Friday, April 15, 2011

Cheese madness

The last 24 hours have been a bit of a blur.  It started when I found an old recipe book of mine from my student days.  In the back I had handwritten lots of recipes as I came across them from different friends.  I saw a recipe I made a few times - naan bread.  What I really liked about this recipe was that you could freeze them in little balls after you had kneaded them, then defrost, flatten and cook for dinner.  Yum.  The recipe needs natural yoghurt so I got out the Easiyo maker, threw in a mix and left it to do its magic overnight.

The next morning the yoghurt was ready so I made the naan dough.  At this point I was feeling lazy so threw the mixture into the breadmaker to knead while I caught up with a friend.  I put it in the breadmaker, then forgot about it for about six hours.

The baby got some of the yoghurt for lunch - mixed with a smidge of homemade strawberry jam.  It was so yummy, I ended up having the same!

In the meantime I decided to make Jamie Oliver's 'simple' lasagne.  I'm not sure exactly what he thinks is simple about it - it contains about 25 ingredients.  But it looked delicious, and any recipe that starts off with 'fry the bacon in cinnamon' sounds promising.  Instead of white sauce he uses creme fraiche. I decided to substitute with my leftover cream cheese made a couple of days ago.  At the same time I had the idea that ricotta would also be nice in the lasagne (and would be lovely on some naan bread pizzas as well).  So I made some ricotta. 

I happily prepared the recipe, really enjoying chopping up the last of our carrots, and using my sole heritage tomato from the garden in the meat sauce.  I felt like it was going to be a really special meal.

I got to the end of the recipe (this is why you should read them carefully before you start) and saw that you should put mozarella on the top.  I have the recipe for mozarella, but didn't have the milk, and hadn't made it before.  At this stage I was quite emotionally invested in my super-lasagne so just decided that it had to have home made mozarella as well.  I went down to the supermarket, bought some silver top milk and put the baby in the high chair with a rice cracker and banana to keep her amused while I prepared the mozarella.

I decided to halve the recipe as it felt a bit decadent buying four litres of silver top.  But because I was rushing, and having fun playing scientist (you get to use a pipette when you make mozarella) I accidentally added the full amount of calcium chloride and rennet.  Once I realised what I had done I decided to wing it.  I fashioned some silver top milk out of blue milk and cream (about 200mls of cream and the rest blue milk mixed together).  I have no idea what the correct proportion would be, but I was determined to keep going.  After half an hour, it had set, and for the first time in my life I got to 'cut the curd.'  The mozarella making itself was fun - and almost mystical - grab a handful of drained curds, dip in hot water for 30seconds then stretch around and make a ball.  It was awesome fun.

The lasagne was assembled and baked.  It did taste awesome, but was not simple, and I would probably only make it again if I was entertaining.

As the cheese making craziness wore off I reviewed the damage:  The recycling now contained two blue milk containers, one silver top and one cream.  There were pots everywhere (I did three loads in the dishwasher that wild afternoon).

And I'd forgotten all about the naan.  The naan had risen spectacularly: all over the top of the pan in the breadmaker and down the sides.  So I had a bit of a rapid clean up, froze the little naan balls and very tiredly went to pick up my eldest daughter from creche.

I think I'll lay off the cheesemaking for a couple of days! 

 (left to right): marscapone, cream cheese and ricotta (in progress)
 The homemade yoghurt with strawberry jam
 My first mozarella balls - they get smoother with practice!
The rather delcious lasagne!


  1. the phrase "domestic goddess" is ringing loudly in my head.
    Well done!!

  2. I'm a bit intrigued by cheesemaking. How feasible is it to make the cheeses which families commonly eat the most of? Does it actually save money?

  3. You are a legend! Glad the naan was rescue-able :)

  4. Anna - I'll write you a post detailing the economics!

  5. Kirst, I find it completely impractical to try to make hard or semi-hard cheeses in the home, but both cheaper and tastier to make my own fresh cheeses like paneer, mozzarella, and so on.

  6. Maire what do you use when making mozarella? Is it silver top milk and rennet?

  7. What a burst of culinary creativity! I really enjoyed your post.