How to make whole milk ricotta

31 07 2012

I’ve spent the morning with MsG making ricotta.

Not that you need a whole morning. A spare 15 minutes will do.

It’s really that easy. More people should know how easy it is. So here’s how to make a basic whole milk ricotta*.

Per litre of milk, you need:

  • up to 50ml of cream (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 60ml of white vinegar

The yield is around 200-250g per litre of milk. I’ll usually do 2L, partly because that’s the size of the milk bottle, and partly because 500g is the perfect amount for this gorgeous baked ricotta recipe

  1. Set up a budget double boiler – put a smaller pot inside a larger pot which is filled with water, such that the handles of the smaller pot rest on the rim of the larger pot. Your milk goes into the smaller pot. Have the water level in the bigger pot roughly even with the milk level in the smaller pot. Or, if you’re fancy and have a double boiler, use that. You can heat the milk directly on the stove, but I find using a double-boiler means less danger of burning the milk, less need to stir and easier cleanup. Bonus.
  2. Add the cream, if using, and the salt to the milk. Stir gently to mix. You can add up to 1 tsp of salt per litre of milk, depending on the final flavour you’re after (I usually use 1/2 tsp per litre plus a pinch extra for luck).
  3. Pop a thermometer in the milk and heat on high. Occasionally, stir gently. This is the worst part because it feels like it takes forever to get the milk hot. Although it’s probably only 5 minutes or so.
  4. When the milk hits 85°C or thereabouts (anywhere above 75°C will work, but best not to go above 95°C), stir the milk quickly to create a whirlpool. Take out the spoon, and smoothly pour the vinegar across the pot. The movement of the liquid will distribute the vinegar through the milk – there’s no need to keep stirring, and from the moment you put the vinegar in the milk, you enter the OMG BE GENTLE WITH THE CURDS stage of ricotta making. So take the spoon out and don’t put it back in, ok?
  5. You should straight away start to see small curds (solid white chunks) forming. Don’t touch or stir the curds at this point. In fact, go away and do something else for 3 minutes, to give the curds a chance to form and solidify a little. Ricotta curds are very delicate, and stirring them will break them up, leaving you with ricotta slush.
  6. After 2-3 minutes, you’ll see curds floating on the top, with greenish-yellow clear liquid in between (whey). If you want, GENTLY move the curds away from the side of the pot with a spoon. The liquid underneath will probably still be milky rather than clear. This is ok.
  7. Gently scoop the curds out of the pot with a large spoon, and gently place them into a colander  or strainer (I line mine with muslin or a clean dishcloth, but that’s more for peace of mind than any real need), with a bowl underneath to catch the whey. As you take the curds out, any remaining vinegar will react with any remaining milk, and more curds will form in the pot. It’s like magic. Try not to agitate the liquid too much as you spoon out the curds, and try not to let the curds smash into each other as you spoon them in to the colander. Have I gone on about it enough yet?
  8. Be gentle or you’ll ruin the ricotta.
  9. Once you’ve spooned most of the curds out of the pot, you can (gently) pour the remaining curds and whey into the colander, making sure that the curds tumble into the colander gently (rather than falling and smashing into the other curds from a great height).
  10. Let it drain for a few minutes – not too long, or it will get grainy and dry. Then pop into a container and into the fridge, or make that delicious baked ricotta, or smear onto some fresh bread with a drizzle of good olive oil and some cracked pepper and enjoy.

Notes

This ricotta should last for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but it’s best on the day it’s made.

You can press it in a mold (ie any container with holes to let the liquid drain out, with a weight on top) to make paneer.

Any type of milk (low fat, normal, high fat, even UHT) will work. Any type of acid, too. White vinegar gives the most consistent results and flavour, but you can also use lemon or lime juice, buttermilk, wild whey – pretty much anything acidic. Just remember that the taste of the ricotta comes from the taste of the milk and the acid. But ask the internet for variations, because there are many out there!

If you don’t have a thermometer, 85°C is the point that milk simmers (not boils!) so you can use that as a guide.

And what to do with the whey? All sorts of things – a refreshing drink, instead of milk in baking (especially bread), lactofermentation, a facewash, feeding it to your dog or houseplants or compost… except that this time I was a slacker who tipped it down the sink.

Oh well. There’s always next time. Because there will be a next time.

* Yes, I know that actual ricotta is made from whey, and this isn’t technically ‘ricotta’. But it tastes as good. And is easier than trying to find a source of fresh whey. So just make it and enjoy it already!

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Temakizushi

24 07 2012

Apparently one of the things you do when you have in-laws is have them around for dinner.

Truth be told my relationship with my lovely in-laws hasn’t really changed since they went from the parents-of-my-partner to parents-in-law. Although, in the same way that something subtle has shifted in the landscape between the Architect and I since the rings-swap, there’s been a slight change with the in-laws too.

It’s hard (and probably a bit pointless) to articulate what that is, but here’s a try. Our communities and societies have rituals, big and small, imbued with socially accepted meaning. It’s a cultural shorthand, really. Over many conversations with a clever friend on this topic, we agreed that sanity exists in balancing trying to change the system and trying to live within that system.

So deciding that I wanted to get married was partly deciding that I did want to access the socially accepted meaning and, I suppose, validate it. That last part being the bit I overthought and struggled with. The thing is, because of what they are, those rituals have a huge amount of power. To be married, to say “this is my husband”, puts our relationship in a certain framework that is built on a whole bunch of assumptions and social rules. That I am definitely not outside of or immune to. Nor is my husband, or his family. Or mine, I suppose. So I think it affects us whether or not we want it to or are conscious of it.

Anyway. Enough of that. Point is, that subtle shift is all for the good. It might all be in my head, but it feels somehow more clear and certain now, and I feel like the in-laws feel that too. So yay. It’s good.

Now where were we? Dinner. I have married a Greek-heritage-Australian boy. I have, over the past however many years, feasted on a range of delicious Greek and Australian morsels cooked by his mum (and sister, and aunties, and so on). In fact, I may be eating baklava right this instant. Time to return the favour and teach them to make sushi (without the 15 year apprenticeship).

Enter temakizushi.  What better for a post-wedding-celebration we’re-all-family-now dinner than Japanese homestyle party cooking? A classic summer party dish (so, perfect for the Brisvegas winter), it takes into account food intolerances and dislikes, is super easy to prepare, has maximum visual impact, and provides interactive eating – what’s not to love?

So what is it? A picture would be useful at this point, but unfortunately we ate it all so fast that I didn’t take one. So here’s a dodgy phone pic of a different temakizushi, at my cousin’s house in Osaka:

It’s make your own sushi. A big bowl of sushi rice, a platter or two of different fillings, and a pile of toasted nori (seaweed), and you’re away. Maki at Just Hungry has, as always, the best instructions to make awesome sushi rice (scroll down for the sushi rice). You toast nori by holding it over a heat source (like a gas cooker flame) for a few seconds on each side. And the fillings can be whatever you want.

We had: tuna mayonnaise, rolled egg (tamagoyaki), smoked salmon, cucumber, roasted sweet potato, capsicum, asparagus, green beans, carrot, snow pea sprouts, poached chicken, dill pickles, and fresh tuna and salmon. Yum. You could also have prawns, avocado, celery, roast beef, crab, other types of fish… and so on. All the fillings were sliced long and thin to make it easier to put in the roll. The asparagus, green beans and carrot were lightly steamed and cooled as well.

The method is simple: put a small amount of rice on the rough side of the nori (a small amount is the key – both to being able to roll it and to not filling up on rice!). Add your filling/s of choice, diagonally across the rice. Roll from one corner to make a cone. Dip in soy sauce. Eat. Repeat until bursting.

Note that the cone isn’t essential – you can roll it into a cigar shape, or treat it like a burrito – I just find the cone the easiest shape to eat!

Maki (of course) has more information on temakizushi here.

It was so good (and I overcatered so much) that we had it again the next night, with brother and my other in-law. As the Architect said, two parties from one party meal is a win.

Nom.





Go to 6 new restaurants

28 05 2012

This one was in the 101 things challenge as a way to try some new places to eat. Familiarity is nice, and everyone likes a guaranteed result, but it can be nice to branch out as well. I don’t go out to eat that often, but I love doing it, so when I go I really want to enjoy it.

So here’s six new places I’ve eaten at (in no particular order) and loved since this challenge started back in January 2010 (and here’s my urbanspoon profile for more of the same).

Restaurant Amusé, East Perth

Hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I was in Perth for CHOGM, and the Architect had come with me. We decided to do one fancy night out, and chose Amusé based on advice from the internets. The internets gave us very good advice. They do a 10 course dégustation from local ingredients, with wine matching, and every single thing was absolutely exquisite and beautifully presented. I know I’m in danger of the hyperbole police coming, but it was seriously that good.

Taro’s Ramen, Brisbane city

Taro’s website humbly proclaims it “The best ramen in Australia”. He’s right. It is. I’ve eaten a bit of ramen in my time (excluding 2 minute noodles – those I have eaten a LOT of in my time). This is the ramen that made me understand why people love ramen. Handmade noodles. Incredible Bangalow sweet pork stock. Perfectly cooked eggs. The Fire Tonkotsu is where it’s at. Trust me, I’ve eaten my way through most of the menu.

Caravanserai, West End

Got a dinner coming up with a bunch of people with different tastes? Maybe some picky eaters in there? Take ’em to Caravanserai. It’s noisy and dark and cosy and has pretty lanterns. The banquet is the most ridiculous amount of food, and it’s delicious and pleases everyone (except maybe people who don’t like noisy and dark places).

Sono, Brisbane city

For my first couple of years in Brisbane, my go-to Japanese restaurant was Sakura in Highgate Hill – cheap, cheerful, what more could you want? But lately I’ve started to prefer Sono. While it’s a bit more expensive, the quality is better and the lunch sets are perfect for a cheeky celebration. And they sometimes have fresh uni. FRESH. UNI. Enough said.

Bamboo Basket, South Bank

WTF is xiaolongbao and how do you have soup in a dumpling? you may ask. Until you go here, and eat one, and then your world is taken over with cravings for more. A steamed pork dumpling filled with hot soup. Eat with care. Burnt tongue or no, I’ll be back.

Movida Next Door, Melbourne

A gorgeous few days in Melbourne last autumn with the Architect. Quite a few highlights: excellent dinners at Izakaya-den, Longrain, and of course the infamous four bottles of wine between three dinner with Anna at Siglo. Wandering the laneways for hours. Coffee and crumpets with vegemite in a tiny cafe. Moseying through the National Gallery of Victoria (I can’t be the first person to point out that Victoria is not a nation…?). Sitting the Architect down and asking him to marry me. Lying on the lawn in Carlton Gardens. Looking at cute things all around Fitzroy. Breakfast with Miff and baby Jez at the markets. But one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of those few days is the Monte y mar, the pork-stuffed calamari with squid ink dressing, that we had at MoVida Next Door. Silky texture, amazing taste, washed down with sangria, shared with a lovely man. And for dessert, my first churros. Perfect.





An evening well spent

9 01 2012

nomnomnom

That’s four LITRES of kimchi.

And I’m back.





What is CSA and why do it?

2 05 2011

I thought I’d posted about this before but a quick search says no. Maybe it was at the old place; I’m too lazy to check. In the comments of the choko post, me ma asked what this CSA thing was. CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. No, it’s not going out and digging up your own potatoes – the idea is that farmers sell their produce directly to the customers. Kind of like a farmer’s market in a box.

The Architect and I have been using Food Connect, the (only?) Brisbane CSA enterprise, for… a long time now, so long, in fact, that neither of us can remember how long it’s been. I’d say more than a year, but probably not two years.

How it works:

Food Connect gets food from a range of local farmers, divvies it up and dispatches it around the city (to “City Cousins”), all depending on how many people have ordered. You subscribe to Food Connect for a number of deliveries of a certain type. At the moment we have 13 deliveries of a single veg box up our sleeve, which we get once a fortnight, and add onto things like fruit, honey, olive oil or extra vegies as needed. There’s a nifty online ordering system now which makes the adding on a lot easier, as well as pausing or moving our delivery (for when we go away). The delivery gets taken to my nominated “City Cousin” on a certain day, and I go and pick it up. Our single veg box comes loaded with locally grown, mostly organic veg (click here for more detail). It lasts us a fortnight because we tend to eat at home only four nights a week. We also tried the medium veg and the mixed mini – but the single veg with fruit as an optional extra works best for us.

Why it might not be for you:

Starting out, I was most worried about the lack of ‘choice’. What comes in the box is what you get, which can be a weird concept when we’re used to an overwhelming array of choices, especially when you’re the customer. I adjusted pretty quickly; there’s a good range and mix of things in the box and it’s easy enough to add extras if you need them. We’ll pick up other things if we need them for a specific dish or event, either from the supermarket or the markets, but that’s pretty rare. Now that I’m used to it, I actually like the convenience and the challenge of it. I’ve learnt how to cook with a bunch of things I wouldn’t have chosen – like beetroot and radish – and cook new things with vegies I’m familiar with. Having said all that, if you have a lot of likes and dislikes, or the idea of not being able to choose freaks you out, this might not be the way for you.

Something else that might bother people is the look of the produce. Anyone with a vegie patch or fruit trees at home will (I imagine) be familiar with the bumps and pits and spots that turn up on normal produce. The taste is fine and there’s nothing wrong with the produce – but people used to seeing row upon row of shiny, unblemished fruit and veg at the supermarket might get a bit of a surprise. Twice we’ve had a piece of rotten veg in the box that went beyond what I’d consider acceptable, but apart from that it’s all fine (and twice in about 50 deliveries isn’t too bad). Both times were in the middle of summer and a prolonged wet season in south east Queensland, so I can understand how that happened, as well.

Finally, it’s seasonal. I like that – I always tried to buy what was in season anyway – but if you’re one to lust after lettuce in August or crave snow peas in December, again, maybe this isn’t for you.

Why it’s good:

The main benefit is the taste. We started off, as you do, with a four week trial. In the very first box, there were some carrots. Those carrots were the best carrots either of us had eaten since… who knows. In that moment we decided that we’d give this thing a proper try. Far out. How much better life is with good tasting food. Plus our diet is generally better – we eat plenty of vegetables, and we hardly ever have to buy tasteless, hard supermarket veg (and when we do, we are reminded how lucky we are to have an option that gives us vegies that actually taste like vegies!).

The way the system works, you pay a set price in advance – which means a big chunk of our food costs are stable as well as paid ahead for a few months. If we both lost our jobs tomorrow, we could still eat! And it makes budgeting for food pretty easy, because I know that each fortnight we’ll pay $36 and have enough veg to last a fortnight.

It’s more convenient (for us) than going to the markets. I chose the City Cousin closest to my work, and it’s a simple matter to swing past on the way home. The irony hasn’t escaped me that I drive to work on “Food Connect day”. I bussed it a couple of times and it made the whole thing feel really difficult and annoying; my general rule when making lifestyle changes like this is that if it feels difficult, I won’t stick to it, so I do what I can to make it feel easy.

And finally, there’re the bigger reasons to do it. Supporting local farmers and helping to make their businesses sustainable. Doing something to combat the stranglehold of the Coles and Woolworths duopoly. Buying local. Buying organic. All the environmental benefits that flow from those two. Hooray local action.

The end: I hope I didn’t get all preachy on ya

So that’s a bit about CSA. I see that Adelaide and Sydney have Food Connect now too. I tried to find CSAs in the ‘berra and Melbourne but there doesn’t seem to be a lot out there. Maybe in places that already have good farmers markets, it’s not so popular. Anyway. I like it. And that’s what it is.





My First Choko

23 04 2011

When I picked up my CSA box this week, there was a box of chokoes there with a “Free! Take as many as you like!” sign.

Not being one to pass up free food, I took two. Not one, because what’s the point of one choko? Not three, because I’ve never had chokoes before, so what if they were awful? So. Two chokoes in my vegie crisper. What does one do with a choko?

I asked the Architect’s mum. She wasn’t sure either but pulled out an awesome Dictionary of Australian Recipes (or something) that was printed in the 1930s or thereabouts. In it we found that chokos could be boiled, steamed, roasted, mashed, fried, etc etc etc. Add butter and salt, they all seemed to say.

So choko #1 is at this very moment hanging out in the steamer basket, peeled, quartered and de-seeded, just waiting to be steamed lightly and smothered in dairy salty goodness (and served with some rosemary roast lamb, nom).

Choko #2, still in the fridge, has in its near future a more modern treatment (thank you, internet) and will be stirfried with garlic and sesame oil and a dash of shao-hsing wine.

I ignored the warnings about the irritant in choko goo and dealt with it as I would any other vegie. Interestingly, the skin on my left hand (which was holding the choko as I peeled it) has lost a couple of layers and my palm is very smooth. Choko skin peel – you saw it here first – coming soon to an overpriced James St beauty salon near you.

Anyway. Yay for expanding vegetable horizons, I say. I feel very Queenslandish right now.

UPDATE: First choko: Tasty. Fresh. Butter and salt were good.





Nanakusagayu…

8 01 2011

This year’s nanakusagayu was a day late. What can I say? It’s easier to make okayu on a Saturday. Especially brown rice okayu, which doesn’t work so well in the rice cooker.

I had cress, shungiku, chives, shiso, rocket, thyme and lemon balm this year. Why? Because that’s what I had on hand at the time. All of them home grown and most of them from my lovely gutter garden.

Win.