Sunday, 18 September 2016

Beginners Italian Cheese Making Class

The thought of making cheese may have seemed intimidating to a novice like me, but after recently attending a class demonstrating fresh Italian cheese making, the mystery has been revealed and I can see cheese making in my future. Mad Millie, the brand behind several handcrafted “do it yourself” kits held a beginners Italian cheese making class, which was hosted at Sauvage Urbain's Fyshwick store.

Gayle Rowan from Mad Millie was our enthusiastic and passionate demonstrator. She had been a home economics teach for a long time before she discovered the Mad Millie kits. “Mad Millie make it easy” she said, and with more and more people nowadays concerned about the food they eat and how it has been prepared, they are wanting to make more from scratch. Mad Millie have a video tutorial on their web site for all the cheeses that can be made from their kits. There are also general videos on YouTube as well, so there is a wealth of information to help a novice cheese maker!

Let’s talk about some of the fundamental cheese making elements.

The quality of milk used will determine the amount of, and the flavour level in the cheese produced. The more a milk is processed, the more calcium will have been removed, which is why calcium chloride needs to be added in making some cheeses. The best milk to use is full cream, and non-homogenised. Cold pressed raw milk is a recent addition to mainstream supermarkets and farmers markets and makes excellent cheese. Paul's Farmhouse Gold milk gives a high volume and a great taste. A lower fat milk can still be used to make cheese, but it will produce less flavour, and less volume of curd. Cow's milk will give good yield, but goat's milk will product slightly less and will take longer for the curd to form. Anyone for camel milk cheese? 

Adding salt to the cheese will bring out the flavour, but will not necessarily make it taste ‘salty’ so don’t skimp. Also do not use iodised salt as the iodine will interfere with the bacteria ripening process.

Rennet is an enzyme and its job is to congeal, or set the curd. The origins of rennet were animal based and it was derived from the lining of the stomach of ruminant animals like sheep and goats. Chymosin is the main component of rennet and it curdles the casein protein in milk. Not all rennet is animal based, and there are a variety of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. The rennet tables in the Mad Millie kits are vegetarian and use figs, mushrooms and thistles for their microbial-based congealing properties.

Use water that does not contain chlorine as it will stop the enzyme action in the rennet from working. Either use bottled water which is chlorine free, or ensure your water has been filtered to remove chlorine.

There are two types of protein in milk, casein and whey proteins. As the name suggests, the whey proteins are found in the whey, and the casein protein stays with the curd.

Curds and whey.
The curds are the solids, and the whey is the milk with the fats and solids removed. The whey is chock full of protein and can be used in a variety of ways, so don’t just tip it down the sink after you have made your cheese. Tips from Gayle for using up whey include:

  • Use in place of water when making pizza dough, or add when making sourdough bread to give a lovely flavour to the dough.
  • Add it to smoothies, soups and casseroles for richer flavours.
  • Gives curries added creaminess.
  • Speeds up the fermentation of vegetables as the whey gives a power boost and reduces the time it takes for the fermentation process.
  • Drink it! (as Gayle’s husband does, but it isn’t an acquired taste for everyone)
  • Freeze it for later use, and
  • Reuse it to make ricotta, but only if you haven’t added in an acid like citric acid, vinegar or citrus juice.

Other tips for using up whey include:

  • Feed it to animals if on a farmyard, or chickens, and dogs love it over dried dog biscuits to make a cereal.
  • Add it to the compost heap for an added boost, and
  • Strain it very well of solids, and add it to soil when growing tomatoes or blueberries, as they love the added acidity.  

Make sure all your equipment is clean and sterile before you start. Use a pot with a nice thick base for even heat distribution. Use a silicone or plastic spatula for stirring instead of a wooden spoon, as the wood could introduce bacteria. Use an accurate thermometer. The thermometer included in the Mad Millie kit has two nodules on the end of the prong and both of these need to be submerged in the milk/cream to give an accurate temperature reading.

One of the cheeses made at the demonstration was Ricotta, and it is so gosh darn easy to make, anyone can do it. Start with 2 litres of milk and a little salt. Heat to 95 degrees. Take it off the heat and add in citric acid which has been dissolved in water. (You could also use lemon juice or vinegar in place of the citric acid, or the twig of a fig tree.) Leave the ricotta for around half an hour to curdle. Using a slotted spoon, scoop into a draining basket and drain (or press) until the desired consistency is obtained, either soft or a bit firmer. 

Gayle drizzled a balsamic glaze over the warm ricotta and served it plus a cold ricotta made earlier that morning, and a mozzarella cheese also made at the demonstration, alongside homemade bread, tomatoes, fresh basil, grapes and strawberries. This feast was delicious beyond words.

The Mad Millie Italian Cheese making kit is an excellent introduction into cheese making. With Christmas just around the corner it would make a wonderful present.

Happy cheese making!

The opinions expressed in this post are my own, and I attended the cheese making class at my own expense. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Asparagus Tart

I was grateful to recently receive a box full of fresh Australian asparagus, with thanks going to the lovely Vicky Leng of the Australian Asparagus Council.

Today’s creations paired the asparagus with ricotta and parmesan cheese, and frozen puff pastry. An awesome combination.

For one large square tart… there is no set recipe. Just a creation of my own.

Firstly cut 5-6 large asparagus spears into small pieces, add in a handful of sun-dried tomatoes and a good spoonful of seeded mustard. Whizz that together to make a chunky paste. Next, take one sheet of defrosted puff pastry, and line a square, fluted tin with a removable base with it. Lay a rough layer of the asparagus paste mix on top.

Next top with a mix consisting of two beaten eggs, approx. 250g fresh ricotta cheese, approx. 80g grated fresh parmesan cheese, and a small pouring of cream.

Lay on top of the cheese mix a handful of the mini asparagus spears, creating a head-to-toe pattern. Sprinkle over that around 20g of grated parmesan. You can never have enough cheese!

Bake the tart in a fan forced oven set to 175 degrees, for around 25 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cherry Pastries Make It All Better

Eeerrgghhh. I am sick. I have the plague. I’m doooooomed! Well, not really. It IS just a head cold but I just want a clear head again. In my congested haze I got bored and turned to baking to zazz up a dreary Saturday afternoon. With a bowl full of pie-filling cherries and a packet of cream cheese in the fridge, and frozen puff pastry sleeping in the freezer, these cherry Danish pastries were born. Nothing beats a head cold like a sweet crunchy pastry, right? 

Talk about easy!

Defrost pastry > check.
Mix up cream cheese, vanilla, powdered sugar and blood orange juice > check.
Assemble pastries, bake, glaze and eat > check, check, check aaaaand check.

The recipe is thanks to the wonders of internet searching, and can be found on Shannon’s ‘Rumbly in my Tumbly’ blog. Check it out! She also has a cinnamon roll cake that I am dying to sink my teeth into.

1 x square of frozen puff pastry
125g cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Splash of vanilla extract (homemade is divine)
Splash of blood orange juice (or lemon, if you have it)
1 ½ cups of cherries, I used Duncan Hines brand pie-filling cherries
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
Other fruits to decorate

½ cup powdered sugar
Add a splash of milk, enough to make a smooth consistency

Defrost the pastry and cut into 9 equal squares. Have fun shaping each piece by either turning up the sides to keep the square shape, moulding against a round scone cutter, or creating pinwheels.

Mix up the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and orange juice until light and fluffy.

Assemble each pastry by spooning on a little cream cheese mixture then top with cherries, or other fruits. Brush the pastry lightly with the beaten egg and water mixture.

Lay the pastries on a tray lined with baking paper, and bake in a 200 degree oven for around 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye on the pastries while they are cooking, as some (ie the pinwheels) will be done faster than the others.

When cool, drizzle over the glaze, and enjoy.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

What's In A Name?

Hubby and I took a break from our normal routine last Friday and enjoyed breakfast out. From the myriad of Canberran eateries to breakfast at, A Bite To Eat at the Chifley shops was our chosen destination. This is a gem of a space. Quirky, cosy, friendly and full of charm. The walls are adorned with posters, photos, poems, signs, creative craft pieces and literary snippets from customers. The light fittings are all different. The chairs don’t match, and the furniture looked right at home at Cusacks… from 1968.

Hubby chose a breakfast burger called the Vaquero. Full of braised bbq pork, gouda cheese, rocket, a fried egg and crispy onion rings. It was something different, and had a little heat to it. Lucky his thick caramel milkshake put out any lingering flames.

I on the other hand, had the Morty. A small clay dish jam packed with no less than three meatballs, a spicy roast tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, two perfectly poached eggs, crispy onion rings, and toast. Come hungry if you wish to tackle the Morty! I wondered about the name of the dish… why Morty? It stumped me all weekend, until I Googled ‘Morty’ and realised he was the name of the Camp Director of the 1979 movie, Meatballs. Could that be the connection? Morty >> Meatballs? I asked A Bite To Eat via their Facebook page and yep, I am right!!! The boss was waiting for someone to put the pieces together, and I did it! Whoot, go me!

A Bite To Eat is located at the Chifley Shops, Chifley Place.

Mon/Tue/Sat 8.00am to 4.00pm
Wed 8.00am to 9.30pm
Thu/Fri 8.00am to 10.00pm
Sun 8.30am to 8.00pm
Phone 6260 3703

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Indulge Coffee and Chocolate Expo

With so many delicious vendors exhibiting and selling their wares, it was hard to know where to start at the second Indulge Coffee and Chocolate Expo. As the crowds began to enter just past 10.00am, I went with the flow and let my nose direct me to the booths. From cold pressed coffee, to cocktails, to cupcakes, hot coffee, rhubarb chocolate, ice cream and pastry delights. The Canberra Convention Centre has never smelled better.

A cute little cocoa cupcake from Crafted 3. 

Team Frugii offering tastes of ice cream delights. 

Latorta demonstrating how to make flavoured chocolate bars, and gold dusted chocolate truffles.

Brownies galore, and a couple of delicious pies for a take home Saturday lunch (chicken and bacon, & beef and shiraz) from Morish Morsels.

Mr Scroll and his delectable range of flavoured scrolls. Wow, the line up was long!

The folks from Ricococo’s and their amazing chocolate tea. I bought a box which comes with DIY tea bags. Put in as little or as much as you like, and the tea is wonderfully chocolate tasting. Not too bitter or sweet just on its own.

Too early for a cocktail? Nah, Suke Suke has you sorted.

Tea Garden and their range of premium teas, as the expo is more than just coffee and chocolate.

Finally, a sign at the children’s Wonka zone, which made me chuckle.

I hope this expo is held at the Canberra Convention Centre again next year. Entry price for an online ticket purchased prior to the event was only $11, or $15 for a ticket bought at the door. Kids under 12 were free. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

San Choy Bau Meatballs

When invited to a food bloggers potluck dinner the pressure is on deciding what to bring, as these folks can COOK! With an ‘Asia in July/Christmas’ theme I decided on a simple starter that was light but tasty. Introducing the San Choy Bau meatball. Traditional San Choy Bau is normally a loose mince mixture served in a lettuce cup that can sometimes be difficult to eat daintily when out and about. The meatball version is a little more compact, and easier to handle.

I took inspiration from Matteo Bruno’s book ‘Meatballs: TheUltimate Guide’ from his pork, peanut and water chestnut meatballs.

Ingredients (makes about 40 meatballs)

1 kilo of pork mince
4 garlic cloves, crushed
60g ginger, grated
120g water chestnuts, diced small
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
100ml soy sauce
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 brown onion, finely diced
Zest of 1 small lime
50g coriander leaves, chopped
½ cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg, whisked
Serve with bean sprouts, and limes wedges for drizzling

Mix all the ingredients, except the bean sprouts and lime wedges, in a large bowl. When mixed, allow the mix to sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours infuse.
Remove from the fridge, and mix into 50g balls.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and add a small dish of water in the back of the oven. This will help create moisture when finishing the meatballs.

While the oven is warming up, begin to cook batches of the meatballs in an oven-proof pan. Keep turning the balls over to get a nice brown colour on all sides. When all the balls are cooked, place them all back into the pan, and place into the oven for 8 minutes. This finishes the balls off, plus keeps them nice and moist.

Serve on lettuce leaves, top with bean sprouts and squeeze over lime. 

I also made a sticky, sweet dark sauce to drizzle over. This sauce was a 'throw it together' mix made with absolutely no measuring. It contained soy sauce, brown sugar, Japanese 'katsu' barbecue sauce, Australian barbecue sauce, honey and hoisin sauce. Microwave the mix for about 1 minute to dissolve the sugar, and let sit as it will thicken on standing. 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Leave It Up To Dave at Pistachio Dining

I've had yet another great dinner at Pistachio Dining, found tucked away at the Torrens shops. The ‘Leave it up to Dave’ dining option is the only one we select now. Not that their menu (read, their new Winter menu) isn’t full of tasty options, but not knowing what each dish will be is quite exciting!

Red wine braised lamb shank soup with vegetables and white beans. A delicious winter warmer starter.

Scallops with seared spring onions and pureed avocado.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder, soft polenta, asparagus and herb sauce.

Confit pork belly, Toulouse sausage, cabbage and seeded mustard mix, potato crisps, beetroot jus and parsnip puree. The beetroot jus was made by slow roasting red and white onion, and beetroot. Then further reducing. It must have taken Dave hours, but the result was amazing.

Pepper steak, with grilled onion and hand cut salty crunchy chips.

A dessert tasting plate… each.  Consisting of:
Vanilla brulee and almond & pistachio biscotti.
Chocolate and hazelnut blondie with dark chocolate mousse, Kahlua sauce and raspberries.
Cookies and crème mousse, macerated strawberries, vanilla ice cream, dried flowers and chocolate crumble, and
Lemon and lime curd tart, mascarpone, and ginger beer sorbet.

Dave spoiled us, by slipping in another course. Technically his ‘just feed me’ option is meant to be four courses, plus a starter. Dinner and couple of drinks was incredible value, as I used my Entertainment Book discount for a 25% saving. Total cost; only $54 each. With only one transaction, the savings are half what the Entertainment Card cost. It will pay for itself in no time!

Pistachio Dining
3A Torrens Place, Torrens
Dinner; Tuesday to Saturday
Ph 6286 2966

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Oven Baked Chicken Wings

A local butcher put out a request on Facebook (yep, he uses Social Media) to gather interest in a special on chicken wings. Who would be interested in wings at the low price of $1.99 a kilo? OK, I’m in. I’m in for four kilos, knowing that I had space in my freezer. When buying them I ran into my friend The Food Marshall, who guess what was buying them too! Nothing like a good special. Glad I ran into her to, as she mentioned that she does her wings the ‘Alton’ way.  Alton Brown that is.  Steam first > then dry off > bake in the oven > then coat in sauce. And that’s exactly what I did, and they turned out sooooo good. So good in fact that next time I have friends around, I’m doing wings.

So, chicken wings = purchased. Now onto making an awesome ranch dressing. It all starts with dried buttermilk powder. You can buy this in Australia at health food stores, look for the Lotus brand one. My recipe is ratio based, so you can make as little, or as much as you like.
Start with equal amounts of dried dill, dried chives, dried oregano, onion powder and garlic powder.  Two parts dried parsley, a sprinkle of both salt and pepper, and four parts buttermilk powder. Mix this together.  When you are ready to make a batch of ranch, add two heaped tablespoons of the mix to one cup of Greek yoghurt, and half a cup of sour cream. Thin out by adding a little milk.

Next, the sauce. I didn’t want a hot sauce (what Alton's recipe calls for), but something sweet and flavoursome. So this was an easy throw-it-together mix using the remnants of a jar of honey (about 1cm or so), three teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and squirt of minced garlic. This mix was quite thin, but worked well coating the chicken.

Chicken Wings
The wings I purchased were whole wings, and are made up of three pieces, the drumette, the wingette, and the tip. Remove the tip by cutting downward into the V join with the wing part. Save these tips for making stock later. Here is a photo courtesy of The Kitchn showing the anatomy of a chicken wing. 

Next, place a steamer basket into a saucepan filled with an inch of simmering water. I placed eight wings into the steamer and cooked for ten minutes. Repeat until all wings are steamed. When done, lay them out onto a metal baking tray, pat them dry to remove as much moisture as you can, then place into the fridge for twenty minutes. This helps to dry them out further and tighten the skin. 

Now you want to separate the drumette from the wingette at the joint. Next, place each piece onto a fresh tray, and bake in a 200 degrees fan forced oven for twenty minutes. Turn each of the pieces over, then cook for a further twenty minutes. They will come out a glorious colour, and will be crunchy to the touch, score! I tossed a few in a bowl with some of the honey mustard sauce. You will want to do this while they are hot so the flavours are absorbed. I kept some wings plain.

Serve with sticks of carrot and celery (for added crunch and colour), and the ranch dressing for dipping.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Canberras Only Red Cross Op Shop

‘Op shop’ or, opportunity shop is a great place to find a bargain, a treasure, or just that something a little different, and provide much needed funds for charities. Over the years I have donated countless items to many op shops around town, and have shopped in many as well. 

One new op shop I discovered recently was right under my nose in Woden! The Red Cross’ only Canberra op shop has been open for nearly 6 months but I was totally unaware. You see, it is tucked on the outside of Westfield Woden, just near the bus interchange. The renovations going at the interchange mean this shop is a little off the main path, but is well worth a visit. 

The store is very well laid out, with racks and racks of colour coordinated clothing, lots of handbags (some brand new), oodles of jewellery pieces, kitchenware and a kids corner filled with lots and lots of books and games.

Come, check them out!

20 Bradley Street, Woden
Ph 02 6282 9978
Monday to Friday 10am-6pm
Saturdays 10am-3pm
Sundays 11am-3pm