Smoked salmon pasta

Smoked salmon pasta

smoked salmon past

Smoked salmon pasta

This pasta dish is made with smoked salmon, spinach and cream cheese. A couple of spoonfuls of the pasta cooking liquid are added to the dish at the end to moisten it slightly. The dish is then served with freshly ground black pepper and grated parmesan cheese.

INGREDIENTS:
100g pasta per person
1/2 or 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
50g spinach per person, finely shredded
50g cream cheese per person
 zest and juice of 1/2 – 2 lemons
1/4 – 1 packet smoked salmon
handful of basil, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil

METHOD:
Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water.

Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large wok. Gently soften the garlic for a few minutes before adding the spinach to wilt. Add the cream cheese and mix well to combine, before adding the lemon zest and juice. Season with black pepper.

Drain the pasta, keeping back some of the cooking liquid.

Add the smoked salmon to the sauce along with the pasta and basil. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of cooking liquid to slacken the pasta slightly.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese.    

Vegetarian moussaka

 

vegetarian moussakaThis is my take on the classic Greek moussaka. I found the recipe in the Thorn Cookery Book for Electrical Appliances, a cookery book I bought before going off to Poly.

Instead of aubergines, the recipe uses potatoes which are thinly sliced and then fried. The first time I cooked it I did as instructed but after all that faffing around, the fried potatoes looked just like crisps so I decided to substitute crisps the next time I cooked it and it worked perfectly.

It’s nice served with small jacket potatoes which you can start off ahead in the oven so that they are all ready together.

INGREDIENTS:
MOUSSAKA:
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 aubergine, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
oregano
400g cooked lentils
2 x 400g can of tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 large bag crisps

CHEESE SAUCE:
500ml milk
olive oil
60g flour
large handful strong cheese, grated
1 egg

METHOD:
Heat the oven to 180ºC-200ºC.

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes and then add the other vegetables. Fry until soft.

Pour in the tomatoes, lentils, tomato purée and oregano, season with salt and pepper and cook until the tomatoes have reduced and you have a highly flavoured tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Heat the milk until warm. In a saucepan, heat a good glug of olive oil. Add the flour, stirring well and then gradually add the milk. Season with salt and pepper and cook gently on a low heat, stirring from time to time. When the sauce has thickened. Take off the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Leave to cool.

In a large glass dish, put a layer of half the tomato/vegetable mixture and cover with a layer of crisps. Top with the remaining tomato/vegetables and finish with another layer of crisps.

When the sauce has cooled down, beat in an egg and pour over the top of the moussake.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown. It’s a good idea to check after 20 minutes and turn the dish round if necessary so that it cooks evenly.

Serve with jacket potatoes.

vegetarian moussaka

Courgette flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese

Courgette flowers stuffed with goat's cheese

Courgette flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese

We made these stuffed courgette flowers with some of this year’s goat cheese. The cheese was still soft but had been made long enough before for the flavours to start to develop. The recipe is taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s VEG everyday.

Courgette flowers stuffed with goat's cheese

Courgette flowers

INGREDIENTS:
Courgette flowers

FILLING:
soft goat’s cheese or ricotta cheese
fresh herbs (choose from parsley, chives, basil, mint), finely chopped

BATTER:
100g plain flour
40g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
200-250ml cold water

Beat together the cheese and herbs. Carefully spoon into each of the flowers, twisting the end to act as a seal.

Make the batter by sieving the dry ingredients into a bowl. Gradually whisk in the water   until you have a smooth batter.

If you a wok to fry the courgette flowers, you can get by with using less oil and it will be safe. Heat some sunflower oil in the wok. Dip each flower in the batter and then gently lower into the hot oil, one at a time. It is best to fry them in several batches.

Fry for 1 or 2 minutes until they have puffed up and are crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper while cooking the next batch.

Stuffed courgette flowers

Courgette flowers, stuffed and ready for frying

Conclusions about Cheesemaking 2013

2013 Cheese-making conclusions

2013 Cheese-making conclusions

Having given up the search for a hole-free cheese (see post), I have decided to make a note of things I have learned during this season’s cheese-making.

  1. Regarding the size of cheese mould needed, around 5 litres of milk is good for a 1kg mould, 10 litres would be good for a 1.5kg mould and 15 litres is good for a 2kg mould.
    NOTE TO SELF: Buy a 1.5kg mould so that I can make cheese every two days.
  2. During the height of summer, the most difficult thing is to keep the milk from going off. I’ve replaced the glass shelf at the bottom of the fridge with a custom-made stainless steel version after it broke under the weight of the milk containers. Although the 2kg mould needed about 15 litres of milk (3 days’ milking), it was not possible to keep the milk for so long in the fridge without it going off which was why I experimented with freezing the milk. I think in the future, it would be better to make a small 1.5kg cheese every two days.
  3. I’ve found that the ideal pressure is 10kg for the first pressing as this is just enough to press the curds but not so much that they are squeezed out of the mould. I line the inside of the mould with cheesecloth and add the curds. I then press them at 10kg for 30 minutes before removing the cloth and turning the cheese. I then press the cheese with 15kg for 12 hours.

Cheese press

home-made cheese press

Home-made cheese press

Originally, I started making cheese using a fruit press but the problem was that it didn’t apply a constant pressure and I would have to wait for the mass of curds to release the liquid before tightening the press further.

I therefore looked on Internet to see if there were any home-made versions and there were plenty. This one is easy to make and I found it on the Fiasco Farm website.

materials for the cheese press

Materials for the cheese press

To make the press, you need:
2 wooden boards measuring 30cm x 30cm
4 dowel rods (40cm long and 2cm diameter)
4 washers
4 stainless steel base supports
4 stainless steel screws
2cm drill spade bit
3cm drill spade bit

Drill 4 holes (3cm diameter) in each corner of one of the boards with the 3cm spade bit.
Drill another 4 holes (2cm diameter) in each corner of the other board with the 2cm spade bit. It is important that the holes match up.

Screw the base support on each of the lengths of dowel rod, with a washer between the rod and the screw.
I use the bottom part of my original fruit press to press the cheese and place 5kg weights on the press. For the first 30 minutes, I press the cheese with 5kg, for the second 30 minutes I use 10kg and for the final 30 minutes I use 15kg.

Base support

Base support

Ricotta Cheese

making ricotta cheese

Making ricotta cheese

Ricotta is a low-fat, spreadable cheese made by reheating the whey once you have removed the curds for pressing into cheese. The word Ricotta is Italian for recooked. While some prefer it mixed with sugar and then spread on bread, others season it with salt and pepper and use it as a savoury spread.

I had tried making ricotta cheese before but had never had much luck. So I decided to look on Internet to see what temperature the whey should be heated to. I discovered that 94ºC – just below boiling point – was the magic temperature.

It is important not to let the whey boil as this will toughen the curds.

Heat the whey on a medium heat to 94ºC. Once it the liquid has reached this temperature, the creamy curds will float to the top of the pan.

Straining the ricotta cheese

Straining the ricotta cheese

Skim off the curds into a piece of muslin. I used a jam bag and stand and a fine-meshed sieve.

How long you leave the cheese to drain for will depend on how firm you want the finished cheese to be. After a couple of hours, the cheese was still quite moist and spreadable. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, added some lemon zest and chives and mixed well and it was delicious.

ricotta3The colour of the whey changes drastically once the curds have been removed and it almost looks greenish.

Cheesemaking with a pleita

pleita1A pleita is a long strip of plaited esparto grass which can be used instead of a mould in cheese-making. The band is wound round and round and the end tucked in and the cheese curds pressed down into the middle. It needs to be placed on a wooden board and the finished cheese looks better if the board used below and on top have some sort of carved design which is then embedded into the cheese.

I managed to find one in a shop in Guadix for 12 euros and was quite excited. This is what the neighbour uses and it has the advantage of being able to adapt to any amount of milk for any size of cheese. The only thing you have to be careful of is not letting the curds dry on the pleita as it takes ages to get them off.

pleita3This is a picture of the cheese once it has been pressed. As I didn’t have any suitable weights or boards, I pressed it in the fruit press.

I was really pleased with the finished cheese with its design:

pleita4Because the first time I had tried using a pleita, the cheese had dried onto it, I didn’t want the same to happen again. So I removed the cheese quite soon from the pleita. As the cheese dried, it lost most of the sharp design and in the future I would probably leave it on for longer before removing.