Friday, June 27, 2014

Mad Millies Beginners Italian cheese making kit

 For Giftmas I was lucky enough to receive this very spiffy DIY cheese kit, good for over 10 batches of cheese (approx 6kg in total), as produced by "Mad Millie". This is the Mad Millie Beginners Italian Kit With recipes and all the ingredients you need (apart from the milk) to make some of the following: Fresh Italian Mozzarella and Bocconcini (approx 600g/batch), Ricotta (approx 400g/batch), Ricotta Salata (approx 100g/batch), Burrata Mascarpone (approx 700g/batch). I recently rediscovered the kit on top of the refrigerator and I had wanted to make mozzarella as my first attempt. We sourced some UN-homoginized milk (as some reading indicated that would work better) I got ready to make some delicious cheeze! Included in the kit are the  vegetarian rennet tablets (the enzymatic agent that causes the milk to coagulate), cheese salt (which is iodine-free, so as not to inhibit bacterial maturation),  citric acid (to acidify the mixture, allowing the rennet to act more effectively), calcium chloride (to re-introduce calcium often lost in milk-processing)  as well as the cheese cloth  measuring pipette, and thermometer needed. With my 2L of fancy un-homoginized milk, and the added backup of my fancy new digital Range iPhone thermometer I made my attempt, and ended up with ... ricotta.  After the process, which may have been less delicate than it should have been, I balled my finished product, and let it hang to drain off the last of the whey. I ended up with a mass of cheese that yielded 450g, and I let it sit for  a few days to settle, before breaking open my ball, and seeing what I had wrought. It had been obvious in my preparation that the coagulation step didn't ever really happen. I had curds, but never the solid custard-like phase that needed cutting. My mozzarella failed, but I ended up with a pretty decent, if crumbly, fetta type of cheese.   At this stage I am putting it down to poor technique on my part, and not the kit. Whist I am fairly confident that the temperatures and times were right, as I had the digitally controlled and timed Range to fall back on, I have a feeling that the initial combination of ingredients, and stirring may have been heavy handed on my part.
So whilst this first attempt certainly didn't result in the delicious creamy and plain ball of mozzarella that I had anticipate, I did manage to turn a volume of milk into a storable bulk of cheese. I felt that it had sufficiently dehydrated to retard bacterial spoilage in the short term, and over the space of a few days, I broke it apart and sprinkled the product over a variety of dishes, like these patties. I have successfully made cheese with this kit. Now to work out how to make the cheese I want to make.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Family Feats: Meat Cupcake

I wouldn't suggest this for dinner guests with any sort of finesse, but if you're looking to impress a younger group of diners, this one is a winner.  
By using a muffin tray and a bit of imagination, I make "Meat Cupcakes" - or, if you like, individual Shepard's  pies. All I do is line the muffin case with foil (I use bits of alfoil rather than muffin cases, as I find it's better at holding in the mince mix). Then using your favourite "Savoury Mince" mix, just spoon some in each case, add your mashed potato (I like to sprinkle some cheese on the top) and pop in the oven, just like you would a regular Shepard's pie. 

It's up to you whether you pre-cook the savory mince and then just use the oven to brown up the mash topping and melt the cheese, or whether you bake this in the oven - I've found either method works just fine, but baking the meat in the oven makes for a more "meatloaf" consistency to the mince, it binds together better, and is less likely to spill when the "cupcake" is removed from the tray. The oven method also takes longer, so it also depends on how much time you've got. 

I usually garnish with whatever's at hand - this time I had carrots, sweet potato and pumpkin so it was an all-orange extravaganza, I sliced a wedge of carrot to perch on top of each cupcake.

Monday, April 8, 2013

High Tea with Mr Twinings at JJ's Bar and Grill

Some time ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to a High Tea at "JJ's Bar and Grill" (in the Crown Casino complex).

Mr Twinings was just  as charming and twee and entertaining as you would expect, he utterly charmed the crowd with his informative and cheeky banter.

At one point he asked everyone who put sugar in their tea to raise their hands and then declared every one of us who had confessed to the deed "A Bunch of Barbarians!!". For a bunch of barbarians they certainly fed us like royalty!

The High Tea spread was really lovely, with a mix of traditional offerings done very well (scones with jam and cream, lovely little sandwiches) and some innovative additions in both the savory and sweet categories.

This venue doesn't usually offer high tea as far as I can ascertain but if this was indicative of the usual standard of their food it bodes very well indeed - it certainly made me want to come back another time and see what they usually offer.

JJ's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hotspots: Narai Thai Northcote (Restaurant Review)

We were out for dinner with one of my partners, for an early "Xmas function for the families", and the venue of choice was the Narai Thai Northcote, being somewhat central for all three households. We've been here once before, for combined birthday dinner, and this time remembered to bring along the folding high-chair for the baby! This is a cheerful, relaxed suburban Thai restaurant, if perhaps priced higher than I'd have expected for the meals.

Pud bai gapoa: chicken stir fried with garlic, chilli and sweet basil. I really liked this dish, the chicken and egg mix was delightfully blended with the sprouts. The basil was a lighter flavour than I'd hoped but the flavours blended sufficiently that I wasn't disappointed at all.

Pud khing: beef stir fried with ginger, onion and black bean sauce. This was a tender dish, with a light chilli heat, the beans were crisp, the onions sweet and the sauce rich.

Gang Dang; traditional Thai curry made from red curry paste, cooked in coconut milk and vegetables, with duck. We almost didn't get a shot of this one, as it was so delicious but we did manage this quick shot. tender duck, fragrant curry and a nice selection of vegetables.

Narai Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 10, 2012

Family Feasts: Beans, Bangers & Cornbread

Some nights the pressures of a day at work make the prospects of a involved and intricate dinner rather unappealing, and something quick, easy and tasty is the order of the evening. I'm loathe to eat most things "right out of the box, and even when recovering from a crushing day, I still need to do "something" to my meals to save me from "meat and three veg" boiled pap.

I put the oven on, as there was still a chill in the air, and looked in the shelves. cans of baked and "four bean mix" beans stared up at me. Taking one of each, and grabbing the brown sugar, Keens curry powder, and some smoked paprika from the Oasis Bakery, I quickly tossed these together, in a casserole dish, and popped them into the oven.

With Thanksgiving coming up fast, I wanted to try out a variation of corn bread I had thought up whilst relabeling our dry-goods jars and stumbling upon our Spanish corn-flour (made with actual corn, rather than wheeten corn-flour. I quickly whipped up a batch of batter, substituting half the regular flour for corn-flour and plopped it into these cupcake moulds. Throwing this into the oven as well, I looked at the meat portion of the meal, and whilst this was cooking, set to defrosting something from Hoth, our chest freezer.

The addition of the corn-flour added a very new flavour to the muffins, much more reminiscent of tortilla taco-shells than the more familiar, sweet gritty cornbreads I've made with just polenta.

 So, thin supermarket sausages. Not the most appealing of gourmet options, but entirely salvageable with just a few easy additions. I first heated the pan, and ducked out to the veggie patch, and harvested a handful of rosemary sprigs. After a quick rinse, and a dollop of beef-lard in the pan, I sprinkled on the stripped rosemary leaves, and laid the sausages on top. A substantial sloshing of balsamic vinegar, and throwing the lid back on, I reduced the heat and left them to sit, shaking them about from time to time to avoid sticking and to cook them evenly.

When the beans and cornbread were ready, I gave the sausages a burst of heat, and a second slosh of balsamic vinegar, and deglazed the pan to get all the sticky reduction onto them.

All in all a tasty meal, from humble ingredients.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HotSpots: Ghin Khao Thai Food (Restaurant Review)

We get out and about to lunch in the city at least once a week, usually on a Wednesday, and have the chance to sample many of the tasty treats and quick eats that Melbourne has to offer.

One such spot is Ghin Khao Thai Food, on Swanston St.

One of the things that I really appreciate in my tragically short lunch-breaks are house specials and combinations.  

At Ghin Khao, these consist of the four "Flying Lunch Sets" which are universally set at $11.90

I order the "Set D" and following a short wait, my food arrived in this triskelion (I know, its not, but close) of dishes and a side of rice.

I ordered the mango drink to go alongside my tropical meal. Alas, it was just mango juice with ice, I had hoped for fresh, with pulp, and maybe something else.

The satay chicken skewers were juicy and well crisped, and had a delightful crust of marinade, as well as a generous dollop of peanut sauce, which was likewise tasty, and well textured.

The clear soup was delicious. Salty, crisp and flavorsome, with fresh bean sprouts and coriander to garnish, along with some fried tofu for added substance.

The "main" was chilli basil chicken, which was unfortunately disappointing. this may have been because I specifically ordered mine "without capsicum". I'm allergic to capsicum (bell peppers) which I can assure you, is extremely annoying when dining out. Conversely, I LOVE chillies. 

The result is often that I get "no seasoning" when I make my request, and this seems to have been the case on this occasion.

We also ordered the Chiang Mai Noodle soup, (Khao Soi), which is a spicy, creamy soup base with crispy fried curried noodles to dip in it.

All in all, a quick, tasty bite to eat, close to shops and the hustle and bustle of Melbourne's CBD.

  Ghin Khao on Urbanspoon