Archives for the month of: September, 2010

Earlier in the year, I was a student at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Strange to think that now a whole new set of students will be embarking on the same course – that bit of the year seems like an entirely different phrase of time to me, one which allowed my life to change significantly, and the legacy of it lives on in numerous ways; not least an enduring belief in the powers of dairy. Not one day in three months passed without jersey cream, milk, buttermilk, copious amounts of butter or farmhouse cheese making an appearance. The entire place could be sponsored by the Irish milk board. Which was more than fine with me.

This is one recipe I didn’t get to try out at the school, but it was easy enough in my own kitchen. The result tasted pretty similar to the ricotta you’re probably familiar with, but thicker and less watery (good things, I think you’ll agree).

Some ideas for what to do with your homemade ricotta:

1) Pear crostini: drizzle slices of bread with oil and chargrill. Spread with ricotta. Slice and chargrill pieces of firmish pear, use to top the crostini and trickle over honey and a few leaves of thyme.

2) Baked ricotta: beat 100g of ricotta with an egg, some seasoning and chopped herbs. Spoon into a greased mould or mug and bake at 190c for about 25 mins. Good with tomatoes roasted in the oven at the same time.

3) Ricotta pancakes: mix 180g flour, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and 2 tbsp sugar. Separate 3 eggs, whisking the yolks with 250ml milk and stirring into the dry ingredients with 125g ricotta. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter. Fold in fruit if you like, and fry for a couple of minutes on each side.

Homemade ricotta

2.4 litres milk (my milk of choice is non-homogenised whole milk – the Duchy Originals brand is available in Waitrose)
225ml cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

You will need a saucepan big enough to hold all of the milk and cream when boiling, and a cheesecloth or square of muslin.

Put the milk, cream and salt into the saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Line a large sieve with your cheesecloth/muslin.

When the milk comes to the boil, add the lemon juice and turn the heat down. Keep stirring until the mixture curdles, 2-5 minutes (if it doesn’t, you might need to add more lemon juice). Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and leave to drain for an hour or so.

When the ricotta is cool, store it in the fridge for 2-3 days.

*recipe from Ballymaloe Cookery School.

It started with an Ottolenghi recipe in the Guardian: blackberry and star anise friands. I love a friand, those little moist, almost chewy, almond cakes, delicious and helpful despatchers of leftover egg whites. We headed to the local park under the threat of rain to pick the last of the stunted, soggy blackberries. “Better be quick, there won’t be any left soon”, advised a cheerful dog walker.

We got a bit carried away, ending up with far more blackberries than were needed for a lightly speckled friand batter, and more besides: a carrier bag of sloes painstakingly gathered at the expense of lacerated arms and a tub of dirty rosehips. I also found a mushroom, but threw it away again when it wouldn’t match any of the mushroom descriptions in my only foraging book.

I baked the friands while the rain thrashed the windows, which is the best way to bake. They turned out cute, though I’m not sure I don’t prefer them plain and un-star anise-adorned. The rest of the blackberries are in a box earmarked for crumble and the sloes have been pierced and deposited in a kilner jar with a large amount of sugar and cheap gin. The hard part now is waiting for three months – three! – until we drink it.

As for the rosehips, a lengthy preparation process yielded a small amount of pale syrup which tasted mainly of sugar. Oh well.