December 8, 2014

Cheese making at home

Cheese making is easier than you think!

I spent last weekend learning methods of making fresh and hard cheese. Not that I took some courses or participated in some farm cheese making schools, I finally found rennet in one of the local Eastern European stores. It was natural process to do: To learn how to make cheese at home. 
I was looking for rennet for a long time. For some reason, it vanished from health food stores for years. Hardly anyone could explain me why. Buying it online didn't impress me, as most of the rennet that was selling out there was not the version of rennet I was looking for - produced natural way from cow's stomach.
In the meantime I decided to forget about it and learn to make a cheese once when I find the real stuff. And I found it ! Finally, from Macedonia (FYR), natural rennet - made from cow's stomach appeared on shelves of the local Balkan food stores here in Vancouver. 
It was a happy moment for me, and my family!

Don't expect to make Gruyere or Rockford with the recipes and methods I will show you here, because you would need some extra bacterial cultures for each of those hard cheeses with unique flavor. Still I can guarantee, that if you decide to make cheese with fallowing instructions, you'll still create great cheese for everyone to enjoy and being very impressed.

You'll see, you'll be back for more of your homemade cheese!


So, the tools that you need are not weird ones, and I believe that almost everyone have them in their own kitchen. You'll make your life a lot easier if you invest in an instant-read thermometer, that's the important one that you might not have. If you decide to make some preserves, jams etc, you will need it!
And now a bit of housekeeping. Make sure everything is clean and possibly sterilized by boiling, from the utensils to the pans, bowls, cloths and your hands (which you don't have to boil , but you do need to give them a very good scrub).
Once you've mastered the curd cheese, you can create a paneer-style cheese, make mozzarella, or feta, or even spreadable chevre-goat cheese.

Any way you decide to use your cheese, will give you amazing pleasure and feeling that it is your own little homemade miracle! 

Tools and tips for making cheese at home:
1 pot and lid
1 colander
1 bowl
1 kitchen thermometer
Large cheese cloth or fine muslin tea towel

Milk plays the most important part in texture and flavor of your cheese. If you can get the list processed (raw or non-homogenized), it will significantly reflects the taste. In all ingredients, I suggest to go for organics That's the best you can get in "western sterilized world", since unpasteurized milk and cheese is not considered safe here (contrary to European countries where consumers can find unpasteurized dairy products and still survive!)


Fresh curd cheese

This isn't ricotta, but it has a similar texture and flavour. It's versatile, and you can use it in both sweet and savoury dishes.


2 litres whole organic milk, either raw or unhomogenised
A pinch of salt
2 tsp rennet (depends on type of rennet – read the label)

Pour the milk into a clean non-reactive saucepan and add the salt. Heat the milk gently to 36-37C, and immediately remove it from the heat. Stir in the rennet shortly until it's well combined, then leave for 15 minutes.
Line a colander with a large piece of muslin or cheese cloth if you found quality one. Use a slotted spoon, gently scoop up the curds that separated from milk in as large pieces as possible, and put into the cloth. Tie up the corners of the muslin and hang to drip above a bowl for about three hours.
Unwrap the cloth, place the cheese in a jar or bowl, cover and store in the fridge. The curd cheese will stay fresh and "sweet" for around two to three days, before turning more tangy. Use within a week.


Making  mozzarella is little bit more difficult than previous cheese. But it's an enjoyable way to spend few hours, and the more often you make it, the better you get at it.

This recipe makes four little balls of mozzarella, about 200g.

1 tsp citric acid
2 litres whole organic milk, raw or unhomogenised (if you can find one)
¼ tsp rennet
2 tbsp salt

Dissolve the citric acid in 60ml of warm water. Pour the milk into a large saucepan and heat gently just not to be cold (about 15C). Add the citric acid, and heat to 30C, stirring gently – it will start to curdle.

Dilute the rennet in a tablespoon of boiled, cooled water and add it immediately to the milk. Warm gently to 37C, stirring from time to time – it will begin to separate. Remove from the heat and leave for about 15 minutes, to let the curd set and separate from the whey more.

Scoop the curds out of the pan with a slotted spoon and place them in a sieve – leave the hot whey in the pan. Press the curds gently to remove some of the whey – but not too much, otherwise the mozzarella will be tough. Add the salt to the whey in the pan and heat to 80C.

Put the curds on a chopping board and cut them into four 2cm-thick slices. Prepare bowl of iced water. One at a time, dip the curds into the hot whey for a minute or so, until they begin to soften and stretch. Remove a piece of curd from the whey with a slotted spoon, dip your hands in the iced water (the cheese will be quite hot) and gently stretch out the cheese, folding it back on itself and working it just until it's stretchy, shiny and smooth. Don't overwork.

Mould cheese into a ball about 3cm wide, then drop it into a bowl of chilled water. Repeat with the remaining curds, refrigerate and use within two days.

Halloumi cheese recipe

You'll need more milk in this recipe, and you’ll get a lot of whey left over after making the cheese. This extra liquid can be salted and used as a brine if you want to store your cheese for longer than three or four days (it’ll resemble more the salty, squeaky shop-bought halloumi).

5l full-fat milk
5 tsp rennet
1 tsp salt for poaching the curds
50 g salt if you want  to brine the cheese
Gradually bring the milk up to 36-37C in a wide-bottomed pan
Add the rennet, stirring gently.
Let the mixture settle for one hour. It will set like a jelly.

Cut the curd into roughly 1in cubes – do this by slicing the mixture in a grid pattern knife, let it settle for half an hour.
Heat for ½ hour entire mixture up to about 37C over a very gentle heat.

Scoop the curds into a sieve lined with cheese cloth or tea towel. Have another container underneath to collect the drained whey.

Leave to drain until firm, about 1-2 hour.

To poach the curds: heat the whey to 85C in a big, add 1 tablespoon of salt.

Cut the cheese on to a board and slice into strips.

Ensure your whey is at 85C and gently place the cheese blocks into the hot whey.

When the cheese pieces rise to the top of the liquid, the cheese is ready. This can take up to 30 minutes.

Place the cheese pieces back to your draining container. It will be quite fragile at first

To brine the cheese add half a litre of the whey to half a litre of boiling water with 100g salt. Cool and pour the cooled salty liquid over the cheese pieces and keep them immersed in the liquid in an airtight container.

This method is different than previous ones, as you don’t need rennet to make this spreadable cheese. Usually the best is always made with goat or sheep’s milk, but you can try it with regular cow’s milk.
Below is basic recipe for this cheese and two variations, great for any party and entertaining – goat spread with figs and walnuts and herbs and garlic.


Goat fresh cheese – Chevre

You’ll need again:
1 pot and lid
1 colander
1 bowl
1 kitchen thermometer

Ingredients for about 280 to 300 gr of spread:

1 liter of goat milk
30 ml apple vinegar or lemon juice

Heat goat milk over low heat, in a saucepan until the mixture reaches 82 ° C.  Add lemon juice (vinegar) in the milk. Cook 2 minutes more on low heat.
Remove the saucepan from heat, cover with a clean cloth and leave the mixture until completely cooled. A separation will occur.
In a deep container, place a strainer and cover it completely with gauzes, cheese cloths or tea towel. Choose the biggest, it is more convenient.

Pour the mixture into the strainer. Cover and allow to drain 2-3 hours in refrigerator. After 2 or 3 hours, remove the cheese form from gauze. Press also a bit on it but too much.
Store in the refrigerator again and let drain 24 hours. After this time, the curd will thicken.


For (approximately) 250g fresh goat:

1 liter of goat milk
6tsp lemon juice (or cider vinegar 3tsp)
1tsp clean salt
few dried figs
6 walnuts

Pour water into your pan and drain it without pressure. It will prevent the milk from sticking.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat to 82 ° C.
At this point, turn down the heat to low and pour the vinegar or lemon juice. Mix and even heat 2-3 min over medium heat up to the temperature of 90 ° C.

Remove from heat and cover the pan. Leave to cool at room temperature without touching it. Allow a good half day.

When the preparation is cold, you will get transparent liquid on one side (the whey) and a white mass (curd)on the other.

Prepare a colander and cover with gauze squares. Place the colander over a bowl.

Pour the contents of the pan into the colander.  Let drain completely (remove the whey to as to not touch the colander) for at least 15 hours in the refrigerator.
After this time, the curd has thickened.
Fold the gauze over the curd obtained and squeeze a little bit more to drain as much as you can.

Pour the cheese in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, add the roasted crushed walnuts and chopped figs. Mix with a spoon thoroughly.

Pour the cheese in prepared circle mould and press. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve in refrigerator further 12 hours.

With a sharp knife unmold cheese and serve on the plate.

Goat cheese with herbs & garlic

Ingredients for 2 small cheeses: 

1 liter of goat's milk
30 ml apple vinegar *
½ to 1 clove of garlic (to your taste)
4 or 5 sprigs of parsley
4 or 5 sprigs of chives
Some coarse salt
Pepper (4-5 bays)
cider vinegar or lemon juice

Process is the same like the previous one with figs and walnuts.

In a mortar instead of figs and walnuts, mash the garlic with parsley, chives and a few grains of coarse salt. Add it to the cheese and mix well. 


One more interesting and elaborate cheese recipe, and in this case you’ll need, rennet and yogurt.
Wow, I didn’t know until now that you can make your own feta cheese!

Home made Feta cheese

Ingredients: for 200-300 g of cheese

½ gal (2 liters) goat’s milk (cow or sheep’s milk may be used) – ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk cannot be used.
1 tablespoon live culture: plain yogurt mixed in 1 tbsp milk from above (homemade yogurt works great)
2 tsp rennet
1/2 tsp salt

Brining solution: mix 5 1/2 tablespoons of salt for every 2 cups of fluid of whey

Warm the milk in a pot with a lid to 30 C making sure you stir it occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. Remove the pot from heat, add yogurt-milk mixture, stir well, cover with the lid, and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Add rennet, stir quickly to ensure even distribution and cover the pot, and leave overnight. The next morning, the cheese should be set into one large block of curd. Check for a clean break by sticking your finger into the curd and slowly bring the finger out. Your finger should come up relatively clean which means that the cheese has set into one block of curd.

Bad sign is when your finger comes out covered in a thickened dairy product, that means that your cheese has not set completely, and you should leave it for 2 hours more and check again. If you still get a bad break give it 2 more hours and check again.

Now that you have achieved a clean break you have to cut the cheese and this step is done to allow as much whey to separate from the cheese as possible.Cut parallel lines horizontally and vertically, through the entire thickness of the curd Then turn the pot and cut horizontal parallel lines through the entire thickness of the curd.
Allow the curd cubes to set for 15 minutes stirring it occasionally to allow more whey to come out. You will notice that the curds will shrink slightly in size.

Strain the cheese, into lined colander with cheesecloth or a clean fabric. Gently pour the curds and whey in and allow it to strain. Do not discard the whey.
Once most of the whey has been strained collect the 4 corners of your cheesecloth and tie them to form a knot that allows you to suspend the cheesecloth and allow it to strain for 2-4 hours in cold room or fridge.
The next day remove the cheese from the cloth, break up the curds add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Line a mold with holes in the bottom with cheese cloth, place the cheese in, fold over the cheesecloth and place a something heavy on top of the mold and leave overnight, again do this in the fridge

Make the brine solution by adding 5½ tablespoons of salt for every 2 cups of whey and mix it, dissolving as much of the salt as you can.
The next day take the cheese out of the mold and cut into cubes, place in the brine solution and allow to brine in the fridge for 5 days.
Store in the refrigerator. Rinse before use to remove excess salt.

Enjoy your feta cheese!

The milk tip: you cannot use ultra-pasteurized milk, alone, to make feta. Your best choice is raw, unpasteurized milk, sheep would be the tastiest. The second best choice is regular pasteurized cow or goat milk. If the only choice you have is ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk, you must add CaCl2 (calcium chloride) to mask the effects of the ultra-pasteurization process. CaCl2, however will not work with ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk.




Rosemary yogurt cheese
Possibly the simplest cheese you can make. You can use a few gratings of lemon zest instead of the rosemary, or the combination. Makes about 300g.

½ tsp black peppercorns
2lb whole milk organic yogurt
1 tsp salt
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, for preserving

Crack the pepper in a pestle and mortar until slightly more coarse than if you ground it in a pepper mill. Stir it into the yogurt with the salt and rosemary, then spoon the mix into a cheese cloth or double layer of muslin.

If using muslin, tie the top with kitchen string and tie to the middle of the handle of a wooden spoon. Suspend the bag or muslin over a bowl in the fridge (or in a very cool place) and leave for two days.

Discard the whey. Lightly oil your hands and roll the strained yogurt into balls about 2.5cm in diameter. Place in a sterilised jar and pour over enough oil to cover. These cheese balls will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Eat in salads, or mix with the herbs with finely cracked black pepper and/or fine chilli flakes.

November 22, 2014

Nat's Feast!

If you've ever watched the movie "Babette's Feast" or "The Big Night", you know how genuine culinary feast should look. Maybe you were that lucky to experience one…

My daughter preparing roasted tomato
If not, let me describe one for you:
The indefinite amount of gourmet meals coming your way in a particular order and you just sit and wait for the next gastronomical surprise.  
Similarly defined on web: "A large, elaborately prepared meal, usually for many persons and often accompanied by entertainment; banquet."
All these dishes were created from scratch by my daughter for her sister's big birthday feast!

I've been before to some of those occasions: weddings, etc..", organized few, but never in my own home taking a part in supporting role!
Well, that is exactly what happened for my younger daughter's birthday, when her older sister decided to make the big feast for the whole family. When she decided it, I had to agree, and hope for the best! I just payed for all the surprise food. Yes, I didn't even know what, or how many meals were being made etc.. I offered help, but she said, "no, just don't come into the kitchen and be ready to fill your stomach!"
I wasn't ready for this at all. Nobody was! We knew that she could make some snacks and sweets, but no one expected a 3 star Michelin dinner (actually a tasting menu)!
It was weekend so we had a time. She came home with bags on previous days and also the day of the big dinner. No requests, but I was again offering help, as a sous-chef, to chop! But no, she wanted all the credits and she made that clear.
After cooking for so many years, it was quite different and unusual for me to just sit and wait for the dinner to be served! So I went weaving to my craft room.

She started in the afternoon, around 2 pm, with preparations and chopping. Some fine and subtle aromas, started to emerge around six or seven in the evening. Everyone was already hungry but more over curious. We didn't even know, what's on that tasting menu tonight!
Just to mention - she made it all from scratch,
After all was done, she was happy to give me all her recipes, that I am now proudly showing here.

I'll put my comments beside every dish. But before I do that, I'd just like to quickly mention that I was the only one ready and able to finish all the dishes. And soon you'll find out why.
At the end, we were not only full and content but all in shock. The way she organized everything, prepared and finaly executed every meal to an amazing perfection!

There is one Michelin star chef that I know, and that one lives in my home!

Around 8pm, our feast started...

8:03 pm 
Full bowl with these spongy bakes arrived first at the table. Brown, shiny with hard to resist aroma that filled the room.

1/2 cup warm homogenized milk (125 ml)
1/8 cup sugar (30 ml)
1/8 cup unsalted butter, melted (30 ml)
1/4 Tbsp salt (3.5 ml)
1.5 cup all-purpose flour (375 ml)
1/2 egg
1/2 envelope (1/8-ounces) active dry yeast
flour, for bench flour
1/2 egg
1/2 Tbsp milk (7.5 ml)
1. In a small bowl, combine sugar with ½ cup warm milk and mix well. Add the yeast and stir. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes, until it foams.
2. In another bowl, combine the egg and remaining ½ cup warm milk and melted butter
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and salt by hand. Add the yeast mixture and the egg mixture. With the stand mixer, start mixing the dough on low speed. Increase speed as flour is incorporated. Continue to mix until dough comes together. Increase machine speed, knead dough until it comes together.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave overnight in the fridge or alternatively let proof until doubled in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
1. Punch down dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Tear off pieces of the dough and form sixteen 1 ½-inch balls. Roll them onto a surface to make smooth. Place in a buttered 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan. Let rest, covered, in a warm spot, until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
2. Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk to make an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the top of the buns with the egg wash. Bake the dinner buns for about 13 to 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Serve warm and pull apart at the table.

8:07 pm
Birthday girl's favourite, came as a first course, topped with tosted piece of baguette and great surprise at the bottom  -  grated Griere pillow.  It was actually great twist to the ordinary styled Onion soup.


1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups thinly vertically sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion
2 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup dry white wine
4 cups less-sodium beef broth
1/8 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 (1-ounce) slices French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours.
Preheat broiler.
Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute.

Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

 8:24 pm
It's hard to pick a favourite between all these amazing dishes, but this one could be mine. With a great combination of citrus and fennel and arugula, it achieved just perfect balance for one's taste buds.

November 16, 2014

Pistachio Cake Extravaganza

It's quite amazing to even attempt to make elaborate cake. It's like succeeding in putting hard puzzle together or completing difficult science project. At the end, the feeling is like finishing Tour de France, without doping...
This is exactly one of those cakes, and it taste even better than it looks!
Any great occasion recommended!
Mine, it was a birthday. With few weird characters, it doesn't have to look so serious as it is. Loved from 9 to 99...

This cake is quite original and so delicious:
A pistachio flavour base with bursts of pistachio ,
A Bavarian apricot containing small cream puffs pistachio ,
A meringue mousse with apricot, lightly flavoured with Amaretto.
Pistachio cream is that exquisite part. Almond is great, but pistachio is my winner! You can experiment...
Good to know: the pistachio powder can be replaced with ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts (both in the base and in the cream) and apricots may be replaced by other fruits. You can consider a hazelnut base with two chocolate Bavarian mousse and vanilla and puff, or vice versa. Everything changes once again.
Here I used canned apricots (see the season ...) I rinsed and drained before starting to make it.
Important: This cake gets better with the time. Prepare it the day ahead, and is even better the next day. It is easier to make than what it looks, just prepare puffs and pistachio cream simultaneously first.


October 29, 2014

My Favorite Pasta Sauces

Of all the food, there is always one that I can go back to, as my favorite and if I can call it... comfort food.
It's pasta.
I must admit, I could eat pasta anytime anywhere.  
I tried good and bad recipes and developed over the years some good and really great pasta sauces and dishes. As my daughter started her journey with cooking recently, she asked about my pasta recipes, and complained that I have actually never put my best home pasta recipes on the blog.
I thought that those are too simple to write about?! Not too clever of me! 

When you make pasta, you must know few important facts and your pasta will rarely go bad!

So here are some tips, recipes and methods of the experienced pasta maker:


To create the best possible pasta dish:

1. Have a good Italian (made in Italy) dried or homemade fresh pasta
2. For a sauce use good canned whole peeled Roma tomatoes (Italian recommended) or fresh ripened Roma tomatoes. People usually make a mistake by using canned crushed tomato or tomato paste or sauce.
3. Fresh basil enhance sauce and pasta, much more than dried basil. It can also be substitute with 1 tsp of pesto.
4. At the end of cooking of tomato sauce always add a little bit of cream, it will give a great silky texture and improve taste of cooked sauce.
5. Whenever possible, add wine when cooking sauce with tomato if you like stronger sauce, especially with meat and seafood added in.

6. Trow few dried hot pepper seeds at the beginning of sauce cooking, along with a loads of chopped garlic at the end of cooking.
 It really improves the taste.
7. Use good Parmesan or Romano grated cheese at the end.

So here are some of my most frequent and favorite pasta recipes, you can find more on my Pasta page...



Basic pasta sauce (with fresh tomatoes)

(for 4 people and 1lb of cooked pasta)
tomato should look like this after 1 min in boiling water

October 5, 2014

Autumn’s Greatest Treats

Quince, pumpkins, plums etc..

Fall is here and again exciting time to get your hands on the season’s most popular ingredients:, pumpkin, plum, quince etc...
It’s also last call to make some delicious jams and preserves!
Although, pumpkin has always been big part of North America’s culture and tradition, quince is almost unknown. I wrote previously about plums and pumpkins but not that much about quince.
Quince has many health benefits and it can be used in many different ways.
I found that quince fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals and contains vitamin C in large quantities, vitamin B1, B2, niacin, carotene, calcium...etc. It also contains protein, dietary fiber, carbohydrates (15, 3 g), and low in fat (0.1 g). When shopping, choose fruit quince, which is not too soft.
The most important ingredient in this healing fruit is vitamin C, which plays a key role in physical and mental health. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and does not allow unsaturated fats that create free radicals. Quince contains a lot of pectin, which has a beneficial effect on the blood system, helps lower blood pressure and protects against radiation. This beneficial fruit improves digestion, cures anemia and is used in beauty. Cooked quince fruit is used against inflammation of the gastric and intestinal mucous membranes. Quince is used to treat mucous membrane of the throat, tonsils, upper respiratory tract, and to help with diarrhoea and heavy periods. Quince is good to eat on an empty stomach!
In addition to fruit, medicinal properties have seeds and leaves of quince. Quince seeds contain amygdalin or vitamin B17, which is proven to have anti-cancer effect. Also, the seeds are rich in tannin, sugar, pectin, malic acid, etc. Tea of quince seeds cures insomnia, relieves tension and eliminate bad breath, while mucus from seeds treated burns and wounds.
Several quince seeds submerged in water, quickly form a slimy liquid – excellent folk remedy for coughs and respiratory inflammation.
Tea from the leaves of a quince is an excellent natural remedy against diarrhea. Prepare a tea by making one tablespoon of dried leaves of quince and half a liter of boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes, strain. Drink hot.

If you want more recipes with plums, go back to some of my previous posts, in this post I gather some more traditional recipes with pumpkin and some really interesting with quince.
For Quince leather recipe click here.

Have fun and enjoy the autumn and its magic!


Perfect Pumpkin Pie

September 29, 2014

Quilted Travel Bag

As my daughter had her birthday last week I wanted to do something new this year as a gift.
With a new sewing machine that has all those bells and whistles for quilting, I thought that it might be good idea to make a bag. But this time not just a bag, but big travel bag that will be just hers, personalized and made as a unique gift that all the family will take a part.

  As her sister and dad created one of the ornaments, I completed the job with all of her favorite characters from early years and even some drawings that she did when she was just one year old - Mister O. That was actually her firs drawing of people so I found it amusing to put there.

Some of the "inventions: were the flower watch - real watch that I mad a pocket for it to look like a flower so that she can take it out and replace battery. First words of her hip-hop song is also embellished in, along with her name, of course.

I used eleven types of different fabrics and layer it with betting for quilt so it creates more sturdy shape. No pattern used, it was on the go again.

I can say that she liked it a lot. See more on my Craft blog.