Archives for category: Dairy

Why would you make yoghurt at home when you can buy perfectly good yoghurt in any supermarket, health food stores or your average corner shop? I’m not sure I’ve worked out the answer to that one. Homemade yoghurt is not spectacularly nicer than bought – it has a nice, tart, unmucked about with flavour, but there are a lot of good commercial yoghurts that offer the same thing (Rachel’s greek yoghurt is one of my favourites). It’s not a huge money saver, though it does work out a bit more economical as you’ll only eventually need to buy milk, which is cheaper than yoghurt. So, why do I continue to do it? I can only assume it’s the sense of domestic power involved in introducing live bacteria to milk and making something you want to put on your granola in the morning. Also, it’s very easy. After a failed sourdough or a disappointing batch of ice-cream, yoghurt is a way of reassuring myself that I do have some basic food self-sufficiency skills. I’ve tried several people’s methods, and the one I settled on is Stevie Parle’s, which is the most stripped down and basic of all. Despite being the easiest, I can’t detect any difference in quality between yoghurt made this way and with other recipes involving skimmed milk powder or any other paraphenalia. All you need is some milk and some live yoghurt, which will initially be bought, but can subsequently be your own efforts.

Some notes on milk: I generally prefer non-homogenised milk, but for yoghurt making homogenised gives better results (and since the vast majority of milk available is homogenised this is unlikely to be a problem). I always use full-fat milk; I assume you could use skimmed or semi-skimmed, but the result would not be as creamy. By the same token, if you want creamier yoghurt swap some of the milk for cream. I have tried using goat’s milk but the resulting yoghurt was a bit thin – apparently it’s possible to remedy this by heating to a higher temperature, but I’ve yet to experiment with that. Finally, if your yoghurt does turn out thinner than you’d like, or if you want something more akin to greek yoghurt, strain it through a piece of muslin (or clean tights) set over a sieve. The longer you strain it, the thicker it will get, and eventually you will have made labneh, or yoghurt cheese.

Homemade yoghurt

Makes about 600ml

600ml full-fat milk
4 tbsp live yoghurt (as fresh as possible)

Bring the milk to the boil, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn or boil over (a stainless steel saucepan is best for the first bit). Transfer it to a vessel in which it will keep its warmth – most recipes recommend an earthenware or pottery bowl; I find a thermos flask does the job. Cool the milk to just above body temperature – you should be able to keep your finger in it for a count of 10. If you have a thermometer, you’re looking for 40-42c and definitely below 63c, otherwise the bacteria will be killed off. Stir in the yoghurt. If you’re using a bowl, cover it with clingfilm and wrap in a teatowel. If using a thermos, put the lid on. Now leave the yoghurt somewhere warmish overnight – room temperature generally works fine in our flat. The next day put it in the fridge – warm yoghurt is not nice. Enjoy, and remember to keep a few tablespoons of your yoghurt back for the next batch.

Adapted mainly from Stevie Parle’s ‘Real Food From Near and Far’ and Darina Allen’s ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’


DAMN this is good. I know I wrote about chocolate ice cream not so long ago, and that was good too, but this is a different creature altogether. Stomach-groaningly rich, like the purest, creamiest frozen chocolate truffle. It has luxury written all over it in metaphorical gold plated lettering. You may struggle to eat even a moderate sized bowlful (but you will probably succeed). Well, Fergus Henderson does rather throw down the gauntlet by claiming that this is ‘the perfect chocolate ice cream’. Luckily, you will agree, because you will be far too full for picking up anything, gauntlets or otherwise.

And now the bad news: it takes a week to make. Wait! Doesn’t delayed gratification make things taste even better? Perhaps this depends on whether you’re the sort of person who likes to give themself kitchen projects. I first read about this incredible sounding, calendar-requiring ice cream on Seven Spoons and was committed to the idea straight away (from which you can infer that I am). Shortly afterwards, fate delivered ‘Beyond Nose To Tail’ into my hands via my local Oxfam. It’s a great book, full of wise instructions such as ‘be firm, but fair with salads’. I skipped through the pig’s head and trotter sections, because I’m a faint-hearted girl, and straight to puddings (including the sub-division ‘steadying puddings’) and baking and ice cream. Oh joy! There it was. It’s not actually time consuming to make, but you must mobilise will power and leave it in your freezer for a few days before eating it. It makes a difference: on the fourth day, to rescue a disappointing dinner of pizza overly charred on the barbecue, it tasted even better, the caramel notes issuing forth more confidently. We finished it there and then. Time to buy some more chocolate and hope the weather holds out for next week.

St John’s chocolate ice cream

Makes about 1 litre

200g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids. I used the relatively cheap yet nice Isis Luxury Belgian brand, available at Waitrose (course)
6 egg yolks
115g caster sugar
500ml full-fat milk
50ml double cream
40g cocoa powder

for the caramel:
70g caster sugar
75ml water

Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a bowl over a pan of hot water (or in a microwave, if you have one).

Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale and thick, enough to trace a figure of 8 on the surface. This will take around 5 minutes with an electric beater/whisk.

Bring the milk, cream and cocoa powder to the boil slowly in a large pan, whisking to disperse lumps and prevent the cocoa powder sticking on the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the egg yolk mixture, whisking to mix evenly, then put it all back in the saucepan and scrape in the melted chocolate. The recipe now says to cook over a low heat for a further 8 minutes, but mine was already very thick so I left it on the heat for much less time, a couple of minutes perhaps. It should coat the spoon thickly, but obviously you want to avoid the eggs scrambling. When you’re happy with the custard, remove it from the heat.

Make the caramel by bringing the sugar and water to the boil. Keep the heat low at first, stirring the sugar to dissolve it, then raise the heat and don’t stir until the mixture is thick and chestnust brown. Quickly pour the caramel into the ice-cream base, whisking vigorously.

Pour everything through a sieve into a plastic container and cool it down in an ice-bath. When cool, leave in the fridge for 2 days before churning in an ice-cream machine. After churning and freezing, leave for 3-4 days before eating.

From ‘Beyond Nose to Tail’ by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly

This is taken from the book ‘Street Food Revolution’, which I highly recommend – lots of interesting stories about people passionate about their own little corner of the food universe, facing adversity and coming out the other side with some truly tested recipes. And then being so good as to pass them on. The chapter which most captivated me was the story of Kitty Travers and La Grotta Ices; because how could you not fall in love with the idea of raspberry and fig leaf granita, or lemon granita for breakfast with biscotti? What I actually got the ice-cream machine out for, though, was this chocolate pudding ice-cream, intrigued by the concept of an egg-free ice-cream thickened with cornflour. She says it’s ‘cheaper, lighter for the digestion…and it doesn’t inhibit the flavours of the other ingredients like egg can’. And, I might add, you’re not stuck with a load of egg whites to use up.

I’m not sure I can wholly agree with the claim that it’s ‘ridiculously simple’ – there are definitely easier ice-creams out there – but it’s not difficult, and it’s worth following the instructions properly because the end result is the silkiest, smoothest ice-cream you’ve ever tasted. It’s surprisingly rich for something that’s actually pretty low in fat, but in a delicate, non-sickly way. In other words, go and make this. You won’t regret it.

Chocolate pudding ice-cream

Serves 4-5

450ml whole milk
15g cornflour
50g good quality cocoa powder
75g golden granulated or caster sugar
pinch of salt

Mix 100ml of the milk with the cornflour to a smooth paste.

Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough to hold all of the milk. When the milk reaches a simmering point, pour it over the cocoa mixture, whisking as you do so to take care of any lumps.

Return the mixture to the pan on the hob and cook over a low heat, barely at a simmer, for 6 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent it catching.

Add the cornflour mixture and whisk again. Simmer for a further 2 minutes until quite a bit thicker.

Strain the mixture into a clean container and cool in an ice-water bath, stirring regularly to prevent a skin from forming. When cool, refrigerate for at least 4 hours (this gives the ice-cream better body and texture).

Churn in an ice-cream machine and freeze.

Kitty suggests serving this with ‘cashew nuts and a pinch of lightly toasted Ancho chilli seeds ground up with sea salt, or with sweetened whipped cream and grated dark chocolate’, both of which sound delightful, if you get past eating it on its own, which we didn’t.

From ‘Street Food Revolution’, by Richard Johnson

So, apparently the other day I had a barbecue with some ghosts.

Whenever we break out the barbecue, I tend to turn to middle eastern foods – not really surprising, given that it’s pretty much the go-to region for grilled meats and grilled meat accompaniments. We’ll usually have merguez sausages, delicious, skinny wands of lamb, either the spicy or less spicy version from the brusque guy behind the meat counter at the Maroc deli. Then houmous, of course, some kind of aubergine salad, maybe even more lamb in the form of koftas or a marinated shoulder. I’m usually lukewarm about lamb, but barbecued I love it.

So on this Sunday we had all the usual barbecue components, plus a box of crushed up meringue I’d rescued from work and planned to turn into Eton Mess. And then I wondered what would happen if I continued the Arabesque theme into dessert, adding a little bit of orange blossom water, some honey, and mixing the cream half and half with yoghurt. Meringue isn’t very middle eastern, whichever way you look at it, but I figured that in lots of countries they put gum mastic in their ice-creams, which gives a sort of chewy texture perhaps not a million miles away from the inside of a homemade meringue. I might be stretching it a bit now. Anyway, I think it worked – one of the guests had brought along the M&S orange and passionfruit meringue pie, which is Very Good, and we had some of that left. But the Marrakech mess (I think Nigella, who I think of as the queen of naff food names, would be proud) was all gone.

Marrakech mess

Serves 6, with seconds

1 big punnet strawberries
2 tbsp honey, or to taste
2 tsp orange flower water
250ml double cream
500g pot thick, full-fat yoghurt, e.g. Total Greek
6-8 big meringues, preferably homemade
rosewater, to taste

Hull and quarter the strawberries and mix them with the honey and orange flower water. You may need more or less honey, depending on how sweet your strawberries are (I had the disappointing kind that look big and juicy and ripe but make your mouth pucker when you bite into them.)

Whip the cream to soft peaks. It should more or less double in size. By the time you’ve done this, the strawberries should have started to exude some juices. Stir the softly whipped cream and yoghurt into the strawberries.

Crush up the meringues roughly if they’re not already broken, and fold them into the strawberry mix. I like quite a meringue-heavy mess, so adjust if you don’t.

Stir in a tsp or so of rosewater. This will give it a more pronounced sort of exotic flavour, but you can always leave it out if you don’t like the flowery stuff.

After literally years of begging, I finally got an ice-cream machine for Christmas. The arguments against, running for the aforementioned dismal ice-cream machine-less years: we have a very small kitchen, and it’s already overfull of infrequently used equipment. Being able to access pints of ice-cream within minutes at all times cannot be a good idea, medically speaking. The novelty will quickly wear off and it will end up like the juicer, in the graveyard cupboard of tired-of gadgetry.

Well, having been in possession of the Magimix Le Glacier 1.5 for over a month now, I can refute those arguments thus: 1) most of it lives neatly in the freezer, with the actual plug in bit taking up a relatively small amount of space in a cupboard. Plus, the bowl doubles as a handy ice-bucket! 2) Friends! Friends will come round and eat ice-cream. 3) I have already been through my extensive cookbook collection and made a list of every single ice-cream flavour I hope to make. The list currently stands at 50+ flavours. Does this sound like the action of a person for whom the novelty is wearing off?*

Number one on my list was a flavour that we thought we’d invented, and were busily patting ourselves on the back for our genius when I discovered a recipe for it in Snowflakes & Schnapps by Jane Lawson, a beautiful if somewhat over produced book I’d never quite got round to using. It’s so good that I instantly gave up any thought of making up my own, although I do think there’s room for improvement in the form of additional chunks of actual gingerbread/ginger cake. Incidentally, some friends came over a few days after I made it and brought chocolate mousse. The chocolate mousse and leftover gingerbread ice-cream came together in the hands of fate and lo, it was good.

Gingerbread ice-cream

Makes about 1.5 litres

375ml whole milk
500ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice (I left this out as I had none)
a small pinch ground cloves
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp molasses (I used blackstrap)
95g soft brown sugar

Put the milk, cream, vanilla and spices in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Take off the heat, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl.

Whisk the egg yolks, molasses and brown sugar together, then gradually whisk in the milk mixture (or the other way round, if you only have one large mixing bowl and used it for the first bit). Pour the lot into a clean saucepan and cook over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until it thickens to spoon-coating consistency. Cool slightly, then refrigerate until cold and churn in ice-cream machine.

From ‘Snowflakes and Schnapps’ by Jane Lawson

*I reserve the right to tire of the ice-cream machine and start buying in Ben & Jerry’s at any point subsequent to this post.

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.