Monday, October 13, 2008

Homemade Yoghurt

There are 3 different methods of making yoghurt at home that I have found. Using the Easiyo sachets, using a small amount of purchased live yoghurt and using the live organic cultures. Each way creates real yoghurt, and costs a fraction of buying it tubs. For all of these methods you will need an Easiyo thermos, a regular thermos or a small esky.

For the Easiyo thermos, you combine the cold ingredients in a plastic container, which then sits in the insulated thermos in boiling water. With a regular thermos you will need to heat the milk/water until just warm, then add the culture and pour it in. With an esky, use same method as regular thermos, but pack the esky with towels etc around the container to insulate it. You need to maintain a luke warm temp for the cultures to activate.

Easiyo Sachet Method
2 or 3 Tbs Easiyo Mix
1 cup milk powder

In the container, combine all the ingredients and stir up well. Add enough water to make about 600ml. You will see on the Easiyo sachet, they recommend using the whole sachet. You don't need to do this, and standing the mix for slightly longer will create the same product.

Purchased Live Yoghurt Method
2 or 3 Tbs ready made yoghurt with live cultures
500ml milk - fresh or powdered
1/4 cup powdered milk

Mix it all together and put into the container. The extra powdered milk is optional, but creates a thicker creamier yoghurt. Make sure the yoghurt you buy has live cultures and does not contain gelatine.

Live Culture Method
I haven't had the chance to order any live cultures yet, and so don't have the instructions. This is the most economical way to make yoghurt. It costs between $18 and $28 depending on type of starter you prefer from Cheeselinks for enough culture to make 250 litres of yoghurt!!! If anyone uses this method I'd love to hear from you to get some feedback. I cant wait to order some!

No matter which method you choose to use, you can use a couple of tablespoons from your homemade batch to start off the next batch (sub culturing). This will only work a couple of times, as the bacteria tend to die after a while. Some die before others and can affect the taste and texture of the yoghurt.

You can add pretty much anything to the finished yoghurt. Add it after it has finished incubating so it doesn't affect the bacteria. Sugar, honey, vanilla, jam, nuts, stewed fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit, topping, mueslie, crumbles, cereal etc etc. I'd also love to hear of everyones favorite flavourings and suggestions.

Happy yoghurt making!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Making Labneh (Yoghurt Cheese)

I love making this cheese, it's easy, quick and so yummy. It's middle eastern in origin and traditionally served drizzled with olive oil and dried mint or zaatar and smeared onto toasted pita bread. It can also be used in place of philly cheese or cottage cheese on crackers or as part of a dip. Another way to serve it is rolled into small balls and covered with herbs. Great as part of a tapas plate.

Labneh is made from natural yoghurt, which has been drained through a cloth so all of the whey drains out. From each cup of yoghurt you will get about 1/2 cup of cheese. Try to get yoghurt with no gelatine, as this stops the whey separating from the cheese.

You'll need:
Cheesecloth or muslin (a clean tea towel will do)

Put a couple of pinches of salt in the yoghurt. Place the cheesecloth over a strainer or colander and empty the yoghurt into it. Gather up the edges of the cloth and tie with string or rubber band. It's best if you can suspend it so the whey drains out freely. Leave overnight or longer for a firmer cheese.

When it has finished draining, the cheese can be rolled into one large ball with a dimple in the middle to hold some good olive oil and sprinkled with fresh or dried herbs, or you can roll into small single serve balls, cover with olive and keep in the fridge.

The whey can be used for cooking in cakes, pancakes, biscuits etc. Try experimenting with different herbs and spices, garlic and other flavourings. Sweet things also work well - dried fruit, nuts and syrups.

Next post will be about making your own fresh yoghurt - it's so easy and much cheaper than buying it from the shop.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Favorite Kitchen Tools

Thought I would show off some of my favorite kitchen tools. They make cooking so much easier and more enjoyable. None of them are electric so you can use them anywhere, even camping!!

First up, mortar & pestle. Nothing you can't smash up in the mortar. You can make marinades, herb blends, flavoured salts, infused sugars, crush biscuits, crack nuts etc etc. My favorite thing to do is make rubs for meat. Slurp in some good olive oil, sea salt and any herbs or spices you like. I usually use rosemary, garlic and parsley for flavoring. Rub it over a roast, chops, cutlets, steak etc. Mine is made from granite which I prefer, but you can also get wooden, glass, marble and ceramic variations. Definitely an essential tool!

Microplane. Pretty expensive for what it is (a glorified grater) but it's super super sharp and makes grating and zesting really easy. You can get all different types and styles for fine grating, coarse grating, ribbon grating and spice grating. I use mine mostly for zesting and grating parmesan.

Whisk. Arguably the most popular tool in a french kitchen. They use it to do almost everything - not just whipping, but folding, blending and stirring. Mine is a french whisk, but you can also get a balloon whisk, flat whisk or a ball whisk. I use it mostly for beating eggs for scrambled eggs or pancakes - I dont have the patience to use it for whipping egg whites or cream.

Mincer. Picked up this old dear from eBay. Its cast iron so it weighs a tonne, and is really old. Its called a Pope Major. Not sure what that means but it's the best for mincing meat (obviously) and I use it to make large batches of pasta sauce. It minces the tomatos, onion and garlic up all together. No chopping or pureeing needed! It also came with a biscuit press attachment which I haven't used yet but looks fun. It forces the biscuit dough through a patterned plate to make different shaped biscuits.

Pasta Maker
. One of my best mates bought me a pasta maker last month. Not just any pasta maker - the Marcato Mulitpast Wellness. It came with all the attachments for making spaghetti, fettucine, lasagne, reginette, tagliolini, pappardelle and even a specialised ravioli attachment which fill and cuts at the same time. Nothing better than tucking into freshly made pasta. We use eggs from our own chickens too so we know it's made with organic free range eggs. Here is a picture of the beauty:

Knives!!!!! Anyone who is reading this and knows me will know I have a "thing" for knives. Nothing better than a good sharp knife. Really sharp. Chop your finger off sharp. If it's sharp it will cut your food prep time in half, is much safer and give way better results. You don't need heaps of knives, a few good quality ones will do. A large chefs knife - 10-12" and paring knife 4-5" will get you through most jobs. A filleting and a serrated edge blade are handy too.

There are heaps of good brands out there, which will give you a good result. Mine are Mundial and are close to 10 years old now and I wouldn't swap them for the world. The most important thing to test out is how it feels in your hand. If it feels balanced while you are chopping you wont tire out using it for long periods of time. A stone is essential to hone the edge first - I get our butcher to do this for me. Then before you use the knife, hit it with the steel to straighten the edge. Get a good steel and learn to use it properly. Doing this, the knife should keep the edge for a pretty long time, depending on which type of knife you choose.

With all of these tools, I don't think there would be much you couldn't do. Always buy the best quality you can affort and you'll have them for life. :-)