Posts Tagged “cheese”

Ricotta and Herb Dumplings A while ago I decided to try my hand at cheesemaking - as a devoted lover of cheese I think it was inevitable that I would try to make my own sooner or later. The obvious starting point for any amateur cheesemaker is ricotta. It's the simplest of cheeses - simply add something acidic, such as lemon juice, to some milk to split it into its constituent parts, and drain. Season the resulting drained curds with some sea salt and you're done; it's that easy. The nice thing about ricotta is that it's typically made with either lemon juice or vinegar, rather than rennet like most other cheeses, so you don't need any specialist ingredients. This dish was inspired by a recipe for a Corsican/Italian dish called _strozapretti_, which consists of rustic ricotta dumplings loaded with chopped fresh herbs and chard. It's like ravioli but with just the stuffing, and no pasta surrounding it. Traditionally the dumplings would be fairly rough and imperfect in shape, but I have shaped mine nicely into rounds. I've also baked them in the oven until golden, which is fantastic if you grate parmesan on top first. Baked in a rich tomato sauce, it's pretty irresistible! The ricotta for this recipe should be quite firm, which is easy to achieve if you make your own. Click [here]( for my own ricotta recipe. Alternatively, you can use shop-bought ricotta and drain it overnight in a fine sieve. --- * 200g firm ricotta * 80g baby spinach * 1 small bunch of mint, leaves picked * 1 small bunch of basil, leaves picked * 25g parmesan, finely grated * ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil * 3 tbsp plain flour * 1 egg * 2 tins of chopped plum tomatoes * 1 small onion, finely chopped * 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated * 1 sprig of thyme * sea salt and cracked black pepper * vegetable oil, for frying * olive oil, for frying 1. Place a saute pan over a medium heat and add a little vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the spinach along with a small pinch of salt. Saute until the spinach is wilted, then drain in a sieve. 2. Reserve a selection of the nicest, smallest basil leaves for garnish at the end. Finely chop the mint and roughly chop the remainder of the basil, then place in a bowl. Add the ricotta, flour and egg to the bowl also. 3. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, with clean hands squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible, then roughly chop and add to the bowl with the ricotta along with a generous pinch of black pepper, and sea salt to taste. 4. Line a large tray with greaseproof paper, then divide the ricotta mix into equal portions. Shape each portion into an approximate ball shape and set on the tray. The balls will be quite sticky but don't worry, we're going to re-shape them before cooking. Place the balls in the fridge to cool for 3 hours. 5. Meanwhile, make your tomato sauce; heat a medium pot or saute pan over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, once it's hot, add the onion and garlic and a couple of pinches of salt and cracked black pepper. Sweat gently for 10 minutes until soft, then add the tomatoes and thyme. Turn the heat to low, and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes. It should have turned darker and richer. Remove from the heat and discard the sprig of thyme. 6. Get a large pan of water boiling on the stove and season it generously with salt. Remove the balls from the fridge and, with floured hands shape them into nice round dumpling shapes. With the water at a rolling boil, cook the dumplings 3 or 4 at a time. The water should barely stop boiling when you add each batch. After they float to the surface cook for a further 30 seconds then remove and drain in a colander. 7. Heat the oven to 180C. In a casserole dish or oven-proof bowl, pour in the tomato sauce and add the dumplings. Scatter over the parmesan then place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the dumplings are lightly browned. 8. Garnish with the reserved basil leaves and serve.

Bacon and Comte Bread I got hooked on making my own bread after visiting my aunt who makes award winning sourdough loaves. She donated me a small sample of her starter dough, which I brought home and cultured until it had grown to a decent enough size for me to begin making my own crunchy, tangy loaves. Although this is not a sourdough recipe, I feel obliged to mention my aunt as it was the impressive texture and flavour of her sourdough bread that convinced me to start making my own every day. All the best bread begins with a starter. This is either a sourdough starter (_levain_), or a _poolish_, which is a 50-50 mixture of flour and water with a small amount of yeast that’s left for about 1 day to ferment before adding more flour, yeast and water to create the actual dough. Using a starter will create a superior texture and give the bread more depth of flavour. A mature sourdough starter will give you more flavour and texture, but fact that the _poolish_ only requires 1 day of planning (compared to 1 week or more with the sourdough) makes it an attractive option. The basis of this recipe is similar to that found in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. I have simplified the method to make it a _little_ less labour intensive. It’s a compromise; the outcome of Keller’s recipe _is_ slightly superior, although not by much! This recipe is quicker and easier, and pretty-much-as-good as Keller’s. It’s still quite a bit of effort for a loaf of bread, but trust me, it’s worth it. I have added bacon and comté cheese, along with some rich tasting rapeseed oil; this is a luxurious treat. The vital crunchy crust is achieved firstly by having a _really_ hot oven before you put the bread in; secondly by scoring the bread, either down the center, across in stripes or a random pattern, with a sharp knife just before putting in the oven; and lastly by throwing a mugful of water into the bottom of the oven just before you close the door. For the final shaping and proving of the bread, you’ll need a baker’s linen cloth, or you can simply use a heavy-ish tea-towel instead. Also, a wide, flat baking sheet or stone is needed. --- * 415g warm water * 725g strong white flour * 2 ⅛ tsp dried yeast * 13g salt * 3 tbsp high quality rapeseed oil * 120g comté * 6 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon 1. Make the _poolish_; mix 125g of flour, 125g of water and ⅛ tsp yeast in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover lightly with cling film and leave for 24 hours. When it’s ready, it’s surface will be completely covered in tiny bubbles. 2. Mix the rest of the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl then make a well in the center. Add the water, rapeseed oil and starter and thoroughly mix to form a wet, sticky dough. 3. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a flat rectangle. Stretch out the right-hand two corners as far as they will go and fold back into the center. Repeat with the opposite two corners, then turn over the dough, pat into a rectangle again and repeat. Repeat this whole procedure 3 times, then place back in the bowl, cover and leave for 1 hour. 4. Stretch and fold the dough again. Cover and leave for another 1 hour. 5. Fry the bacon over a medium heat until cooked, and only lightly coloured. Leave to cool, then cut into approx 3mm squares. Cut the comté into 3mm cubes. 6. Divide the dough into 2 balls and split the bacon and comté into 2 equal portions. Knead the bacon and comté into the dough ensuring that it’s evenly distributed. Cover and leave for 20 minutes. Roll each into a baguette shape about 10 inches in length and 2.5 inches in diameter. Flour your cloth and place the loaves in, creating some folds to allow baguettes to keep their shape. Weigh the edges of the cloth down and cover with cling film. Leave for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 7. Meanwhile heat oven to 210C and get your baking tray nice and hot. Transfer the baguettes one at a time to the hot tray, score with a sharp knife and place in oven. Throw a mugful of boiling water in the bottom to generate the steam required to get your crunchy crust. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown, and feel lighter than they look when you pick them up. Cool on a wire rack.

Peanut Caramel Cheesecake This is another one for all the peanut butter lovers out there, and in fact I’d be willing to bet that even peanut butter haters will enjoy this dessert! There’s something about the flavour and texture of peanut butter that makes it quite uncompromising; for some, the richness is too much on its own, and is only palatable when paired with something sweet. In the contest to be the most loved peanut butter dish, the old-school favourite _peanut butter and jam_ is arguably winning. I would, however, argue that this cheesecake beats it hands-down. Broadly speaking, there are two classes of cheesecake: baked, and unbaked. This one falls into the latter (slightly quicker and easier) option. The general technique for the filling is very simple; make a thick puree (peanut caramel in this case, although strawberry, raspberry or chocolate also work well), and mix in cream cheese. Now simply soft-peak-whip some cream and gently fold in. This cheesecake is mousse-like in texture and rich in taste. The biscuit base provides a nice contrast to the creamy-cheesy peanut mix that sits atop. Traditionally, Digestive biscuits have been used for a cheesecake base, but why use Digestives when you could use Hobnobs instead? After all, they taste better and it’s what [Delia]( would do. In addition to the ingredients below, you will also need a cake ring 22cm in diameter and 5cm deep, and some greaseproof paper. --- * 270g condensed milk * 145g smooth peanut butter * 125g golden syrup * 180g unsalted butter * 175g Hobnob biscuits * 50g flaked almonds, finely chopped * 250g whipping cream * 250g cream cheese 1. To make the peanut caramel; place the condensed milk, peanut butter, golden syrup and 110g of butter in a pan over a medium heat and stir until melted. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, until almost bubbling and the caramel has thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 2. Grease the inside of the cake ring lightly with vegetable oil or butter and line with a strip of greaseproof paper. 3. Crush the Hobnob biscuits to a breadcrumb-like consistency, and place in a bowl along with the chopped almonds. Melt the 70g of butter, and mix thoroughly with the biscuit mix. Empty the biscuit mix into the cake ring and press into an even layer, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to set. 4. Once the peanut caramel has cooled to room temperature, transfer it into a mixing bowl. Use a plastic spatula to ensure you don’t waste any of it! Now add the cream cheese and mix until thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form when you lift up the whisk. Fold the cream gently into the peanut and cheese mixture in 3 stages, ensuring that each stage is completely mixed before adding the next. 5. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the cake ring, filling right to the edges, and place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.

Leek and Roquefort Quiche The Bouchon collection is a set of recipe books by one of my idols; Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. Bouchon is the three Michelin starred chef’s bistro in Yountville, California that serves French classics like beef bourguignon, salt cod brandade, and quiche. There is a chapter on the quiche where Keller talks about the lost art of making great quiche; something which seems to have gone out of fashion, or forgotten about. A proper quiche will be two inches deep, filled to the very brim with a barely set, perfectly light custard. The shortcrust pastry should be rich and crisp, and specifically 4-5mm thick, so that it remains crisp and doesn’t become soggy after cooking. I had a couple of attempts at this quiche before getting a satisfactory result, and I was pleased with my third try. I actually bought a 9″ quiche ring especially for the task as none of the pastry rings in my house were quite the right size. One of the brilliant things about this recipe is the lightness of the custard; Keller blitzes the custard mix in a blender before pouring into the pastry shell, aerating the mix and resulting in a delicate light filling. This recipe is more or less the same as that found in Bouchon, but I’ve added spinach to the filling and converted the ingredients from pounds and ounces to kilograms. --- * 350g of plain white flour * 225g of unsalted butter, chilled * 65ml of ice cold water * 1 teaspoon of salt * 500ml of whole milk * 500ml of double cream * 6 eggs * 1 tablespoon of sea salt * 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground white pepper * 6 gratings of fresh nutmeg * 3 leeks * 200g of baby spinach * 150g of roquefort cheese, crumbled * olive oil 1. To make the pastry: cut the butter into small dice, and rub into the flour and salt with fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix the water in and knead very briefly to incorporate. Don’t overwork. Wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. 2. Roll the pastry out until you have a circle about 35cm in diameter and 3-4 mm thick. Take a 9 x 2 inch plain ring and place on a tray lined with parchment paper. Carefully line the ring with the pastry, being careful to press evenly into the sides and corners. Leave about an inch of pastry hanging over the edge. This will help prevent it from shrinking inwards when baking. Reserve trimmings for patching any cracks in the pastry later. Heat the oven to 190 C. Place the pastry shell in the fridge or freezer for at least 20 minutes before cooking. 3. Now line the pastry with a round of parchment paper and fill with dried beans or rice, pressing gently to fill the shell completely. Blind-bake the pastry for 35 to 45 minutes, until the outside of the pastry is golden and crisp but the inside still light. Remove the beans and parchment paper and return the shell to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes, until golden and crisp inside and out. Patch any cracks with the trimmings, returning to the oven for a further 5 minutes. 4. Heat the oven to 165 C, then prepare the filling: take three large leeks and slice thinly, discarding the dark green part or reserving for another recipe. Cook in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Drain on kitchen paper. Wilt the spinach by searing in a hot pan with a glug of olive oil, adding a pinch of salt. Mix with the cooked leeks. For the batter, heat the milk, cream and salt in a pan until a skin just begins to form on the surface. Place 3 eggs, half the cream mixture, 3 gratings of nutmeg and half the white pepper in a blender and blitz for about 30 seconds until foamy and light. Spread out half the leek mixture and half the roquefort in the bottom of the quiche shell, and pour over enough batter to just cover. Repeat with the remaining filling and batter mix. Fill the quiche to the very brim. Reserve any left over filling. Carefully place in the oven being careful not to spill any of the mix. Cook for about 1 ½ hours, until the quiche is nicely brown and the custard just set when jiggled. After about 20 minutes the custard will have sunk slightly in the middle as some of the air escapes the mix; simply top up with the leftover batter and return to the oven. Refrigerate for at least a day, or up to 3 days, until completely set. Slice into portions and reheat gently in the oven. Alternatively, it is just as excellent eaten cold.

Ricotta As a lover of cheese, the idea of making my own was obviously an appeal. My friend Guy gave me a book called Making Your Own Cheese and it has recipes for most common cheeses. The simplest involves very little process; take some milk and split it into its separate components by adding something acidic. The solid stuff, curds, are then drained off from the liquid. Once fully drained the curds are seasoned with salt. That’s it! This is the beautiful simplicity of ricotta; all other cheeses involve some process from this stage to arrive at the final product. --- * 2 1/2litres of whole milk * 2 lemons, juice of * sea salt 1. Combine the milk and lemon juice in a large pan and slowly heat to 83C; the curds will begin to separate from the whey. Hold at this temperature for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, dampen and fold muslin into 5-6 layers. Carefully Ladle the curds onto the muslin and bring the corners together to hang. Drain in the fridge for 4 hours. 2. Salt to 1% by weight.

Macaroni Cheese Macaroni cheese is a classic home-made dish for me. It was a firm favourite for us three at home especially for Rob who would devour mountains of it with lashings of tomato ketchup. We were so particular about the consistency of the sauce, being adamant that it had to be “nice and sloppy”. These days I like it a little thicker but still loose enough to be gooey and tempting, and with a nice golden gratin to give contrast in texture. One thing my parents did was to put slices of tomato on the top among the cheese. As a big fan of tomatoes, I would highly advise this. It gives a light freshness to balance the weight of all that cheese. The quality of a macaroni can be judged by the quality of it’s cheese sauce. My Dad taught me how to make perfectly smooth cheese sauce (or white sauce); he told me to add the milk to the roux in stages, and stir thoroughly each time to ensure that its totally smooth before adding more. It’s completely fail-safe and I’ve never made a lumpy cheese sauce since. Thanks Dad! --- * 850ml of whole milk * 3 bay leaves * 3 cloves of garlic, crushed * 1 pinch of ground nutmeg * 5 black peppercorns * 4 cloves * 1/2 onion, finely sliced * 300g of macaroni * 50g of unsalted butter * 150g of full flavoured cheese, such as cheddar, or gruyere * 50ml of double cream * 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs * 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, finely grated 1. Preheat the oven to 180C. To make the cheese sauce; firstly bring the milk to the boil with the bay leaves, thyme, garlic, nutmeg, peppercorns, cloves and onion. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and cook 300g of macaroni. Refresh the pasta under cold water once done. Meanwhile make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan and adding the plain flour. Once combined, strain the flavoured milk and add to the roux in stages. 2. When all the milk is in, add the cheese and double cream. Remove from the heat and stir to combine. Taste and add salt if needed. Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour into a suitably sized baking dish. Now for the gratin; sprinkle the breadcrumbs and finely grated parmesan cheese over the top. Add some slices of tomato, and mozzarella if desired. Place in the oven until lovely and golden on top.