Simple Ricotta Cheese

In a decision to make lasagna, I decided first to learn to make ricotta cheese.  Italian ricotta cheese is light and not entirely different to its close cousin cottage (Indian paneer).  However, varied textures and a subtle difference in taste separate these two.  What impressed me most on my first-ever mission to concoct cheese, was how easy this was.  Because my grocer is without ricotta, this will definitely be a regular recipe in my home.  The best thing about ricotta?  It only requires 2 ingredients.  Now not many recipes can boast that ease!

I sourced many different recipes online, but found the instructions and simplicity of 101 Cookbooks to be the best.

 

 

: : Ingredients : :
1 part Buttermilk
4 parts Full Cream Milk

[2c Buttermilk to 8c Milk = 2 c cheese; 1qt Buttermilk to 1gal Milk = 4 c cheese]

: : Preparation : :
You’ve never had it easier.  Heat the milks combined in a saucepan on medium high heat, stirring to prevent pot sticking.  Meanwhile, place a sieve/colander over a larger bowl and line with cheese cloth, muslin or thin dish cloths. Layer 2 dish cloths (the cheapest, holiest variety is what I chose, for better drainage) or 4-6 layers of cheese cloth.

 

After about 10 minutes or so, as curds start to form, measure the heating milks’ temperature.  When it reaches 175F/80C remove from heat.  Pour into the lined sieve slowly, allowing water to drain out.  Use the back of a spoon to ease the excess cheese away from cloth so that it can drain more easily.  Gather up the excess cloth and gently press water out from cheese, without applying much pressure to the curds.  Allow to drain for about 15-20 minutes, until water has been drained away.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Some important ways to use your Ricotta:

Enjoy the fresh ricotta cheese in lasagna or baked dishes
Add to 1 T to each egg in scramble for the fluffiest results
Drizzle with honey and fruit
Top off a cracker with a savoury addition such as red pepper
Enrich sauces with ricotta as a light substitute for cream (or in addition to!)

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Pineapple Mango Tarts with Lemon Cream

I lucked out recently with some tasty fruit from a friend – mango and pineapple.  Leftover phyllo pastry sheets in my fridge have been begging for use so, with two public holidays in the past week, I had some time to dream up something divine (with a little help from the internet, of course).  While totally sweet, they pack in a lot of zesty punch in a 4-bite-size, leaving you without a toothache upon consumption.

In case you haven’t noticed, I adore cream.  But honestly, cream felt like the right companion for these little divas, and so whipped cream with a touch of lemon came to mind.  The combo is a winner and can easily be served as dessert or as an accompaniment to afternoon tea.  Devour and enjoy!

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the joy of cooking2

The Joi

The Joi

After Kim’s comment on the Ultimate Orange Vegan Cake, she sent me this photo documenting the change in the book. As you can, it’s already been smeared in brownie hands. What can we say? It is a treasure waiting to be ravished and relished. Thank you Angee Lennard for your restoration of this find cooking Bible. I promise no one is paying me to say this, but go, buy your copy now!

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The Ultimate Orange Vegan Cake

I have baked this Orange Vegan Cake multiple times, starting as a birthday cake for Britt, a vegan friend, in my Chicago days. This recipe hails from the archives of “The Joy of Cooking” – what Kim & Grace, my old roommates, and I used to call “The Joi”. The Joi was handled by pastry hands, puree hands, broth hands and of course lots of cake hands. By the time it came for us to part ways, the outside of the book was crusty, nonetheless it was a treasure that couldn’t be ripped into thirds. Kim still cooks til dawn from the Joi. And I think, on my next visit to USA, it will be one of the burdensome weights I will lug back to South Africa because it indulges practically every kitchen fancy, simple and fine.

So let me get on with it!  Orange Vegan Cake is delicious, it is moist, it is delicate in flavour yet obvious, it is the cakes grown-ups are made to eat.  And to top that, it’s easy to make and doesn’t require very many special ingredients or any special tools.

Luscious Garlic Dressing

It is good to be home.  On return of a chilly, mountainous motorbike trip through Lesotho, flavours of 2-minute noodles, powder milk, and tinned tuna linger and my tongue is lapping up more luxurious flavours with rapid speed.  A quick business trip to Johannesburg yesterday had me showering Johannes in fine cheeses whilst I was wrapped up in a bit of urban inspiration.

Our typical Friday night: a braai.  Not being a braaier, I don’t have much to contribute recipe-wise to my blog but it is the ultimate pastime of all South Africans black, white and blue (with reference to my cat’s carnivorous eyes).  A braai, a barbie, and barbecue, all the same.  But South Africans take special pride in braaing over a wood-coals and the tradition thus has everyone eating by 10pm (wood coals take a lot more time to produce the correct temperature than charcoal, plus it gives everyone the chance for a healthy few beers prior to consuming).  But generally, the wait is worth it.  Johannes is an avid braaier.  It’s not so much for his exquisite handling of meat as it is the addiction of making fire and playing cowboy by starlight.

So yesterday, yet another typical Friday night.  The cooling autumn air brings on a fire easily for its warm invitation and I do my typical thing: make a salad to go with the hunk of meat on the grid.  I happened upon a stunningly simple source of inspiration for our salad dressing last night: garlic.  And by using a variety of ingredients on hand, I whipped up something I thought worth sharing with you.  An intensely full-bodied dressing, with layers of refreshing tang, mellow sweetness and a bit of fire, it’s a worthy accompaniment to any meal’s salad.

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Peach Chili Jam

This jam has great potential.  I’ve been eating it for a week already and think it’s worth promoting.  On toast, it’s tasty, but my mind wanders to pairing it with a creamy brie or a salty pecorino – none such cheeses available to me here, so I am left to imagine.  It makes a great addition for some zing to a stir fry or as an added layer to a fresh sandwich.  Whatever you choose to do, this jam is damn versatile!

I happened upon a mother load of peaches that were 2 seconds from going off, so canning seemed the best way to utilise them.  It was my first attempt at making jam and, of course, I wasn’t exactly prepared with the right ingredients or best tools.  So, my jars are filling up the fridge – cleaned as best possible, I just don’t have the tongs for sterilising without burning my whole arm and left leg!  Also, without pectin, I subbed with cornstarch (Maizena) and did the best I could, but realised dissolving the cornstarch in water first would have saved me a lot of stirring and hassle. Continue reading

Salad with Mint and Purple Basil

Okay, officially busy.  Thus the blurry, taken at night photograph — I haven’t had time to replace the bulb on my good light!

So where were we?  Oh yes, I ‘ve been so busy I haven’t made dinner in 2 weeks.  Well.  Achem.  Thank you boyfriend.  And thank you garden.

I have no recipe to offer you tonight.  Just three ingredients.  And some encouragement to start your summer salad garden, you Northerners, you!  We have been enjoying incredibly delicious straight-from-the-garden salads, complete with watercress, basil, pickled purple onions, butter head  lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, herbs and tomatoes.  The three key ingredients I have found add to a superb salad concoction this summer?  Mint. For its freshness.  Purple Basil.  For its taste and colour.  Cherry Tomatoes.  For their sweetness and versatility.  Go buy your  seedlings now!

Sunday Lie-in: Cream Scones

Scones: In North Carolina we call these biscuits.  This particular recipes recalls the salty, fluffy taste of Hardee’s biscuits, but do not be deterred – those biscuits, pared with a sausage patty, were out of this world in my childhood.  And these, make no mistake, are not nearly as fatty from their lard counterpart.  In South Africa, biscuits are what Americans know as cookies.  So it can get confusing if I go back and forth between ‘languages’ so I’ll stick with “Scones” from here on out!  I promise you, these mouth-watering treasures, especially baked with butter atop, are a quick, seamless recipe away.

After a late night out, Johannes and I made a pact for a Sunday morning noon lie-in.  How divine!  As country bumpkin adults, we seem to get our move on pretty early on the weekends and spend little time relaxing in our own home.  It takes going out fishing or camping or seeing friends to make us slow down and enjoy the weekend a bit.  It has something to do with our lack of entertainment, I’m sure, and everything else to do with the fact that if we don’t make our home life busy with reading, gardening, cooking, cleaning, painting, refining and dining our country life does become a bit boring.

But to be honest, even though it’s been a long week at work, my body is not used to lying still in bed for more than 9 hours any more.  Inspired to make scones with our fairly empty pantry and fridge, I discovered this superb recipe online.  The best thing about it – it got me moving for about 30 minutes, but gave me a good reason to deliver breakfast in bed and to indulge in its delivery, as well, enabling me to stick to our noon lie-in pact. Continue reading

Intense Chocolate Sugar Cookies

So my boyfriend and I have completely opposite taste buds.  He loves heaps of sugar in his tea but generally doesn’t care for dessert, whilst I like my tea more bitter and live for sugary dessert.  He loves the hottest, spice-iest of food to the extent whenever he makes dinner my lips burn.  He craves meat and sauce and every condiment under the sun; in turn, I hate saucy foods, detest soggy bread and only feel meals are complete with a healthy dose of veg.  He loves eggs cooked in every fashion and I struggle to eat eggs less than scrambled.  I love anything fruit, he is only mildly content with a buttery peach or puckering cherry.

So when I manage to cook something that sends both of our taste buds sky high, I feel quite satisfied.  These cookies are one of them.  With enough butter, salt and unsweetened cocoa powder they manage to be a little less sweet and a little more savoury – if that’s possible with chocolate.  They are intense and perhaps a little less dangerous that some delicious cookies as 1-2 can fill you up in their richness.

I gathered this recipe from Martha Stewart’s website, however varied from it slightly as I didn’t have enough white sugar on hand.  This dessert is sure to satisfy the adult chocolate lover and makes a great accompaniment with ice cream or fresh cream. Continue reading

Basil Infused Olive Oil

For Christmas 2012, I decided a culinary gift might just suit my best of friends.  With rapidly growing sweet Genovese basil, I have struggled to keep up with the amount of cuttings produced daily from trimming off the flowers.  A bug in my ear suggested basil infused olive oil as an option.

All to eagerly, I set out to purchase oil bottles, only to later realise what an endeavour I had tasked myself with!  While producing an extremely delicate and delicious result, this process does call for time on hand if you’re using home-grown basil.  I shall take you through the steps, nonetheless, as I think it’s worth the effort and due diligence.

Apart from finding the right bottles and selecting the right olive oil to start with, the lengthier step is by far the harvesting, washing, plucking and drying.  I naively thought at first that stuffing a bottle full of basil leaves might lead to a superior concoction – that premise was proved quite wrong by the number of infusion articles swimming on the world wide web.  This, this and this are some of the ones I referenced.  Introducing plant matter to oil can quickly lead to a rancid product – so if making for yourself in small batches it’s fine to infuse with whole, fresh leaves.  But for a larger production (in my case Christmas gifts that would take 2 weeks to distribute), it seemed the dry method was the best way to go.  By drying the leaves you lose some of the basil’s potency, however you slim the chances of the oil rotting too soon.

Choosing the wet or dry method is one decision that must be made.  The other is whether to infuse with heat or cold.  Cold can lead to stronger product, but takes much longer to procure, so I went with heat.  It’s much quicker and allows you to wrap up the project in one Saturday.

It’s  impossible to suggest proportions here, so rather I will take you through the steps, one by one: Continue reading