making your own cheese!

fromage blanc or just say cheese!

After managing to make some home-made yoghurt using my yogurt/cheese appliance and being very satisfied with the results, cheese making ( had made a ricotta style cheese before) using rennet tablets was next on the list!  I thought it better to start with a basic un-ripened soft cheese. Having found a very informative site for cheese making for beginners (me) and managing to get my hands on some rennet tablets, I was very excited to get started.

Most cheese recipes start off by using large volumes of milk (10 liters) but I was using my yogurt/cheese appliance (can be made without appliance) that could only accommodate 1 liter of milk. I needed to scale down the volume of milk and hope that my cheese making attempt would work… it  did and the result was a soft dense spreadable white cheese with a slight tangy taste that I and my tasters were very happy to devour… once the camera had been set aside!

Fromage Blanc

  • 1/8 tablet rennet
  • 1 liter fresh whole milk
  • 1oz  buttermilk culture
  • fine sea salt

How to make:

Pre-heat the yogurt/cheese maker using the cheese setting.

Dissolve the rennet tablet completely in a tablespoon of warm water.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat the milk gently until it reaches a temperature of 35˚C (check using a thermometer), remove from heat.

Add the buttermilk and stir well. Next add the rennet and stir for about a minute until thoroughly combined.

Pour the milk into the sterilized jars (used all the jars ) and  place jars without lids into the yogurt/cheese appliance and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.

Once the twelve hours were up you could see that the milk had set (curds) and the whey was visible.  As the yogurt/cheese appliance has only two jars with strainers I used another strainer with a very fine mesh placed over a jug to strain the rest of the curds.I left the curds to drain (covered in the fridge) for 9 hours which resulted in a soft cheese.

I still felt that I wanted a firmer cheese so I achieved this by placing all the cheese together in the one strainer, laying over some grease-proof paper and placing a 1lb weight on top of the cheese to expel more whey. After another two and a half hours I decided that I was happy enough with the firmness of the cheese. Now I know why cheese-making is made with large volumes of milk… so much whey  drains from the curds and the resulting cheese was not much bigger than a Boursin Cheese!

Before shaping the cheese I mixed in about 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt for flavor, salt also helps with preserving the cheese. I only left the cheese to sit un-eaten in the refrigerator (covered) for one day to further mature.

The cheese can be eaten at this stage or matured further by salting and turning...but that will be another cheese for another day and another post!

Rather than mix the herbs into the cheese I topped the cheese with some garden fresh herbs (thyme, basil and chives), some home-dried tomatoes and a few twists of black pepper, eaten with some crackers… delicious!

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valentine’s day garnish

Flowers, chocolates ( yes please ) and dining are always high on the menu for Valentine’s Day and many people love to mark the occasion. But then, there are some who would rather stay at home and not get caught up in the hype. If flowers and chocolates are not for you and you find the whole romance thing a bit much, you could always garnish your food with a subtle touch of romance. Remember when Richard Gere in the movie “Shall We Dance” came up the escalators with a single red rose… well you can place your single edible rose on what ever your heart or stomach desires.

Cherry Tomato Rose

Ingredients:

  • firm cherry tomatoes (or you can use bigger tomatoes)
  • chives or parsley stalks
  • mint leaves or parsley leaves

How to make: Using a sharp paring knife cut thinly into the top of the tomato creating a base for the rose, which should still be attached to the tomato. Continue cutting a thin spiral strip around the tomato just under the skin.

Roll the strip of tomato skin up and onto the base to form the rose.

Fresh chives or parsley stalks can be use for the stem, fresh mint leaves or parsley for the leaves. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Leek and Broccoli Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

This recipe is from the Home Cooking Calendar  

A satisfying fresh bowl of home-made leek and broccoli soup served with a chunk of your favorite bread… is comfort in a bowl. Leek and broccoli have some health benefits and are a rich source of beta-carotene. Leeks being a member of the powerful Allium family (garlic, onions and chives) have anti-bacterial properties and useful for helping to reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and also good for gout and arthritis. It was said, the Roman Emperor of Nero ate leeks every day to improve his singing voice and the Celtic soldiers wore leeks in their caps so they could recognize a friend from foe when on the battle field.

Broccoli being a member of the Cruciferous family is high on the list as one of the vegetables shown to have protective powers against cancer and also good for anaemia, stress and some skin problems.

Leek and Broccoli Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

Ingredients:

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks chopped, white and light green parts only (use the dark green parts for stock making)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 500g broccoli florets and stems cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 450ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 450ml whole or low-fat milk
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • salt

for the topping

How to make: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic, cook for a few minutes until softened but not brown. Add broccoli, stock, milk and bay leaf. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until broccoli is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together in a small bowl, creme fraiche or yogurt, lemon rind and juice, season with salt. Refrigerate untill needed.

Use a stick blender or transfer the slightly cooled soup to a blender (remove bay leaf), blend in batches until smooth. Return soup to the saucepan, season with salt to taste and gently re-heat.  Ladle soup into pre-warmed bowls and add a spoonful of lemon creme fraiche or yogurt, grate over some Parmesan cheese and serve.

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