“A new day and a new theme”
Of late I’ve been feeling a little negative and my last post said it all. This month is almost closing on me and here I am again back logged with things to do, which kept me away from posting about i2cook’s second cooking class, which happened early this month.
I recently received an email from a customer who had ordered few bottles of shahi tukra during rakhi and appreciating the sweet so much that all the negativity that I’ve been feeling began to fade. She attempted twice to tell me how much she liked it – once when I was traveling and couldn’t return her call back and the second time by writing an email to me. She also checked with me about the class and that’s when I realized that my post for the second one is long overdue.
i2cook cooking class is slowly catching up in its own special way and I’m glad that its appreciated. I always enjoy interacting with people and this time we had two men in our class ;). I like it when men come forth and show their interest in cooking. We cooked, we ate and laughed together. It was an afternoon well spent gaining and imparting knowledge and tasting various ingredients like nutritional yeast, black rice pasta, spaghetti pasta, rock salt etc. Italian being the theme of the class the recipe card and the setting was all themed by Groovy Two Shoes.
Ricotta Cheese Spread
Ricotta is Italian for “twice cooked” or “to cook again” and is traditionally made with the whey byproduct of making another cheese, such as mozzarella or a hard cheese. The whey is heated, with or without additional vinegar, and the new ricotta is strained and seasoned.
Since we aren’t cheese makers and don’t have any whey with us, we will make ricotta in a more contemporary way and creamy like a cream cheese. The fresh ricotta goes well on a baguette or toast drizzled with some olive oil or balsamic.
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons
1/2tsp sea salt
(Makes 1 cup)
Pour milk, cream and salt in a non-reactive pot. Heat the milk lightly until you see the cream formation. Turn off the stove and pour in the lemon juice. Allow it to stand for five minutes.
Line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and can be refrigerated upto 3 days.
An Italian will always say that “his” sauce is the best. How do you know which recipe to follow? After a lot of research we realized that you don’t need to add too many things into your sauce to make it taste good. Some onions, not finely chopped dropped into a pot full of tomatoes to infuse can do wonders to your pasta sauce.
500gms plum tomatoes
1 halved medium sized onion
2tbs olive oil
1/2tbs lemon juice
salt to taste
(Makes approx. 250gms of pasta sauce)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Peeling the tomatoes should now be a cinch. Discard the skins.
Cut each of your tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with your fingertips into a small strainer set over a bowl. Ditch the seeds, reserve the juices. Chop the tomatoes roughly.
Put the tomatoes, onion and olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt and sugar to taste. Turn off the stove and add lemon juice. Serve immediately on your favourite pasta with some fresh basil or precede further to preserve the sauce.
Preserving pasta sauce
You can either freeze the pasta sauce for 6 months or can preserve through canning at room temperature.
You can make pasta sauce in bulk and store in your kitchen cabinet for months by canning. Canning is a process where the sealed sauce bottles are heated in a hot water bath to build pressure and seal the bottle. This helps to negate the bacteria and avoid botulism (can lead to paralysis)
Canning at home doesn’t require any special equipment and can be done with the stuff available at home –
deep saucepan or stock pot
Wipe the rim of the jar with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any sauce on there. Anything left on the rim could spoil your sauce. Place the lid on top, and screw the rings in place.
Fill the pot with water and place the towel at the bottom. Submerge the warm jars in the entirely with water 2 to 3 inch above the lids and bring it to boil. Maintain the temperature of the stove at medium high and process for 45 minutes. Check periodically to see that the water level is still above the tops of the jars and add water if necessary.
Meanwhile tie rubber bands to the tongs to avoid any slippage. After 45 minutes, slowly remove the jars with the help of the tongs and place them somewhere no one will bump or touch them. Let them sit to cool, overnight is good. You may hear hissing when you take them out of the water – that’s totally fine. The jars’ seals will still be up at this point, they will suck in as the jars cool.
Your homemade pasta jar is ready to store for 12 months without refrigeration.
Please check your jars. Are the seals down? Any leaks? If not, you’re all clear. If you still hear hissing, have jars with the lids still up, or see any leaks, stick them in the refrigerator and use them within a couple of days. Do not try to can them again.
Fig & Olive Tapenade
Traditionally, tapenade is a pounded paste made of olives and capers, slick with olive oil. It is not only economical to make your own tapenade but it is so darn easy. We found some gorgeous figs from Turkey and couldn’t help but mix it in our tapenade.
1/2cup dried figs
1 cup black olives
1 small garlic clove
1/2tbs lemon juice
1tsp dried or finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Soak the figs in water for an hour or so. Chop and keep aside.
Blend in all the ingredients in a processor and season with salt and pepper. If you have the patience you could make the tapenade in mortar and pestle…
The class was wrapped up with sauce and spreads prepared by us for lunch and finished with some Italian custard served with caramelized pears made by me. To know when my next class is scheduled – 1. LIKE our FB page for constant updates or 2. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that I can send you an email once the event is up! More pictures of the class on our FB page.
You might want to read my previous post on i2cook cooking class.
Homemade Mayonnaise has real flavour as opposed to the insipid taste of the jarred version. You can adjust the consistency, depending on what you are using it for. Stiff Mayo is good for serving with deep-fried and grilled food, while a loser mayo can be used as a sauce for seafood or hot or cold veggies.
Vegetable oil work best as they are tasteless and can be used for multipurpose mayo. Olive oil or any nut oil can be used to make more distinctively flavoured mayo. Most mayo, can be made by hand or in a blender, but mayo made with olive oil should be made in mortar pestle by hand, because the aggressive action of the blender or even a whisk, may compromise the flavour of the oil and may turn slightly bitter.
I will be sharing the blender method. Most recipes suggest to use only the yolk. It can also be made using solely egg whites, with no yolks at all, if it is done at high speed in a food processor. The resulting texture appears to be the same. I prefer to use the whole egg. The choice is yours 🙂
2 whole free-range eggs
1tbs i2cook mustard
250gm (approx) sunflower or any vegetable oil, even soy oil is good
salt & pepper to taste
Combine the eggs, mustard, vinegar in a blender. With the blender on the lowest speed, pour oil in a slow but steady stream through the opening in the top of the blender, blending until the mayo stiffens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mayo may break – that is the oil may separate out of emulsion and the mayo may turn loose and grainy( if the oil is added too fast at the beginning or the mayo is too stiff). If its stiff – just add water, vinegar and blend well. If the mayo breaks – just rework the broken mayo into another egg in a second bowl.
Plain mayo can be flavoured to create innumerable variations, by adding dry or fresh herb/herbs or by adding capers or finely chopped gherkins. You could also colour the mayo orange by adding saffron.
A lot of us wonder or are confused about what does cage-free birds or free-range eggs mean? Last month there was an interesting article on cage-free birds in BBC Good Food, India in which it mentioned that, the cage-free birds are not cooped up in a cage unlike the commercial ones. In the commercial ones, the cages are placed in a row and stacked several tiers high. The cages are so cramped up that the living space is less than an A4 size paper. On the other hand, cage-free birds are not kept in cages and are allowed open access to the outdoors.
In rural setting, birds are allowed to forage in the backyard and in urban one they are allowed to roam freely within a large compound.
Free-range eggs are more expensive than the commercially available eggs. The well known brand, Keggs, based in Delhi, costs 55/- for half a dozen which is nearly triple the price. These eggs are at a premium cost since the egg production is not predictable and it is difficult to monitor how much feed each bird consumes. So at this rate the bird may lay an egg only once every two days.
There has been no scientific evidence to suggest that these eggs are more nutritious than regular eggs. Consuming free-range eggs is more of a conscience call.
In Mumbai, you can buy free-range eggs from Foodhall, at Palladium Mall, Nature’s Basket outlets and I’ve also spotted them at Jude’s Cold Storage, Bandra. You can also check with your local chicken shop if they could arrange for some locally.
This is my guest post at Natural Mantra’s blog.