In search of my cooking mojo…

12 Apr

mozzarella kithome made melted mozzarella

I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I last blogged. I hope that this post can make up for any feelings of abandonment that you may have experienced during my absence in March. Unfortunately I have had some of life’s other challenges to deal with as we all do from time to time. Quite frankly, they’ve consumed all of my energy so I just have not been inspired to cook or blog.

So how have I nourished myself? Well certainly not with fast food or frozen dinners. I’ve eaten predominantly raw food. Why? No peeling, no cutting, no dish-washing and no mess. Just wash and eat. I’ve eaten my way through about 15-20kgs of fruit and vegetables per week. But not all of it was raw. On the adventurous nights, I went all out: I roasted vegetables simply with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Has there been anything positive from all of this? Yes, I caught a glimpse of my abs for the first time in years! Let’s see how long I can keep them as my appetite for low-n-slow ribs, marbled steaks and patés is starting to grow.

Whilst the healing continues, I’ve managed to find enough motivation to work on one from the photo archive. Hopefully by going back to the glorious happy-in-the-kitchen days, I’ll be able to find my cooking mojo. I need to find it now as I have a Lebanese feast to prepare this weekend! Please read on, it does get better, I promise.

I have always wanted to make cheese but had thought that it was too complicated and time-consuming. Earlier this year in January, I decided to order the kit online. It came with everything needed to make Mozzarella in 30 minutes. Yes 30! My first trial took an hour because I had to fumble between the instructions, thermometer and precise measurement of each ingredient. Actually it was a disaster (see tips below). The second took 45 minutes and the third about 35 minutes.

What is Mozzarella made from? Milk, rennet, calcium chloride, lipase, citric acid, patience and strong hands to knead hot curds. The science behind cheese making is simple: coagulate the milk solids to separate them from the whey. Think about how many varieties of cheese are made using that simple process! Perhaps thousands.

Was it worth all the effort? Yes. It melts beautifully and tastes creamier than the rubbery and tasteless one that you get in the supermarket.

Before I get into the step-by-step instructions, I wanted to share with you some of the tips that I have learnt so far. In my mind, they are far more important than measuring everything precisely.

Milk

  • Buy the freshest milk that you can find. Make sure its full cream, permeate-free and not ultra-pasteurized. The first time I attempted to make Mozzarella, I bought organic milk thinking that it would be creamier and tastier. I failed to read the label. But I’m only human and who would have thought that organic milk would be ultra-pasteurized and result in very few curds?
  • Another nasty anti-curdforming ingredient is permeate. What is permeate? Permeate is essentially whey, a by-product from the cheese making process sometimes mixed with fresh milk to “bulk it up”.
  • Four liters of milk yields about 400g of Mozzarella. If you have a large pot, use it. It’s the same effort whether its four liters or ten.

Technique

  • Lay out all your ingredients in order of use. Label each of the dissolved ingredients as they all look the same once mixed with water.
  • Do not get over sensitive about heating the milk to the exact temperature or stirring the milk constantly. Also the kit comes with lipase (most do) and it’s supposed to make the cheese taste better. However, I didn’t detect any difference so have stopped adding it.
  • Follow the instructions and be patient. Okay, it’s fun watching the curds form the first time around but there’s no need to stand over the pot.
  • Cut the curds but don’t get hung up if they’re not perfect cubes. Eventually you’ll squeeze them together during the kneading process.
  • To make Bocconcini, roll out with both hands into a long uniform sausage like when making Gnocchi. Then cut with a sharp knife and roll each individual piece before dropping them into the whey.
  • Don’t use a cheese cloth. Use a colander to save washing the cloth as it’s difficult to remove all curds.

Photo-instructions

Just scroll over each photo with your cursor to view a description of each step.

Lay out all the ingredientsLabel the calcium chloride, citric acid, lipase & rennetMix through the calcium chloride and lipase then bring up to 32degrees C

After taking it off the heat, set aside for 10minutesCut the curds using a knifeClose up of the cut curds

Back on the heat and bring up to 38 degrees CTake off the heat and stir gently to collect more curdsNice thick curds

Collect all the curds using a slotted spoonCurds to the left and whey to the rightGather curds into a ball and squeeze excess whey out

Place in the microwave for 30s on highknead with lovekeep kneading just like you do with dough

nice and stretchyThere we have itBocconcini

Store them in the why mixture and add a little saltyumm bocconcini

And yes I think I can feel a spark. Perhaps I’ve found my cooking mojo!

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