Archive for the ‘dairy’ Category

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Living in the seventies: Fondue, baby!

November 29, 2009

The topic of fondue arose recently, as it does now and then among friends when drink has been taken.

Everyone in the room recalled their parents’ fondue set and its occasional outings along with the funky pantsuits and false eyelashes of yore. But there was general disagreement about what fondue actually involved – some purists insisted that only cheese and bread was called for, while others of us recalled boiling oil and lumps of meat.

Serendipitously, the day after this conversation my beloved spied this book at a market and swooped. I suspect we will never actually use it, but it does make an entertaining conversation starter if you leave it on the coffee table. Published 1971, and in mint condition, Fondue and Table Top Cookery by Marion Howells runs the gamut of things-cooked-at-table, from your trad cheese fondues to your Oriental Fondue (meat in stock) to some rather desperate inclusions such as omelettes and dubious-sounding desserts (Apricots Jubilee, anyone?).

On fondue, Marion tells us that:

This popular dish originated in Switzerland. Many stories are told of the villagers being isolated in the long winter months, and supplies of food becoming short, they were forced to rely on local produce like cheese, wine and home made bread. As the cheese became dry they melted it in their wine.

So there we have it – a yicky gloopy mix borne of near-starvation becomes a classic fad for ‘entertaining of the more intimate type’, and into the bargain produces perhaps the earliest example of Fusion Food. As evidence, I leave you with the list of ingredients for my favourite recipe in this collection.

Fondue Bengali

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1.5 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 cups grated Emmenthal cheese
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch
  • white pepper, cayenne pepper
  • mango chutney
  • French bread
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In love with labneh

August 31, 2009

labna2Inspired by the happy coincidence of my friend Ms Melba’s recent gift of her incredibly good homemade labneh – that creamy, unbelievably smooth yoghurt cheese – and Miss J’s birthday gift of the gorgeous Saha: A chef’s Journey through Lebanon & Syria by Greg & Lucy Malouf, I decided on the weekend to have a stab at making some labneh myself.

Oh, and the third inspiration was driving past a humungous and ghastly Spotlight outlet, whereupon I could dive in and grab myself a thousand metres of muslin (I later sent some of that Ms Melba’s way, and she said that while she longed to drape it about her person for running through damp fields towards Pemberley,  she  promised to use it for cheese-related purposes).

Anyway, after tasting Melba’s labneh and gobbling it all in a week, I asked for her recipe, and then compared it with Greg Malouf’s in Saha which, by the way, is the most beautiful book. (I have just lent it to the Empress, who – prepare to bite out your own veins with envy – is planning a culinary trip through various Middle Eastern countries including Syria. Argh. We can only hope she comes back with some fine recipes to share, but I may find it difficult to speak to her for a while…)

Anyhoo.

Labneh, it turns out, is so easy peasy to make that I am never again buying that gorgeously silky Yarra Valley Dairy Persian Fetta in the black tin, because my labneh (while texturally probably quite different and probably-not-even-remotely-comparable-because-it-isn’t-feta), turns out to be just as delicious. And costs very little. The amazing thing about this stuff is the texture – so silky and creamy, but with excellent body and, depending on your marinade, a lovely soft and herby tang.

Greg Malouf’s recipe is here, and it’s the one I used, except I followed Melba’s lead and formed it into the little balls rather than just spreading over a plate topped with oil as he’s done. Anyway it’s hardly a recipe at all really – take a kilo of natural yoghurt, hang it for 48-72 hours, and then do as you wish with it. Melba hangs hers for anything from three hours to overnight, and it’s beautifully light. I did as GM says though, and hung it for 48 hours. The longer you hang it, the firmer it gets, and lots of whey comes out of it. Here’s what I did.

1. Take a good half-metre of clean muslin and line a colander with it over a bowl. A fine cotton tea towel would probably do just as well, but perhaps take longer.

2. Mix up a kilo of full-cream natural Greek-style yoghurt with a good teaspoon of salt and pour it into the muslin.

3. Tie up the  corners of the muslin any old how, and find a way to hang it. Easiest for us was get a large deep saucepan, tie the muslin bag to a long wooden spoon and rest the spoon over the top of the pot. Do tie it tight and hang as high as possible, as it does hang lower over the hours and ours eventually touched the bottom of the pot, necessitating re-tying half-way through. No big deal though and gave us a chance to drain the whey out halfway through.

labna14. Bung it in the fridge for anything from three hours to 72 hours. We did 48 and it resulted in easy-to-form, nice firm labneh.

5. Remove and form into balls, keeping your hands moistened with olive oil – stops the labneh sticking to your hands and the balls to each other.

6. Lay the balls in a jar or container, cover with oil and add some dried chilli flakes, dried thyme, fresh rosemary and a clove of garlic. Any dried herbs or spices you fancy would do, I reckon.

Use it spread on biccies as a dip; on toast or a sandwich instead of butter; plonk a ball in your spicy veg soup (that’s where almost all of M’s batch went – thicker and more delicious than a yoghurt dollop); toss on to steamed green vegetables, or just use anywhere you would sling a blob of yoghurt, I reckon.

This amount made three full medium-sized deli takeaway containers’ worth. The oil is obviously the costly bit of this, but given that one would never chuck away such lovely herby olive oil, instead keeping it for pasta sauces, salad dressings or whatever, I reckon this recipe is a contender for the frugal food post as well as just being a beautiful thing. And great to take to a friend’s when you’re turning up for dinner – they will be tres impressed with your domestic goddessness as well as gobbling it up in a flash like I did.