Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cheesecake - of sorts

Every time I make cheese I also make ricotta. Apart from anything else, it cuts down the pollution factor in getting rid of the whey. I had a few little bags of ricotta in the freezer this week, and thought I might try a cheesecake experiment. Joe Pastry blogged about New York cheesecake the other day; I'd never heard of the stuff - it turns out to be baked cheesecake without the crust. A number of Joe's correspondents mentioned using dairy foods other than cream cheese in its manufacture, so I thought I'd have a go. I also wanted to test a theory I have about baking in plastic wrap.

I put my aliquots of ricotta in the food processor along with a good big dollop of my home-made yoghurt and four eggs …

… whizzed it up until it was as smooth as it was going to get (not terribly, as my ricotta always has remnants of cheese curd in it) then added a cup or so of sugar and the zest and juice of two lemons …

… I whizzed it again, then poured it into a Gladwrap-lined caketin. I had this theory that the plastic wouldn't melt in the oven so long as it was all touching either something cool (the cheesecake) or something that was in contact with a cool thing and has excellent heat conduction qualities (the metal pan). Michael Ruhlman's terrines in Charcuterie are baked in plastic wrap and it doesn't melt, but they wrap right around the cooking meat and will never get hotter than 70°C or so.

Well, my theory turned out to be correct, I put the tin of mix into a 150°C oven in a bain marie and left it there until it was set, about an hour. Here it is, just out of the oven:

As soon as it was cool enough I turned the cake out of the tin. The plastic peeled off beautifully, not in the least bit melted. I ground some Lust over the cake and cut myself a slice, which I ate with more yoghurt:

Rather nice if I do say so myself. Smoother might be better, but I'm not sure. It's quite low calorie too.

And that's what I've been snacking on this morning while making these little dresses for my granddaughters and a friend's daughter:

Cute, no?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feral goat

My friend Stephen has been out hunting again, and brought back feral nanny-goat. He brought around a leg for me to turn into salami, and a gift of a backstrap. The leg is minced up, mixed with salt, pepper, and garlic, curing in the fridge. I'll stuff it into casings on Tuesday night.

I decided to cook the backstrap sous vide, seeing as I had the waterbath full to make feta this morning.

Firstly I cut it in half and removed all fat and silverskin. Here the front half is ready to go, the back half still needs trimming:

I salted them both, and sealed them in separate bags:

This is what it looks like after 1.5 hours at 60°C:

That one's gone into the fridge in its bag. Here's the other one released from its plastic:

Doesn't look terribly appetizing, does it?

But here it is after being seared for not very long on each side in a smoking hot pan:

Just look at those juicy tender slices! It's gorgeous and I've been snacking on it all afternoon.

Saturday is my bread day - I make a (very) small loaf of bread in the morning and eat it during the day, along with other snacky things, without having any proper meals at all. The other half of the backstrap will become part of a real meal though. Garlic mash! Garlic kumara mash, even, and with runner beans from the garden.

Friday night dinner

Had some leftover mashed kabocha squash that I turned into gnocchi by adding flour and egg, kneading briefly, rolling out and dropping in short lengths into boiling water.

Ate them with one of the sous vide chicken legs with ham and wine sauce I made the other day.

The gnocchi were a tad stodgy (the mashed kabocha was a bit too wet) but tasty all the same. The chicken was delicious.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shoes from Adelaide 3

Aka cowboy boots. The weather has turned to crap again, so I can wear them.

They were from Zoe Wittner, and I'd never have bought them if they weren't so cheap - down to $25, because … they're actually odd sizes. One's a 38 and the other's a 39, but you can't really tell unless you carefully line them up next to each other. More importantly, they don't feel any different on. The thing I love about them is the colour, they're a really cool dark bluey-grey.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday

Not that I'm in the least bit religious, but I do like traditions and I love pancakes.

This is my version of Crêpes Suzette. I'm quite sure it's not how you're supposed to make it - for one thing, this has no oranges and no alcohol.

Step one, make a pile of crêpes:

Step two, melt together a big knob of butter, some sugar, and some citrus zest and juice - in this case it's lime, because that's what I had:

Step three, boil it down until it's syrupy.

Step four, dunk pancakes in syrup one by one, fold, dunk again, and put on plate.

Step five, pile on a good dollop of home-made yoghurt and grind some Lust over it:

Step six, scoff it down and feel very pleased that the Christians invented a festival for eating pancakes.

Step seven, feel even more thankful that I'm not religious myself, so have no obligation to observe Lent.

Corn season

So I'll be having some nice tasty, low-calorie and cheap meals like this one:

It doesn't last for long, so you have to eat it while you can.

On the subject of cheap, when the supermarket deli has cut the meat of a ham for selling by the slice, they sell what's left for not very much. I've already had a couple of hundred grams of meat from this:

And I cut the rest off to cook with my sous vide chicken legs, along with a bit of smoked garlic:

After that photo was taken I added a splash of white wine and thickened the resulting sauce with a wee bit of cornflour - but my camera battery went flat so I couldn't take a piccie of the final dish.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Semi-dry pepperoni, Camembert, meat experiments

This week I've succumbed to impatience. I'm getting a bit sick of making salami that I can't taste for a couple of months, so I'm trying a semi-dry version of one.

To make a semi-dry salami you need to a) ferment it quickly, which requires the introduction of bacterial cultures, lots of glucose for them to metabolise, and high temperature fermentation; b) cook it after fermentation, optionally with smoke; c) not dry it for very long, if at all.

Here I have some minced pork with a little bit of minced beef beef, salt, nitrite (no nitrate because the cooking step kills any residual bacteria), plenty of glucose, a good dose of yoghurt, cayenne pepper, paprika, fennel seeds, and black pepper:

I mixed it all up and stuffed it into fibrous casings.

Here's the yoghurt I use:

Good thick silky smooth home-made stuff. I use a cup of milk powder per litre of milk and incubate it in my oven overnight. I have a great oven (two, actually) which can go as low as 30°C and as high as 260°C.

I used the low temperature of my oven to ferment the pepperoni for about 20 hours at ~40°C and put a bowl of water in the oven too, to keep the humidity up around 90% as per the instructions in my book.

After 20 hours I increased the temperature of the oven to 50°C for an hour or so, then to 60°C until the interior of the sausages was also 60°C. After that I dunked them in cold water and hung them up over the spare shower to dry. I'll leave them there for a couple of days, and have a taste on Monday.

The little bit of beef in the pepperoni was trimmings from this rump:

It was on special for $9.99/kg again this week, ridiculously cheap. I bought a fairly big bit and cut it into two neat hunks, one of which I rubbed with Heatwave and one with Oh! Zone. I then vacuum packed them and put them in the freezer ready to be cooked sous vide at some later date.

This lamb "drumstick" (a new name for what I think is the the bit just above the front knee) is in the waterbath as I type. It has a sprig of rosemary from the garden and a few slivers of garlic in with it.

I'll take it out in the morning and we'll see what it's like. I'm actually cooking it at a reasonably high temperature because of the rosemary and garlic - low temperature cooking is supposed to make them taste yukky.

I put four brined chicken drumsticks in for a couple of hours too:

They are now out and in the fridge:

I'm not 100% sure what to do with them. Their skin will need crisping up before they get eaten, but apart from that I'll just have to wait and see what occurs to me. They're nicely pasteurised anyway, so I have a week or so to think.

I brined eight drumsticks altogether. These ones …

… went in the smoker, and will become part of my lunches for next week.

Here's some Camembert draining:

My son and his family are visiting just after Easter so I started some today to be ready when they're here. Jonathan is rather fond of it, and I'd like him to try some of my non-factory made stuff. It actually ripens properly and goes all gooey inside. I took the other half of the curd and pressed it. Tomorrow I'll take it out of the press and treat it pretty much the same as I do the Camembert - trying to re-create this Farmhouse Brie.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My internet shopping disaster

I bought this pair of espadrilles from here a few years ago. It was my one and only internet shopping disaster.

I ordered three pairs of espadrilles, in blue, red, and yellow, and one pair of espadrille soles. Some few months, several emails and a couple of expensive international phone calls after I ordered them they finally arrived. This was the only pair that was wearable, although I still have the soles. One pair came with one size 38 and one 37 shoe, the other came with the correct sizes on the soles, but there was about a two centimetre difference in the size of the hole your feet go through. The (English) guy (it's entirely possible there are new owners now, I can't possibly see how he could run a successful business, or any business at all for long) running the show was completely useless, I think he must have been on drugs or something. He told me to ship them back to him and he'd replace them, which I did, but I heard nothing more from him. By this time it had been much more than three months since the credit card transaction had gone through, so I couldn't even get my money returned via the bank.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Beaded wedges

These are today's shoes. They have wee wooden platforms about two inches high, and the fabric uppers are beaded with a dragonfly pattern.

I've had them for years, but this is the first time I've worn them. They're not super comfortable to walk in, as there is no give in the fabric uppers, but they're fine sitting at my desk. I brought some other sandals to work for my lunchtime walk.

Espadrilles from Broome

I bought these (I forgot to post them yesterday) a few years ago in Broome, when my son and daughter-in-law were living there.

They're just as comfy as my wee suede French espadrilles, but not a stylish as the French ones were when new.

Broome is a lovely place, but it's too damned hot and humid to visit in the wet season (summer) and a bit of an expensive mission to get to anyway, even though the dry season is just gorgeous. Adelaide is much closer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fake geta

Way back in the 1970s I had a pair of platform jandals very similar to these:

The soles were almost identical, but the top bit was suede, where these have a sort of suede-y fabric instead. I wore those things until they were falling to pieces and then looked and looked for a long time to find replacements. It took about 20 years, but I finally found these. They are not as nice as my suede originals, but they're not too bad.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday night dinner

I spent most of today sewing. I have a big pile of fabric that's taking up valuable space and I'm determined to get rid of it. Especially as I'm having two lots of guests at the end of March and I want to have at least one empty drawer in each of the spare rooms for them to put some clothes in while they're staying.

Anyway, I finished getting rid of one bit of fabric at about 5pm today. Then I needed to eat.

I sautéed some potatoes …

… when they were nearly done I added some mushrooms and thinly sliced onion …

… stirred it around abit untill the mushrooms had shrunk and the onions had softened, then layered on some slices of gravlax that had been in the freezer and lost a fair bit of their colour …

… then tossed on some cooked spinach and poured four eggs beaten with a little milk over the top …

… a sprinkle of cheese …

… and into the oven for half an hour or so:

I also boiled most of a large cauliflower, made some parsley sauce (I really wanted cauliflower cheese, but it's too fattening and I do love parsley) and threw that in the oven too:

And here's my dinner:

And I think I'm going to be very sick of this meal in a few days; there is an awful lot left over. Oh well, the cauliflower will freeze and I can have frittata with salad for lunch some days.


Salami making was Friday night. Saturday morning I got back into the cheese. I've decided that I'll keep myself supplied as far as I'm able with Parmesan, Camembert, feta, and halloumi. Plain old cheddar is cheaper to buy from the shop.

I started with ten litres of milk this time, the most I've ever used, and the most that will fit in my big pot. I used ordinary pasteurised and homogenised milk from the petrol station at $5.99 for four litres, making this a $15 batch of cheese.

You use a thermophilic bacterium for Parmesan, before I have used yoghurt, but I have some proper culture now. You also need to add lipase to milk that's been pasteurised or you'll never get that sourness in the cheese.

Here are the curds half cut:

A closer look:

After the curds have been cut you slowly heat them up to ~52°C. This makes the protein in the curds contract, expelling a lot of whey. The hotter you cook it and the smaller the curds have been cut, the more whey is expelled and the harder the cheese will be.

This is the cheese after its first pressing:

I pressed it for 15 mins under 2.5kg, then turned it and pressed for 30 mins under 5kg, then 2 hours under 7.5kg, then overnight under 10kg.

Then it went into a saturated brine:

And will stay there for 24 hours. After that I dry it and leave it to mature for at least 8 months.

There's a bit of forethought necessary if you want to be self-sufficient with respect to cheese.

While the cheese was doing its thing I smoked some chicken thighs that had been curing in the fridge since Thursday:

I couldn't help myself, I had to eat one. The rest will be for lunches at work this week.

Some weird salami

Pork shoulder was on special at the supermarket this week, so I'm making another salami. The recipe is again a mixture of several from The Art of Making Fermented Sausages and Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing.

New boning knife!

Makes boning the shoulder a breeze, although I do usually try to get a piece with as little bone as possible. No point in paying for bone if you don't have to.

It was a nice fatty bit of meat; I removed the back fat and cut it into little cubes…

… the rest of the meat …

… plus meaty trimmings from the back fat …

… went through the mincer:

I saved the pork skins …

… and froze them to use in a Thai fermented sausage that has a lot of pork skin in it. It'll take me a while to save up enough, but it'll get used instead of getting thrown away.

The seasoning in this salami is caraway and coriander seed, and pepper. Of course there's a lot of salt, some glucose, sodium nitrite and potassium nitrate.

There's also a healthy dose of garlic, and I chucked in some yoghurt for acidity and bacteria:

I mixed it all up with the little cubes of fat, first in the mixer and then by hand:

And stuffed it into some fibrous casings. Now comes the weird bit;

it's being squashed! This is to make it turn out a rectangular shaped sausage. It sits between these two boards and ferments for four days, then I take it out and "wipe off any slime that has formed" (eugh) then hang it to dry.

We shall see what happens. At least if it all goes horribly pear-shaped all will not be lost - I've had a request from a guy at work for maggots! Should I by any strange chance acquire any that is. He's trying to nurture some newts and it seems they need very slow food, not being terribly efficient predators.