Or how I broke my week of (attempted) Auyrvedic eating with home-made cheese.
Don’t really know enough yet about the Auyrvedic tradition to go into great detail (I’m reading this book on and off and learning a little – check out the authors hilarious hippie name). What I can tell you is that it’s a system of health and well-being roughly 2000 years older than Traditional Chinese Medicine. Auyrvedic medicine has been a work in progress since about 3000 BC. Now that’s a long time. Predictably perhaps, given my passion for cooking, in Auyrvedic terms I’m a Kapha. I am built for endurance. And I love to eat. No surprises there.
But after a week of eating fairly austere meals, the kind that do you no end of Good, I wanted something ‘forbidden’.
Fresh ricotta, by which I mean the real thing - the kind sold in thick, cake-style wedges by good delis rather than the stuff in the supermarket fridge - isn’t always easy to come by. Certainly not as easy as many cookbooks suggest. Much to my surprise, it’s stupidly easy to make. Twenty-five minutes later you’ve got fresh, creamy curds of ricotta.
And with the boys here for a full month (teenage stepsons, the kind that voraciously swoop on food the moment they return from school), I am happy to say that it will not just be me eating this. They eat everything. As you can see from my breakfast shot, this is a perfect, spread thickly on toast with one of those French jams made without sugar.
May I have a small rant? I hate homogenized milk. Why homogenize the stuff? Just another process that a machine has taken away from us. Best way to homogenize milk? Shake the damn bottle. Simple as that.
Fresh ricotta – makes about 400g
Not everyone lives near a great deli. This is easy, and though surely it’s not authentic, it is at least, very, very good. Don’t be tempted to use low fat milk – it simply won’t work.
2 litres of full-fat milk, organic and unhomogenized if possible (I used half goat's and half cow's milk)
500ml of buttermilk (has anyone seen an organic one?)
Pinch of sea salt
You’ll need a few bits of equipment to get this right as well:
A sugar thermometer
A large colander
Muslin or cheesecloth, enough to line the colander with about 4 layers
A large non-reactive pot or saucepan (i.e. not aluminium or copper)
A rubber band
Rinse the muslin in cold water. Line the colander with it and set over the sink.
Pour the milks into a large, non-reactive pot. Add a pinch of salt. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Using a stiff rubber spatula, gently stir the mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go to prevent scorching.
When the milk has warmed up to about blood temperature, stop stirring. As the milk heats up lumps will begin to rise to the surface – these are the curds. Very gently scrape the bottom of the pan from time to time to stop any sticking to the base.
Take out your thermometer. Once the milk reaches about 80 degrees Celsius (between 175 and 180 F), the curds and whey will start to separate (the curds will be fluffy and white; the whey like cloudy water beneath them). Remove from the heat immediately.
Using a slotted spoon, gently ladle out the curds into the prepared colander, starting on one side of the pot. You must do this slowly and carefully to keep the curds as thick and ‘whole’ as possible. Gather up the corners of the muslin, secure with a rubber band and tie the whole lot to the tap to drip away. Leave totally undisturbed (no squeezing!) for 15 minutes, or until there is no more dripping whey.
Transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Planned: A beautiful, layered terrine with red peppers and carrots for the weekend and a lasagne. Might even make my own pasta sheets.
I’ll get back to that book on Monday.