold within them which help to add to the army of bacteria in our gut. Think about it as if each good bacteria has a certain bad bug that it fights off. If you only eat a limited diet then you will only have a limited amount of good bacteria in you – what if you get hit by a bad bug that is fought off by a bacteria you don’t have? The reason you should have a balanced diet filled with all the food groups (and NOT detox) is because you want to be ready for everything but you can have fun too. Products like yoghurt have high live probiotics but fermentation is more than just the final product it is also behind the fruity and nutty notes of coffee and chocolate or the fizz in a bottle of Champagne. Most people don’t know this which is why Ferment Festival exists!
You have some pretty amazing people / companies exhibiting at Ferment Festival – can you tell us about a few, what they do and the personalities behind the produce?
I love that we have some relatively well established people like Garage Project to people that have only just started going to farmers markets. Hard to pick favourites but three amazing producers would be: Garage Project, I love what they are doing with different yeast strains and how they are making wines. Wines that are fun and thought-provoking as well as delicious. Steve and Jan from Bellefield Butter are making some of the tastiest cultured butters – you haven’t lived until you’ve had their miso-butter or their pohutakawa-smoked butter. David of Foundry Chocolate is the new kid on the craft-chocolate block but I can’t get enough of his products. With just sugar and cocoa beans he makes a range of 70% chocolate bars all from different locations around the world. This allows you to really taste the fruity or nutty or savoury notes in the chocolate and what each country or region brings to the cocoa beans and thus the chocolates. It is like a vertical-tasting in wine but with chocolate!
Three favourite fermented foods?
Easily Sourdough, Chocolate and a good Cheddar Cheese.
Three favourite fermented drinks?
Wine, ginger beer (especially Hakanoa’s) and kombucha.
Any amazing recipe you would like to share?
I found a recipe for Chocolate Sauerkraut cake from a 1970s flyer from the US National Kraut Packers Association. Looked hilarious and I largely just fell in love with the font they were using but turns out the actual cake is delicious! It is a bit like chocolate beetroot cake but a bit more zingy because of the sauerkraut – be sure to use good quality dark chocolate though. Recipe on the ferment website (www.ferment.co.nz)
And anything else you would like to add?
Don’t be afraid of fermentation – it is all around you and the process behind your favourite foods. Come along to Ferment! Festival to support local artisan producers show off the best of NZ. We’re a non-for-profit event too so spread the love. See you there!