About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010
Whey Soup

The most common liquids used to make soup are either water or stock, but in countries where simple cheeses are made at home with the aid of an acid rather than rennet, there is another option. Rather than discarding the whey from cheese making, this slightly sour liquid can be turned into soup by thrifty cooks.

I was reminded of this when reading a recent article in Epicure on homemade ricotta which advises to tip out the whey after draining the curd. Not on my watch you don't. Why throw something down the sink that's full of vitamins and minerals essential to good health and has a pleasant taste to boot?

In eastern European countries such as Poland, there are quite a few soup recipes that have serwatka (whey) as the base, to which they add such things as raisins or potato or beetroot. In a nice closing of the circle, there is one soup made from whey and sour cream, thickened with egg yolks and poured over rice topped with the homemade cheese.

Serwatka is incorporated into marinades as a meat tenderizer and also used to braise meats such as pork ribs and goose. It goes into bread making and sauces and if you've had too much to drink, neatly doubles up as a hangover remedy!

You may notice in cooking with whey that tiny dots of curd will materialize when you bring it to a simmer. This is nothing to worry about and gives a nice speckled finish to the soup.

Homemade Ricotta
(adapted from Epicure)

9 cups whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon salt
2.5 tablespoons distilled vinegar

In a large pot, mix the milk with the buttermilk and leave at room temperature for 2 hours. For a slightly sweeter (and quicker) cheese, you can omit this step. Bring the milk/buttermilk mixture to 85 degrees celsius and remove from the heat. Stir in the vinegar and salt and leave stand for 10 minutes. Line a colander with muslin over a bowl and with a skimmer, gently lift the curd into the lined colander until none is left. Reserve the whey. Place the drained ricotta into a covered container and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Whey Soup

1 onion, finely diced
25g unsalted butter
200g finely sliced mushrooms
200g kaiserfleisch, cut into lardons
3 skinless chicken thighs, cubed
2 potatoes, diced
10g dried porcini, soaked in boiling water
1 fermented cucumber, not pickled, grated
4 tablespoons chopped dill, a little reserved for garnish
reserved whey from ricotta
salt & fresh ground pepper

Gently sweat the onion in the butter until completely soft but in no way browned. Raise the heat and add the mushrooms, kaiserfleisch and chicken and cook until lightly coloured. Add the potato, finely chop the porcini and add along with the soaking water, grated fermented cucumber and chopped dill, pour in the reserved whey and season with salt & fresh ground pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes and serve garnished with a little extra dill.
  posted at 3:21 pm

Sunday, October 10, 2010
It never rains, but pours
The weekend papers are full of the cuts to irrigation entitlements that farmers throughout the Murray-Darling basin will have to endure to ensure the future health of the most famous river system in Australia.

Twelve years of drought strengthened the hand of environmentalists as we watched the Coorong National Park and Murray lakes slowly dying of thirst through the over extraction of water further upstream.

Naturally, farmers are up in arms. Less water means that their ability to grow food will be reduced, leading to a loss of income. What this means to you and me is that food prices will have to rise to reflect the new reality. If we want to save our national icons, we will have to pay more at the checkout for scarcer produce.

So on top of already huge rises in our water bills to pay for a desalination plant to secure our future water supplies, it looks like rises in the cost of fruit and vegetables are just around the corner too. It seems a little strange that after the wettest September on record across Australia to be staring at price rises due to water shortages.

Perhaps it's time we started to look at structural changes in the way and the things we farm.

How is it that one of the driest continents in the world grows both cotton and rice, crops that traditionally require huge amounts of water for their production? How is it that Cubbie station, just one farm, has permits to divert and store more than 500,000 megalitres of water, enough to fill Sydney Harbour?

There's no doubt that mistakes have been made in the way in our which precious water resources have been allocated in the past, but in order to protect our future, changes will have to be made, changes that will affect all of us.

Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride. Oh, planting a vegie patch might not be such a bad idea either.
  posted at 10:12 pm

Saturday, October 09, 2010
Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff, an 18th century dish from Russia, became a dinner party staple here in the 1970's, probably due in part from being a well flavoured dish from relatively few ingredients and its ease of preparation - slice a few onions, mushrooms and beef strips and pretty much throw the lot together in the pan.

Though falling out of favour for a while due to increased health consciousness - it is a sour cream based dish - stroganoff has made something of a comeback, surviving tinkering and adaptions including that infamous Australian MasterChef makeover that included a liberal dose of paprika.

It can be thrown together in a jiffy, making it a friend to the time-poor and is a hardy dish that doesn't muck-up easily and partners just as easily with pasta, fettuccine is good, or the classic accompaniment of shoestring chips. The tenderness of eye fillet is ideal, but the slightly chewier rump steak make a good cheaper alternative.

Beef Stroganoff
(serves 6)

500g eye fillet or rump steak, trimmed of fat and cut into fine strips
20ml vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
25g unsalted butter
250g sliced button mushrooms
1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
300ml sour cream
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

In a large frying pan, heat the oil until hot and fry the meat in batches until browned and remove. Melt the butter and gently sweat the onion until soft, then raise the heat, add the mushrooms and cook until just browned. Stir in the flour, cook a moment longer, then add the tomato paste, Dijon mustard and the sour cream. Bring to a simmer, return the meat to the pan and season with salt & fresh ground pepper. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.
  posted at 4:11 pm


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