Posts Tagged ‘yoghurt’


The (pro) Biotic Woman

July 3, 2012

 The fermentation bug

Many moons again my friend M introduced me to the pleasures of making labneh – an incredibly easy thing to do.

But till now I only made labneh with shop-bought yoghurt – I  had never considered actually making my own yoghurt, assuming it would be a tricky process, involving special equipment, millisecond-accuracy with timing and temperatures and whatnot.

Then the lovely Fouad appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Good Living section a couple of weeks ago, evangelising about homemade yoghurt. His instructions seemed too good to be true – simply bringing full cream milk to a temperature of 83 degrees C, then cooling it to 46 degrees, stirring in a couple of spoonsful of (live culture) yoghurt and leaving it in a warm place overnight.

After chatting with him and the charming Lili from Pikelet & Pie about this on Twitter, I decided to give it a shot. Lili advised using a thermos to try to keep the temperature warm enough overnight, but as our crappy old thermos only holds about 500ml, I went for a split method. Half went into the warmed thermos and the other half into a Pyrex dish with a plastic lid, which I then sat on top of our gas heater for the evening. Once we went to bed and the heater was off, both batches just sat on the bench overnight.

Next morning, lo and behold – yoghurt! A little runny, I admit – but definitely yoghurt. There seemed to be no real discernible difference between the thermos and the dish batches either. I had a poke around online to see what folks had to say about thickening yoghurt and there are many methods, but the simplest to me seems to be just straining it through muslin a la labneh (but now just by lining a sieve with the muslin and leaving it over a bowl in the fridge). In fact Fouad, henceforth known as my Yoghurt Yogi, informs me that as soon as you strain yoghurt it’s called labneh. But whatever it’s called, with even just half an hour to an hour’s straining, my yoghurt / labneh was beautifully creamy, rich and utterly delicious.

That’s it, pictured above (drizzled with our beloved pomegranate honey, which I first learned about here at Kale for Sale via Nourish Me, and have been doing my own evangelising about ever since).

Now, that first batch was actually a little too delicious, in a way, for it tasted very much like clotted cream. I wanted more of the sourness and acidity that makes yoghurt yoghurt, which meant I needed to leave it sitting longer than just overnight. For my next batch, I left it a full 24 hours before straining and refrigerating and it was perfectly acidic. I was starting to get the hang of this!

Batch number three got me worried – through inattention I took the temperature too high and then completely forgot about it until a couple of hours later when it had cooled too much. Not sure how much this would affect things, I just started again, re-scalding the same milk and cooling to the right temp. And you know what? It was completely fine!

I so love a process that seems almost unstuffupable – and I’m hooked now. A friend asked me yesterday why I thought my yoghurt was better than good organic Greek-style from the shop. The answer is it’s not – or at least, not that I can taste. But it’s fun, for starters, and by playing around with the straining and setting times you can adjust the level of acidity and the thickness to get it exactly how you like it. I also love that there’s no packaging involved (though I guess there is the milk carton, so maybe that advantage cancels itself out…) and that at a few dollars for a litre of organic milk it’s less than half the price of the nicest organic yoghurt we buy regularly. My single litre of milk yields about half a litre of yoghurt, give or take a bit for straining.

I toyed briefly with the idea of buying a yoghurt maker, which would keep the temperature steady for the whole time – but then realised that another thing I love about this process is its simplicity. No gadgets, no special equipment other than what was already in the house. That said, I would really recommend a thermometer for this – although plenty of people do seem to judge the temperature just by touch (it’s ready when you can hold your finger in the hot milk ‘without it hurting’, according to one commenter here!). And methods vary a great deal – all kinds of warming / temperature regulation tips are to be found in online discussions, from leaving the yoghurt wrapped in blankets, in the oven with just the oven light on, on top of the fridge at the back near the motor, in a slow cooker … it’s endless! But so far so good for us just leaving it in the living room until we go to bed.

Next batch I’m even going to try thermos-free, and see what happens. As I said … I am the proBiotic Woman. I’m hooked!

What about you – any of you had the fermentation bug?

PS: By the way, lucky winner of the beautiful Fuchsia Dunlop book, judged by Senor, is hatarimouse by a hair’s breadth. Thanks for playing all …

PPS: This fermentation process is so easy it brings pleasure … unlike my repeated failures at wild yeast sourdough starter (another story)…


The Cure

April 28, 2011

Apologies for my absence here lately. I am nearing the pointy end of editing for my novel Animal People, with the finished copy-edit due back at the publishers Friday week. It feels like the last chance to really get it as right as I can make it, so am sweating over each line again after considering the larger shape of it for a good while. Hence, little time for dropping in here, which I regret. Today’s recipe is a cross-post of something I wrote a few weeks ago for Murdoch Books’ 365 Day Challenge blog, in which various home cooks test recipes from Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down & Eat. My first dish (two more to come) was this cured salmon. I’ll be back soon with some Indian vego stuff I’ve been making lately from another new book I’ve discovered, which is making me swoon. But until the novel is done it’s back to the book for me … 

Cured salmon with peas

Cured salmon, or gravlax, has to be one of the most impressive dishes a girl can make in terms of bang-for-the-effort-buck. Apart from the curing time, which varies in recipes from 24 hours to several days, the actual preparation and garnishing time is around ten minutes max.

While other recipes often include vodka or gin in the curing mix, Stéphane’s cured salmon only uses sugar, salt & dill, and it worked just fine for me. As I was making it for two, rather than six, I just bought a single thickish salmon fillet (about 400g) but used the same amount of curing mixture as the recipe recommends for 800g; the result was fine and yielded plenty for snacks and light lunches.

For the preparation, all you do is mix a tablespoon each of coarse salt (I used ordinary cooking salt), coarsely ground pepper and sugar with one bunch of chopped dill together in a bowl, and then smother the salmon fillet in this mix.

Then comes the waiting. Stéphane says leave the salmon in the fridge (I’d recommend in a glass or ceramic dish) for 48 hours for it to ‘purge’ – to remove the water content in the salmon, concentrating its flavour and sort of toughening up the texture. Because we were out in the evenings a lot this week I ended up leaving the salmon for another 24 hours on top of the recommended 48, and liked it very much. I think perhaps for my taste 48 hours might not be quite enough, but it really is a matter of taste I reckon. The longer you leave it the dryer it gets, the stronger the flavour – and perhaps the thinner you should slice it.

Once the curing time is up, take out the salmon and pat it dry with paper towels and slice. Stéphane recommends serving thickish pieces – 5cm in fact – but once I tasted it I preferred it very thinly sliced, as we’re used to eating with smoked salmon. It’s very rich, so paper thin shreds are delicious.

I really loved Stéphane’s addition of the shaved bits of shallot and lime, and the peas. As I was in a rush to serve I couldn’t be bothered zesting, so I just sliced the lime as thinly as possible and then quartered the slices, leaving the skin on. I also used thick, Greek-style natural yoghurt instead of the recipe’s combined olive oil & crème fraîche, which sounds amazing – but if you’re trying this for healthy midweek cooking, as I was, could be a little too sumptuous. The lazy cook in me also prefers frozen peas (I can’t get enough of them) so used frozen peas pinged in the microwave for half a minute instead of fresh peas.

The flavour and texture combo of the silky salmon, the soft peas and yoghurt with the sharp, slight bitterness of the lime and shallot was fantastic. I’ll definitely be doing this little baby again sometime – as a beautifully simple starter, for starters, or tumbled together as an addition to a table full of salads. A big tick for this one from me.

This post first appeared here … 


Mission Impossible

September 11, 2010

When I made a version of Stephanie Alexander’s Crustless Silverbeet, Pine Nut & Olive ‘Tart’ for a friend recently, she recognised it instantly as a picnic favourite that her friend calls Impossible Pie. I have no idea what makes it so impossible, except the fact it’s basically a robust, chunky quiche without the pastry, which I guess leads to the cutseypie moniker. Whatever the reason, Impossible Pie has stuck  in our house, and it’s become a weekend lunch staple that easily feeds a gang of eight.

The original recipe is from this book here, which I still love to death. Stephanie’s version is entirely vegetarian, and very good too, but for omnivores  I have usually added a handful of chopped bacon or pancetta (for as the Empress is fond of saying, “there’s nothing in life that can’t be improved by bacon”). And I think next time I might sling in a few chopped anchovies too.

Speaking of vegetarians, I’ve been having a little Twitter discussion on the topic lately so look out soon for a post on how to make a vegetarian happy. And I’ve decided that as much as possible, from now on I’m including veg options for any recipes here, using this little green V symbol at the end.

Silverbeet Impossible Pie

  • 1 sizable bunch silverbeet
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped bacon / pancetta
  • 3 tablespoons currants
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted & roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rinsed capers
  • 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • a little butter


1. Wash silverbeet & separate stems & leaves.

2. Chop leaves into strips and stems into 1cm chunks.

3. Throw stems into simmering water for 2 mins, followed by the leaves for another 2 mins. Drain and cool under cold running water for a few minutes. Dry in a tea towel or salad spinner.

4. While silverbeet is blanching, toast pine nuts in a little oil until golden brown, then remove and toss into a large mixing bowl.

5. Saute onion and garlic with bacon or pancetta for a few minutes until bacon is crisp and vegetables are soft.

6. Pulse silverbeet a couple of times in a food processor to roughly chop a little more, then add to bacon mix and fry for a few more minutes.

7. Add the vegetables & bacon to the pine nuts in the large bowl, then add currants, olives and 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Season and leave to cool.

8. In another bowl, lightly whisk eggs and yoghurt together till well mixed, then add to silverbeet mix.

9. Lightly grease a glass or ceramic pie dish and coat the sides and base with the remaining tablespoon of breadcrumbs (add any leftovers to the mix), then plonk the vegetable mix in, top with the grated Parmesan and a few dots of butter.

10. Bake the tart in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes or until it feels firm and the top is crisp.  Serve warm or cold with a green salad.

V: Just leave out the bacon