Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: SAY CHEESE; It’s HOMEMADE!

“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”
Clifton Fadiman

Say cheese and faces light up. Big smiles all around. Cheese is a universal pleaser, a crowd puller, with few and far between who don’t fall for it’s cheesy charm. I’ve been on a soft cheese trip for a while, using my spare time trying to make mascarpone, ricotta, quark, cottage cheese etc at home. So when I got invited by Foodbuzz to post this month, I had this big SMILE!! SAY CHEESE!!

I made cottage cheese, mascarpone, ricotta, quark and mozzarella. All, but the last, were outstanding. I had little luck with the mozzarella as it didn’t get stretchy and ‘taffy like’. It reached some in between point, which could be used, but I don’t think I’ll attempt making it again. The other four were very very good, and even though I’ve made them before, I attempted a few with a different recipe. I stuck to the quark recipe though …a wonderful one from Arwen @ HogletK .

Mango Lassi
This is my own little recipe, as I love to use vanilla sugar in food now. My Mom used crushed ice to make cold coffee when we were young. We had a strong canvas bag and a mallet next to the blender at all times!
Ingredients:
Flesh of 2 large mangoes
500 gms low fat yogurt
6-7 tbsps of vanilla sugar (adjust if required)
10 cubes of ice, crushed
Method:
Whiz all the ingredients in the blender till smooth.
Serve in tall glasses, garnished with sprig of mint, or keep chilled until required. Can be made the previous night.
Note: use regular sugar instead of vanilla sugar if you like.
Serves 4-6

I’ve made some refreshing Mango Lassi since the post is all about dairy products, so come grab a glass, & let’s SAY CHEESE!

Characterized by a mild, clean taste, and soft texture, fresh cheese is simple to make. They are unripened, rindless cheeses, which vary in consistency from the creamy and smooth – fromage frais, cream cheese and mascarpone, to thicker curd mixtures – ricotta, pot cheese and cottage cheese. The fat content varies, with many low fat and skimmed milk recipe versions available.

Mascarpone is a fresh (i.e. not aged or ripened) soft cows’ milk cheese which originated from Lombardy, Italy. Technically speaking, it is not cheese as it is produced by a culture being added to the cream which has been removed during the production of Parmesan. However it is generally described as a curd cheese. Once the culture has been added, the cream is heated and left to thicken. It has a creamy white colour, a slightly sweet taste making it highly suitable for desserts, and a soft, dense, texture which can be easily spread. Mascarpone

Recipe adapted from Addicted Sweet Tooth
Ingredients:
1 litre cream (I used 25% low fat cream;you can use 36% whipping cream)
2 tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice ( juice of 1 ½ limes approx)

Method:
Heat the cream over a waterbath/double boiler until it reaches 180ºF/82ºC
Stir in the lime/lemon juice and keep at this temperature for a few moments longer until it starts to thicken.
Remove from heat, cover, and let sit at room temperature until it is cooled down a bit.
Refrigerate over night. The next day it will have thickened further.
Pour it in a strainer lined with multiple layers of cheesecloth or clean towel. Refrigerate for about 24 hours to let the whey drain

Traditional, creamy, vegetarian, quark is fresh cheese made from cow’s milk, which is moist and white. It has a light taste and a smooth and soft texture. Quark simply means “curd” in German and the cheese is said to date from the Iron Age. Quark can be made from whole, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk or even buttermilk. Soft and moist, like a cross between yogurt and fromage frais, it should taste lemon-fresh.Homemade Quark (Curd Cheese)
adapted from recipe @ HogletK
Ingredients:
1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
3 1/2 cups full cream milk

Method:
If your milk is not pasteurised you should bring it to the boil, then allow it to cool to room temperature (covered with a lid).
Stir the buttermilk into the milk in a container you can cover.
Put the container in a warm place. Allow the culture to proceed for ~24 hours, or until the curds and whey separate. At first the milk will look grainy, and eventually the curds will float on the whey. The grainy stage is probably sufficient, but might give a lower yield.
Dampen a clean tea towel and use it to line a sieve. Place the sieve over a basin. Pour the curds and whey into the strainer. Bring the tea towel together so that it covers your quark and do it up with a rubber band. Place the entire draining apparatus in the fridge.
Allow to drain in the fridge overnight, or for 24 hours. The drained quark should have a consistency similar to sour cream, but it has a more sour taste.


Traditional, whey cheese made from cow’s milk, it is a basin-shaped cheese, pure white and wet but not sticky. Good Ricotta should be firm, not solid and consist of a mass of fine, moist, delicate grains, neither salted nor ripened. It is white, creamy and mild, and is primarily used as an ingredient in lasagna. Ricotta has a creamy white colour, a slightly sweet taste making it highly suitable for desserts, and a texture similar to some cottage cheeses though generally lighter. Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Recipe posted by
David Lebovitz of DavidLebovitz.com
Ingredients:
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Method:
In a large pot, bring the milk, yogurt, heavy cream (if using), vinegar, and salt to a boil. Very gently boil for one to two minutes, until the milk is curdled.
Meanwhile, line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set it over a deep bowl.
Pour the milk mixture into the strainer and let drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze gently to extract any excess liquid.
Storage: Homemade ricotta is best served slightly warm, although it can be refrigerated for up to three days, if desired.
Makes 2 cups.

Mozzarella is a unique Italian cheese, traditionally made from the milk of the water buffalo. It should be eaten within days, and is delicious melted on pizzas, sliced in rounds for salads, and in numerous other culinary applications. The cheese itself is very mild, tasting slightly tangy and slightly sweet, with strong milky overtones. You can find the recipe here at Saveur.com. It’s a ’30 minute Mozzarella’ with lengthy instructions, but didn’t work for me. The recipe does have a good rating though. It’ll be a while before I venture this way again!
Cottage cheese or Paneer refers a type of cheese that was originally found in the area that today encompasses Iran, India and Pakistan. This cheese is used in curried dishes and is very popular, when wrapped in dough and fried and is delightful for snacking. Since it is a high protein food, this cheese is often substituted for meat in many vegetarian entrees of Indian cuisine. It is commonly used in curried dishes.
Herbed Cottage Cheese / Paneer
Ingredients:
3.5 litres whole milk
3 tbsp white vinegar
Method:
Bring 3.5 litres of milk to a boil, add 3 tbsp of white vinegar to it, & stir constantly till small curd form & whey becomes translucent.
You should get milky whey. Strain through cheesecloth/ soup strainer and then transfer to box to set. Leave on counter for 30 minutes with weight to get rid of excess liquid, then leave in fridge overnight with weight on top.
Unmold it, rinse under cool water, place in bowl, cover with water & refrigerate until use, or use immediately.

Let’s head for the table

…and soft cheese is on the menu today. I attempted to incorporate it into our meal in as many ways as possible. Must admit I never realized it was such a versatile option! When I started working with so many in tandem, I reached a point where I had to knock things off the menu to avoid overloading the table!! Here we go…

The warm smell of fresh baguettes baking wafts through the house. Crostini is on the menu…

Quark & Mascarpone Cream Cheese
Whisk ½ cup quark + 1 heaped tbsp mascarpone + 2 cloves of minced garlic + salt to taste in a bowl.
Toast slices of baguettes brushed with olive oil. Top with cream cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella & sliced tomatoes, or, cream cheese and pesto. You can find a wonderful recipe for
Almost No Knead Baguette here (A King Arthur Flour recipe).

Another wonderful way to use quark is in cheesecake or as fillings in regular cakes. I used it in an Almond Nut Torte with Peaches & Plums , and also in a Dobostorte

A delightful and addictive bread, versatile & a certain winner! it’s easy to make, you can even make a sweet version with ricotta, candied fruit & orange water. This is one I make often.French Fougasse with Ricotta, Walnuts & Romesco
adapted from The Practical Encyclopaedia of Baking, pg 444
Ingredients:
450gms all purpose flour
280ml warm water
20gms fresh yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
200gms homemade ricotta
1/2 cup
Romesco sauce
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Olive oil for brushing
Method:
Take 4 tbsps of water from the 280ml, & dissolve the fresh yeast into it. Stir the salt & 2 tbsp olive oil into the remaining water.
Make a well with the flour, & pour the dissolved yeast & water mixture into it. Knead to a dough, kneading further on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes, till it gets smooth & elastic.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with cling wrap & leave in a warm place for about an hour until doubled.
Punch down & divide into 4 balls of dough (or 2 if you have a big oven)
Roll out to about an 8″ circle, brush with 1/4 of the Romesco, sprinkle with 1/4 of the walnuts, & 1/4 of the crumbled ricotta. Season lightly with salt.
Fold over the dough 2-3 times on itself to incorporate the stuffing. Shape each back into a ball.
Flatten each & fold the bottom third up, & top third down to make an oblong.
Roll into ovals with a flat base, cut slits diagonally, three on each side. Pull slightly to open the cuts.
Place on oiled baking sheets. Cover with cling wrap & leave to double for 35-40minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C, brush the loaves with olive oil, & bake for approximately 25-30 minutes till golden brown. Cool on racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.

It’s fun to serve slabs of cottage cheese grilled in different ways. If I make regular plain cottage cheese, I sometimes give it a Middle Eastern marinade, & serve it with cherry tomatoes. I also like using it as a savoury filling in lentil pancakes.

Grill slabs of herbed cottage cheese on a very hot grill pan brushed with oil. Carefully flip over & grill the other side too. serve hot with romesco sauce.

Note: Always serve grilled cottage cheese or paneer tikkas hot, straight off the fire/oven, because they tend to get rubbery as they get cold.


Here’s a chicken ricotta pesto lasagna, adapted from a vegetarian version of Pesto Lasagna from channel4.com. It’s a great lasagna, made interesting with the addition of pesto. It’s a wonderful make ahead recipe. Another good recipe, my fave so far is the Chicken Ricotta Lasagna, which can be found here.

Chicken Ricotta Pesto Lasagna
Adapted from Pesto Lasagna Recipe @
Channel4.com
Ingredients

200g fresh basil leaves, plus extra to serve
200g toasted almonds
6 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
200ml fruity extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp
250g homemade ricotta, drained
1 quantity
quick tomato sauce
1 quantity bechamel
500-750gms cooked chicken mince
200gms homemade mozarella
1 tsp salt
20 lasagne sheets

Method:
Put the basil, almonds, garlic, a good pinch of salt and 200ml olive oil into a food processor and pulse to give a uniform and creamy consistency. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the ricotta.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook the sheets of lasagna, and lay out flat on kitchen towels. Reserve a little pasta water.
Loosen the pesto with a little of the pasta cooking water. Spread a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce in the base of a deep 1-litre ovenproof dish. Arrange 4 lasagne sheets on top. Spread some pesto-ricotta, some chicken mince, followed with bechamel.
Repeat 5 times, finishing with a layer of mozzarella. Bake for 15-20 minutes, covered, until cooked through and hot.
Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high.
Grill for a 5-7 minutes, until golden. Cut into wedges and serve garnished with a scattering of basil leaves.

A meal without spuds, is a meal incomplete. I used some mozarella in the lasagna and some in the crostini. The remaining went in here. Spuds we loved … full of garlicy & cheesy flavour. To keep fibre in the meal, these green beans tossed in a mix of quark and olive oil were good.

Potato croquettes
Mash some boiled potatoes. Mix in grated mozarella, minced garlic, salt & pepper. Roll into crouqttes & shallow fry on low heat till brown on all sides.
Green beans
Toss blanched green beans in a mixture of roasted garlic, olive oil and a little quark.Serve warm / room temperature.

Clear the deck… MAKE ROOM FOR DESSERT!

This was the most fun part of the cheesy tale. I put together a variety of desserts with mascarpone cheese as the base, oscillating between my two loves – coffee & fruit. I made a tiramisu using a batch of failed macarons, then a mango mascarpone budini using the same crisp almond cookies, and two ‘faux’ mascarpone panna cottas too. ‘Faux’ because panna cotta is cooked cream & I didn’t cook the cream here. There is a lot of variety you can get together in desserts using mascarpone.

For both the tiramisu and budini, I just whipped up the mascarpone with vanilla sugar.
Mango Mascarpone Budini
adapted from this recipe @ Epicurious.com
Crumble some macarons into the base of an ice cream/dessert bowl. Top with mascarpone. Add chopped mango pieces. Cover with a layer of mascarpone. Just before serving, top with roughly crumbled macarons.

Tiramisu
Line a desert ring with parchment paper & place it on a lined tray. Make a layer of crumbled macarons, sprinkling of strong coffee, layer of mascarpone. Repeat twice, ending with mascarpone. Leave to set at least 6-8 hours. Dust with cocoa just before serving.
Mascarpone Panna Cotta
Soften 1 tsp gelatin over 3 tbsp of cream.
Whisk 250gms of mascarpone, 200ml low fat cream (-3 tbsp) with the vanilla sugar. Strain the softened gelatin into this, & whisk till well blended. Divide into 2.
For the mango panna cotta, gently fold in some chopped mangoes, reserving a few pieces to make a sauce for the top if required.
For the coffee panna cotta, line the base of some silicon cases with crumbled macarons. Drizzle over some strong coffee. Top with whipped mascarpone. Leave to set for 6-8 hours, or better still, overnight.

Thank you for being part of my new found love. Hope you had a cheesy good time!

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: STREET WOK IN INDIA

“When people wore hats and gloves, nobody would dream of eating on the street. Then white gloves went out of style and, suddenly, eating just about anything in the street became OK.”
Jane Addison

Am pleased to be invited by Foodbuzz to post once again for their 24,24,24, a monthly event that celebrates food across the globe. With foodbuzz featured publisher bloggers, the monthly Foodbuzz 24 highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. “From San Francisco to Sydney, Feast on it!” My previous 24,24,24 can be found here.

My choice for this February’s 24,24,24 is INDIAN STREET FOOD. Come relish a new take on food, rustic, moreish in every bite. A different charm altogether. There is a sense of urgency in street food, everything is done with a certain precision, & the level of enthusiasm is infectious. The hustle bustle generally picks up in the late evenings, after sunset.

Street food is synonymous with ‘food available on the street’. It is a quintessential part of the Indian culture & cuisine, & its popularity now ensures that you can find clean, amazing taste on the street. An explosion of flavours & textures, that entice your taste-buds, leaving you begging for more. Street food has always been one of the cornerstones of Asian life. Street food and drink can often bring an insight into the history of the city’s people, the geography of the land and is one of the best ways to taste authentic local culture, believes Discovery Travel and Living. It’s an intrinsic part of India cuisine, delicious & mouthwatering, & no visit to India is quite complete unless you gather the courage to try some. Just make sure you choose the right place! The delhi-belly didn’t gain its colloquial notoriety for nothing, but the right choice will transport you back to gastronomical nirvana. Join the hub & me as we roam the street & PEEP INTO THE WOK! Vegetarian options are generally based on fried food, which appear to blur boundaries of main meal, snack, appetizer etc. A kaleidoscope of flavours exist all in the same dish…sweet, sour, crisp, soft… & always the option of an extra spicy kick. The good thing is that with most non-marinated food on the street, you can customize the chili factor. Eat as you like. Treat it as a main meal or snack. To cover as much variety of street food we hit the street early. What do we find here…?We come face to face with HOT SAMS, or samosas as the world knows them!! Samosas are typically Indian street food, & you will find fresh samosas being fried at every corner you go around, or at a ‘Halwai’an Indian sweet-maker, baker & deep-fryer! Usually stuffed with a mixture of boiled potatoes, peas, raisins, cashew nuts & cottage-cheese, given a mighty kick with Indian masalas/spices & some green chilies thrown in, samosas are deep-fried Indian pastry. They are very enjoyable indeed on a cold winter day, even better on a rainy day. This triangular pastry (a small turnover deep-fried pastry) is quite popular, & jostles for space in a line of long & illustrious street food called CHAAT. Chaat is plate of savoury snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or carts in Pakistan, India and the rest of South Asia. The word derives from Hindi चाट (tasting, a delicacy), from चाटना (to taste), from Prakrit चट्टेइ (to devour with relish, eat noisily).The chaat variants are all based on fried dough, with various other ingredients. The original chaat is a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried bread, gram bean and spices, but other popular variants included Aloo Tikkis (garnished with onion, coriander, hot spices and a dash of curd), bhel puri, dahi puri, panipuri, dahi vada, papdi chaat, and sev puri. There are common elements among these variants including dahi, or yogurt; chopped onions and coriander; sev (small dried yellow noodles); and chaat masala. Our second wok stop is at a Chaat Wala, to eat Aloo Tikkis, traditional crisp fried potato patties, somewhat like rosti, but with a mildly spiced lentil filling! The chef is obliging & his name is Suresh. He swears by ooodles of clarified butter / ghee, & proclaims that that’s where the real taste lies! He’s been doing this since he was 12, for the past 22 years. Oh boy! All that fat in the pan scares me, but he says he’s been eating & making this stuff forever & hasn’t put on or lost weight. New diet anyone? The Indian Chaatwalas Diet!!! YUM! He expertly makes the patties like a machine, & gets on with his job. He has an infectious level of enthusiasm & is out to please. Walks us through the by lanes of Chandni Chowk as he lovingly fries the croquettes, presenting to us the most delicious ‘tikkis’ ever! Each tikki is given TLC; there is uniformity in each piece! We choose our toppings, light & non-fussy, though you can go in for the works if you like! Street food meals have no norms, so breaking away from the ‘end of the meal dessert’ tradition, we get irresistibly tempted to come to a grinding halt at the sweet shop. There are gulab jamuns, jalebis & gajar-ka-halwa up for grabs. Gulab jamun is a sweet dish made of a dough consisting mainly of milk solids (often including double cream and flour), in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom seeds and rosewater or saffron. Gajar-ka-halwa is a halwa/pudding where grated carrots are cooked in milk, with a generous sprinkling of dry fruits added to it. We get hopelessly distracted by fresh hot jalebis which are just being fried. One bite & you are hooked. Jalebis are crisp swirls of batter, piped into hot oil, fried to golden brown perfection, & then immediately dunked into sugar syrup. The man literally doodles them onto hot oil, somewhat like Spanish Churros. But here, the batter is much thinner, & it is piped out of cheesecloth, under pressure, in a thin stream. The result is sweet heaven … bite into a crisp exterior, & then the sweetness of the syrup within floods your mouth. It’s addictive to say the least, but we nibble on quite a few crispy bites, save some for after dinner & carry on. We have a trail to blaze & it leads us to the tandoor. HOT! HOT! HOT! One peep within & I’m almost transported to Hansel & Gretel & the witches’ hot oven! Wokking into non-vegetarian street, it’s a happening place here. The tandoor has been fired up, & you can see rows upon rows of skewered delicacies. Here you have to no choice on the level of spices; they’ve been included in the marination, & some can be quite SPICY!! We find a dazzling array of skewered meats & chunks of cottage cheese. There’s something for everyone – chicken tikka, reshmi kebabs, tandoori chicken, seekh kebab, burra kebab, paneer tikka…all waiting to be popped into a burning hot tandoor. If you want to move from snack to meal, then bread cannot be far behind. Expert hands fling thin roomali rotis in the air like handkerchiefs. They break off pieces of dough, roll out circles or triangles, & slap naans or tandoori rotis into searing hot ovens. The naans are liberally sprinkled with kalonji or onion seeds.Give the sober naan a slathering of butter, & reach butter naan nirvana! How good can it get! If that’s not quite your calorie ridden scene, then try a lachcha paratha…layers & layers of thin pastry dough which are cooked to perfection in the hot tandoor, to reveal layers of paper thin flatbread. We wind up our meal with a nibble at the jalebis, which are still quite warm &, surprisngly, still crisp. It’s been a wonderful experience, one that we are tempted to enjoy over & over again. So when you wok the street in gay abandon, leave the frills & fancies behind. No fancy china plates, no polished cutlery. Street food is often served on steel plates (reusable, unbreakable & can live a zillion years), on plastic ware, in paper bags, & sometimes in disposable & environment friendly plates & bowls made out of leaves. Anything goes!

“Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches.”

LAUNCH OF GLOBAL FOODBUZZ BLOGGER COMMUNITY
LEVERAGES REAL-PEOPLE, REAL-TIME POWER OF FOOD PUBLISHING

If it’s buzz about food, it’s got to be on foodbuzz. They’ve been officially launched this September, a community of 1,100 & growing. These are exciting times for foodies & food bloggers. Real time food-blogging has come of age, & with a happening community like Foodbuzz, it’s only getting better & better. To celebrate the launch, the large-hearted Foodbuzz guys sent out aprons & spatulas. Just had to show off my ‘publisher pride & delicious spirit’ while making Halloween coffee chocolate chip muffins!It got here in the mail yesterday; I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it…

San Francisco – October 13, 2008: Foodbuzz, Inc., officially inaugurates its food blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners, a global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world. At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content.
“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, Inc. “Food bloggers are the new breed of local food experts and at any minute of the day, Foodbuzz is there to help capture the immediacy of their hands-on experiences, be it a memorable restaurant meal, a trip to the farmers market, or a special home-cooked meal.”

Listen to the buzz… a 1,100-publisher strong, collective voice of our community. Want to join the buzz? Drop me a line…
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