A fermented yoghurt-like drink with a strong Greek tradition
Images: Regula Ysewijn
“I used to laugh at my dad for drinking kefir when I was a kid,” smiles Lida at Oliveology. “He drank it every day. So did most people when I was growing up in Greece.” She, however, like so many millennials, thought kefir—milk naturally fermented with kefir cultures—was horrible, right up until a few years ago, when our views on fermented foods started to change. Terms like ‘gut health’ and ‘microflora’ entered our lexicon. Fermentation, it turned out, didn’t mean ‘gone off’; it meant flavour. It meant bacteria and yeasts which, working in tandem with our own gut biome, could prove beneficial for our health and would at the very least add a tangy kick to even the most prosaic of meals.
Today, Lida uses kefir a lot: specifically, Oliveology’s goat’s milk kefir, which is milder than many kefirs you’ll find and more palatable to those new to the concept. “The fact it’s organic and the fact it’s made with goats’ milk means it’s less acidic. It’s something I can simply drink straight,” says Lida, “and it’s good for your stomach, so it’s good to drink in the middle of the day.”
A rich mousse
In the kitchen, kefir can be used in tarhana—an extraordinary pasta-like grain made with fermented milk, the origins of which can be traced back millennia—and in Lida’s feta mousse: a combination of Oliveology feta, kefir and dried oregano. “The kefir complements the tanginess of the feta and makes a nice rich mousse. In summer it’s lovely served with pomegranate and cucumber.” It’s ideal for smoothies—the health drink du jour—but it’s by no means puritanical, being as much of a friend to fluffy pancakes and ice cream thanks to its smooth and creamy texture.
Oliveology’s kefir is made in Drama, a mountainous region in northern Greece and the centre of the country’s dairy production. Indeed, the same organic dairy responsible for Oliveology’s goat’s yoghurt is behind their kefir: a small cooperative of farmers who cultivate their own organic seeds and greens to supplement their herds’ diet of mountainous pastures and herbs. The farmers are self-sufficient, the goats range freely and the kefir is the cultured culmination of their pastures and principles. It’s taken a while to catch on, but it looks like Lida’s dad and his kefir-swigging friends have had the last laugh after all.