Chinese Styled Pumpkin Stew with Kale and Mince

As the title suggests, this is a Chinese stew type dish which really reminds me of wintertime in Hong Kong. And after these past few cold rainy days, I really needed some HK styled comfort food. The type that has gloriously squidgy textures and an oyster saucy gravy that goes divinely with plain steamed rice. This is rather hilariously made with posh versions of all the 3 main ingredients of pumpkin, carrots and kale (Casperita squash, purple carrots and cavolo nero), obviously you can substitute with the more easily found versions in your grocery isle. I’ve also used Quorn mince instead of proper meat mince, if you would like to use real meat, go for pork mince. Failing that, turkey or chicken.

Chinese Pumpkin Stew:
1 small squash or pumpkin (Cantaloupe melon sized?)
1 carrot - chopped
2 generous handfuls of kale - shredded
2 cloves garlic - slightly smashed
4-6 shallots - quartered
1 tbsp veg oil
250 g mince
1/2 cup water
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp chilli bean paste
2 cardamom pods - lightly smashed
1 whole star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp cornflour (optional)

Oven to 170°C. Chop up your squash and cut it into smallish chunks, I left the skin on because I like the extra texture after roasting, toss them in a bowl with a bit of oil, white pepper and some salt. This is probably where the recipe isn’t strictly Chinese as not everyone has an oven back home, but I really like the slight crisping of the edges roasting provides. Roast until tender about 30-40 minutes.

While that’s roasting. Pan on the stove. Medium-high heat. Heat the oil then sauté the garlic and shallots until slightly tender. Add your smashed cardamom pod, star anise and cinnamon and fry to release some nice smells. Now add your mince and brown a bit. Carrots, the 1/2 cup of water, oyster sauce and the chill bean paste go in next. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender. The kale goes in last for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

The optional cornflour should be used to thicken the sauce at this point. In a small bowl, mix thoroughly with a tablespoon of cold water and add it to the pan and stir in well. Be careful! Too thick and it becomes horrible Chinese takeaway gloopy – and nobody needs that. Stir through your pumpkin and serve up. There should be enough to feed two. Or, one very hungry small person…

Thanksgiving Potluck: Pumpkin Pie

Last year, a friend of mine decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner. But as the task was a bit vast a pot luck dinner was agreed where each guest would focus on one element of the meal. It was a great success. This year Thanksgiving Potluck was had again, and it’s looking like a pretty nice tradition being established. Good food, good friends, and a moment to be thankful for the past year.

Last Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin pie. It was latticed, yummy but too massive for a comfortable after dinner treat. So this year, I used a different recipe and tried to focus on dainty.

The first thing you want to do is make the pie crust:

Basic Pie Crust:
260 g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
110 g unsalted butter
a 23 cm pie dish - greased
baking beans

Flour, salt and butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat at a low speed until they’re all combined and  you get a sandy consistency. Add a tablespoon of water and start to increase the mixing speed. When well mixed, add another tablespoon of water. You want to get a smooth even dough, but you don’t want to add too much water. It’s better to be patient and wait while that paddle it going round super quick to bring that dough together. Wrap in cling film. Rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Oven to 170°C.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll that dough out and line your pie dish. Put some greaseproof paper on and fill with those baking beans. Partially blind bake this for 10 minutes. It should be a bit raw still. Keep that oven at 170°C and make that pie filling.

Pumpkin Pie:
1 egg
425 g tinned pumpkin puree
235 ml evaporated milk
220 g caster sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp plain flour

In a large enough bowl, thoroughly mix up all these ingredients and pour them through a sieve into you’re slightly raw pie crust. I know, I know. I’m using tinned pumpkin puree…oooh…contentious. But you know what? I actually think it tastes nicer than prepping all that pumpkin myself. I usually like doing everything from scratch, but you get less of that green/fresh vegetable taste and I’m not keen on that in my desserts. Bake for  30-40 minutes, or until the filling has set and has lost that wobble when you shake it. Serve it with some ice cream or cream. Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.

Orange Infused Braised Fennel

Some fennel arrived in my veg box this week, and I was left in a bit of a quandary. Since the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations this year, where I suffered a particularly bad Sambuca related incident, I have been unable to come within 10 feet of the stuff without gagging and likewise with anything resembling the aniseed tipple. Cue the mild consternation at my veg box opening. Can I even prepare the veg without feeling nauseous? How would I serve the fennel without strange Queeny related flashbacks?  The answer is braised. Braised in an orangy saucy gravy.

The original recipe actually required Sambuca, Pastise, Ouzo or any other aniseed flavored booze. Um. I really had to substitute this for Cointreau, and I would highly recommend any fellow Sambuca Sufferers to follow suit.

Braised Fennel Ingredients:
1 large fennel bulb
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Cointreau
1/4 cup veg stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp fennel fronds
Zest of half an orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Trim the top off your fennel bulb, remove the fronds and lightly chop them up and set aside. You want to divide your bulb into 8, pieces. Keep them attached to the core so they don’t fall apart when you’re cooking.

Set a wide enough sauté pan on the hob where you’ll be able to brown each piece of fennel in one layer. Set it to medium high heat and melt your butter. Bring the heat down a bit and lay all you fennel bits in. Nicely brown one side. This should take around 4 mins. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar for caramelization. Turn to brown the other side.

Once evenly browned. Increase the heat and add your alcohol. This should quickly boil down. When it’s almost entirely evaporated, add the stock and water. Once this liquid starts boiling, bring the heat down low. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. While this is simmering grate your orange zest – set aside.

15 minutes up? Remove that lid and let the sauce boil down to a glaze. Add a pinch of the fronds and the half the zest. Gently combine.

Plate up. Brush the saucy gravy goodness on the fennel. Sprinkle with the rest of the fronds and zest. Squeeze over with the orange. Done.

I can report that I ate the lot. It’s delicious. I even managed to share some with a friend with similar aniseed aversions and they didn’t gag either. So, a win in my books methinks.

Xavi’s Cookie Monster Cake

My fellow Eurasian friend Xavier is leaving the UK to try out Hong Kong for a bit. As I grew up in Hong Kong and chose to come over to Blighty, it’s the inverse move I made – so all in all: Exciting times for Xavi. When I offered to make a cake for his leaving do held at one of my fav Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road,  Song Que, I got this response:

“I don’t care what flavour cake you make… …So long as it looks like Cookie Monster”

Interesting brief.

I’ve never made a novelty cake before. I knew I’d have to make an awful lot of icing to make that furry looking decoration. I was initially contemplating colouring desiccated coconut blue and slathering it on a pre-iced blue cake. But the thought of how much desiccated coconut I would need or how I would even get the two blue elements the same shade was driving me a bit potty so I opted for the icing technique – because no one needs a blue cakey melt down. I didn’t want to send all the guests into an instantaneous diabetic coma so I went for a more neutrally flavoured cake of banana, pineapple with walnuts and cashews. The following will make a 3 layered sponge cake with 20cm cake tins and a shed load of frosting.

Ingredients for Cookie Monster Cake:
300 g caster sugar
3 eggs
300 ml sunflower oil
270 g banana peeled, roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
300 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g tinned pineapple, chopped into small pieces
100 g walnuts and cashews - I went with a 70:30 split

Oven to 170°C. Roughly chop the nuts and pineapple, set aside. With your electric or stand mixer: incorporate the sugar, eggs, oil, banana, vanilla and cinnamon at medium speed.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and bi-carb. Add this to your wet mixture bit by bit until even. Finally stir in the pineapple and nuts with a wooden spoon.

Smear your cake tins with butter and line the bottom with parchment. Evenly pour in your mixture between the three tins and bake for 20-30 minutes. Mine took a bit longer so check with a skewer when they are looking golden brown on the top. Once the skewer comes out clean, take them out and leave them to cool in their pans while you sort out the icing.

Icing & Decoration:
900 g icing sugar
375 g cream cheese
150 g unsalted butter
1 bottle of blue food colouring
Black food colouring
A couple of chocolate chip cookies

You’re meant to mix the butter and icing sugar first before you add the cream cheese, then mix it all at medium to high speed for 5 minutes. I just whacked all three into my stand mixer and it turned out okay. But I really must recommend you roughly make a teepee with a tea towel because icing sugar really goes everywhere, especially at these huge quantities.

Before you add your food colouring prepare your cake. Slice the rounded top off your base layer (keep these tops for later). Blob a bit of icing onto your plate or whatever you’ll be serving the cake on. Stick base layer on said blob. Get your palette knife and spread some of your plain cream cheese frosting on top of your base layer. Cut the dome off your middle layer. Place on your base layer. Frost top. Place your final cake layer on top, I didn’t slice the top off this as I thought the rounded dome helped with the face shape.

Remove 2-3 tablespoons of the frosting and mix in some black colouring for the mouth. Using a mixer again, you can now add the blue colouring to the rest of your frosting to make your desired blue colour.

Googly Eyes:
Some of your cut off cake tops
Tennis ball sized amount of natural marzipan
2 large chocolate buttons
2 tsp Black food colouring

Make those eyes! With the cut off sponge tops, use a small cup or egg cup to trace around and cut a couple of circular pieces of sponge with a knife. Roll out your marzipan to 5mm, cut two large circles out and wrap each round a sponge disk. Coat the tops of  your chocolate buttons with black food colouring. Let these dry before fixing them on to the marzipan with a bit of frosting (I didn’t let them dry enough as I was running a bit late – error).

Use a palette knife and spread a thin but even coat of blue frosting around your whole cake. Affix those big marzipan eyes onto the top of the cake. Pipe out your black mouth shape. Fit a clean piping bag with a star nozzle, fill it with the blue icing. Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. Furry muppet monster! Shove the cookies into his mouth. You’re ready to go.

By the time it came to eat and cut the cake, Cookie Monster’s eyes were melting…causing him to cry black deathly tears as I ruthless carved into his face with a novelty cake knife that serenaded out tinny versions of Happy Birthday and the Wedding March. Outstanding.

Bon Voyage, Xavi. I hope you fall in love with Hong Kong, 一路順風!

Glut of Cucumbers: Simple Asian Cucumber Salad

I’ve been getting a lot of cucumbers in my veg boxes as of late, and I was simply not getting through them enough. So at times like these I really love to make this simple Asian salady side dish. There’s a lot of variations of these dishes across the swathe of Asia and the only reason I’m not calling strictly calling this a Chinese pickle recipe is because I’ve not added any rice vinegar (but it is cured with the salt). Serving cucumbers in this fashion is most like Korean namul and it’s those variations of veggie sides that I love most about Korean BBQ’s.

Simple Cucumber Namul Ingredients:
1 whole cucumber or 2-3 smaller varieties
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1 small red chilli
1/4 tsp white pepper
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
1-2 spring onion finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

You want to slice the cucumber into long strips at around 2-3 mm thick. I used to do this by hand with a filleting knife, but my cousin and his wife bought me a voucher for a cooking store last year and I got a mandolin…man…I’m loving the mandolin. When you’ve got lovely long thin strips, cut away the cucumber seed areas. Yes, I know you can eat these, but for the purpose of this dish they add way too much water, so get rid.

In a sealable container add all the above ingredients and mix until all evenly coated. You might think that there’s just a bit too much salt in this, but the salt helps draw out the water from the cucumber giving them a nicer bite (and that water will eventually dilute the salty flavours anyway). Now put them in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next day.

This recipe is pretty adaptable to your tastes, you can even add a bit of soy, grated ginger or garlic if you would like. The veg is really interchangeable: cabbage, carrots, beans, bean spouts, radish, kohlrabi…some of these veg you’ll want to par boil. I’ve served my cucumbers with a congee made with rolled oats – a healthier version of congee perhaps, but mostly because I didn’t plan to cook the rice early enough for making nice creamy congee.

Salsify: The Poor Man’s Oyster?

There was a very interesting addition in my veg box recently. Wrapped carefully in brown paper were what looked like four 10 inch branches of a tree covered in a layer of dried mud. “…” I thought, as I washed them clean and guessed at burdock. Only to discover (after ferreting out my receipt) that I’d actually received some salsify. I have never eaten salsify before although I vaguely remember reading some recipe recommending making chips out of them. How boring.

A quick search on the inter webs today informed me that the salsify root is also known as the ‘oyster plant’ as it tastes a bit like those delicious morsels of the sea. I absolutely adore oysters and after peeling a bit of root and tasting it raw and then quickly blanching and tasting another piece, I can report that these oyster allusions are pure: lies. What it does taste like however, is a cross between lotus root, water chestnuts and coconut flesh. Which instantly made me think of my Aunty Ann’s lotus root fritters and that I really must learn how to make next time I’m back in Hong Kong…anyway. Fritters. Salsify fritters. Let’s go:

Salsify Fritter Ingredients:
Approx. 300 g salsify cleaned of mud - pre peeled weight
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp minced lemon grass
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or one small red chilli - diced)
3 tbsp coriander - roughly chopped (save some to garnish)
1 egg - lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
Sea salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Peel and coarsely grate your salsify, once those roots become too fragile to peel, chop them up to match the grated bits. Add a tablespoon of butter into a frying pan at medium heat and sauté the salsify until tender. Transfer into a bowl and mix well with the garlic, lemongrass, chilli, paprika, coriander, egg and flour. Basically mix every except the butter and olive oil. Generously season with the salt and pepper.

Frying pan back on the stove at medium heat and put the remaining tablespoon of butter in with the olive oil. This helps your butter reach a higher heating point without it burning.

Get a tray, coat it with some flour. Dust your hands in that flour and quickly form a fritter with your dusty hands – once moulded rest it in the flour tray. Dust. Form. Dust. Form. You should make around 5-6 fritters.

When the oil and butter mixture is hot enough to sizzle. Fry the fritters until golden brown on each side. About 5 minutes each. When done, place them on a paper towel to drain them.

Serve up and garnish with some extra coriander leaves. I served these tasty fritters with poached egg, a slice of lime, and an easy salad of romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. The salad was dressed with an Asian dressing made up of sesame oil, rice vinegar, light soy and a mix of sesame seeds. I quickly made this to taste…but if I were to guess my proportions I’d say 1 tbsp of each liquid with 1 tsp of the seeds. Squeeze that lime over your fritters and consume!

Macarons: Basic Recipe (French Meringue)

Right. Macarons. I make these a lot. I make them for my own birthdays, for my friends birthdays, for my friends weddings and by request from my mum to take back to Hong Kong. I have experimented with these an awful lot.

In my constant search for attaining that Macaron Nirvana I have: tried various French meringue recipes; Italian meringue recipes; used fresh eggs; used rested eggs; added egg stabilisers; bought an oven thermometer; broken my oven thermometer; bought a newer more accurate oven thermometer; warped my oven trays; bought new oven trays; single & double stacked my oven trays; used parchment paper; used steam to remove my macaroons stuck to parchment paper; bought silicon baking mats; blitzed my ground almonds; double sifted my ingredients; triple sifted my ingredients; mixed fast; mixed carefully; mixed methodically; piped sloppily; piped pedantically; laminated my own piping template; used a toothpick to pop air bubbles; rested my mixture for 30 minutes; rested my mixture for 60 minutes; baked them quickly in a hot oven; baked them slowly in a cooler over; curdled my buttercream; burnt the cream for my ganache; used way too much rosewater in mascarpone…and created a few delectable morsels amongst a sea of calamitous attempts.

And still, I would only consider myself a novice at macarons, as I can still be found crumpled in a quivering mess on my kitchen floor because the Macaron Gods have conspired against me. I have tweaked and amended many recipes until I reached one that was almost 80% consistent depending on the weather and ridiculously long rest time of an hour. And after some particularly stressful days at work I decided that even I should go to a macaron class at On Patisserie and see what I was doing wrong. Because cooking makes me happy. Don’t judge. I’m a de-stressing stress cooker.

I was 20 minutes late. But as I was the only one in the class who had actually made successful macaroons at home, I still managed to bombard the wonderfully charming Loretta Liu with a torrent of really specific questions (“when you’re ageing your eggs in the fridge, do you have a preference for fresh or pasteurised egg whites? How many extra grams are you factoring in for weight loss?”). After her class, and scrutinising my really hilarious note taking. I’ve tried her recipe again and it does work pretty consistently! Also, it’s actually a lot simpler than the one I’ve been faffing around with so before you start, it’s probably best that you know that you need to age your eggs whites in the fridge for 3 days (I was doing 5! Already, 2 days off my timeline), so get those egg whites in a bowl, cover with cling film and make sure you have the following kit:

Equipment you need to make French macarons:
A handmixer or stand mixer
A large plastic bowl - No to: glass, metal & ceramic
A fine mesh sieve
A spatular
Gel food colouring - not liquid colouring
2 good quality, heavy, baking trays (to double stack)
Silpat or silicon baking mat equivalent
A good quality piping bag with a 10 mm nozzle
A template for your piping - circles at approx. 4.5 cm

Aged those egg whites? Got all of your equipment? Now here are the ingredients for basic macaron shells:

French macaron ingredients:
140 g Egg whites - Rested in the fridge for 3 days
95 g Caster sugar
170 g Ground almonds
260 g Icing sugar
Gel food colouring - approx. 1/4 tsp

Egg whites out of the fridge and get them to room temperature. Sieve your almond flour into a large plastic bowl (double sift them if you want). Now sieve your icing sugar on top. Do not touch this mixture. You want to avoid the icing sugar getting too touchy feely with the almond flour (it’s an oily nut so might cause lumps pre mixing). Set aside.

Whisk those egg whites with a hand or stand mixer to glossy firm peaks. Add caster sugar gradually.

Gently fold the meringue into the dry ingredients using quick circular motions. This mixture is known as ‘macaronage’. If you want to add the food colouring, I’d do it now. I like to add half the meringue first, mixing relatively briskly, then gently folding the rest in. The trick (and man, is this a bugger of a trick) is getting the macaronage smooth, even and *just* the right consistency so you don’t knock all the air out and it holds a nice shape after you pipe it out. You hear the term ‘ribbony’ banded about a lot for this stage. I don’t know what on earth that really means. But you want it looking a bit like this:

See how you can still see some definition to those peaks? It is always better to err on the side of under mixing than over mixing. You cannot salvage over mixed macaronage. The mixture should hold in the piping bag while you pipe, and not dribble all over the place. (Been there, done that…boring and supremely annoying).

Prep your tray, place your template underneath your baking mat. Now for the piping. Forget all those swirly creative cupcake icing techniques you may have perfected. Macarons need a steady calm hand for uniformity. Get your 10 mm nozzle in your piping bag. Twist the bottom (or use a laundry peg) so when you fill the bag, mixture doesn’t come out the other end. Thumb and forefinger at the top, gently squeeze so your mixture is just about to come out of the nozzle. Holding your bag perpendicular to the tray, hold it at 5mm (the height of your macaron shell) and slowly add pressure and fill until you make a perfect circle. Stop adding pressure. Lift straight up! Move on to the next one. Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. Done!

You have a couple of choices in term of removing those nippily peaks a top of your piped batter . Bang the tray on the counter to gently flatten them out (easy, but temperamental) or learn to pipe them flat (a bit more advanced and takes a bit of time. It involves piping as above them adding a semi circle flourish to cut the peak off with the nozzle)…check this dude’s mad pipping skills. Envious much? You should have enough mixture to pipe at least two sheets. Pipe it all and rest them for 20-40 mins until they form a skin and bake one tray at a time. If you can, I would advise double staking those baking trays. This simulates insulated trays, and means the base of your macarons don’t cook too quickly and help you form those much needed ‘feet’ on the base of your shells.

While resting your batter. Set your oven to 160°C. Remove that template. Bake for 10 minutes.

This is pretty important. Not all ovens are the same, and the above temperature and timing is not a golden rule, you have to learn to be at one with your oven for this stage. Mastering one’s oven is the hardest or at least most frustrating part in this whole process. The final hurdle to conquer after all that time. Once done leave them to cool before carefully removing ’em from the baking mat. You’re now ready to fill them with a plethora of delicious fillings once they are fully cooled down. Pair up your shells according to shape similarity. Line one side facing up the other facing down. Pipe your fillings onto the ones facing up. Sandwich them and keep ’em in the fridge for 12-24 hours before you serve them up! Left over shells can be stored in the freezer.

For those of you crazy enough to embark on this macaron madness expect troubled waters. This is a pretty good guide in terms of trouble shooting. Good luck and godspeed.


Warm Butternut Squash & Kale Salad with Tahini Yogurt Dressing

Autumn is officially here, and after a cycle ride home through the brisk chill where I’m definitely justifying those natty leather gloves I spied in the winter sports shop (I mean, I’ll use them for cycling as well as snowboarding…totally worth it!), I’m also feeling the need for a hearty warm salad.

This is quite heavily influenced by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi, who’s thoughts behind seasonal ingredients and saving meat eating for special occasions I greatly admire. So with the chilly weather still in mind, think of the following as an off piste Ottolenghi dish.

Salad Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash - skin on, cut into wedges
2 red onions - cut into quarters
2 ample handfuls of curly leaf kale - roughly shredded
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp raw nuts - I went with peanuts
2 pinches of dried herbs - I went with rosemary & oregano
Sea salt & black pepper - approx 1/4 tsp each
A few basil leaves to garnish

Get your oven to 220°C. While that’s heating up, toss your butternut squash and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper. When evenly coated, put onto an oven tray lined with some foil or parchment and whack it into the oven. Cook for 30-40 mins, the onions may cook a bit faster so keep an eye on them. Take this time to toast your nuts in a bit of olive oil and salt until nicely brown – set them aside. The kale will only take around 5 minutes to cook so make your dressing beforehand.

Yogurt & tahini dressing:
2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon
1 clove garlic crushed
Salt to taste
Water for preferred consistency

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and tahini. I only had Chinese sesame paste, which let’s face it is basically tahini…only more toasted tasting. Add the lemon juice and crushed garlic. I was fresh out of garlic so opted for garlic salt instead so I omitted the ‘salt to taste’ bit. Keep whisking and add your water a little at a time until you get the right dribbly consistency for dressing. You only need a couple of tablespoons of this, keep the rest in the fridge for later.

In the last few minutes: get your kale cooked in some boiling water. Once done strain and shake out the excess water. In a bowl gently toss the kale, squash and onion with half of your toasted peanuts. Now dress on a plate and drizzle some of that creamy yogurt sesame goodness. Finish with the rest of the toasted nuts and basil leaves. I gobbled the lot, but as a side dish I’d imagine this would feed two.

Homemade yogurt: a cultured endeavour

I’ve recently decided to get Abel & Cole to deliver a small exotic veg box to me once a week. Their service is great and it has really got me out of a slump in terms of the total lack of inspiration I get whenever I walk into my local Tesco Express. I always have such high hopes when I walk into that Tesco, maybe I’ll get inspired and whip up something amazing. But after doing my zombie rounds, I always end up with a box of eggs; a courgette; some beetroot; and cherry tomatoes…without fail. So upon the arrival of my maiden veg box, brimming with fresh shiitake mushrooms; curly leaf kale; purple carrots; and rainbow chard…I could have cried tears of joy. What’s more amazing is that as well as getting a box of organic exotic veg – every other week I get something free. One week I got orange juice the next a litre of semi skimmed milk.

It is this bottle of milk that this post shall focus on. As much I have every intention to finish a litre of milk, I simply don’t eat enough cereal or drink enough tea to justify this amount of milk without it going off. And sad to say, I have in the past let a perfectly good amount of milk go off and had to lumpily pour it down the sink. So the other day when I checked the fridge and saw this gratis and completely unopened bottle of milk about to turn – I decided to do something about it.

Things you'll need to make yogurt:
1 litre of milk - any type is fine
2-3 tbsp plain yogurt with live cultures - your starter
large pot to heat milk - or slow cooker
sugar or jam thermometer
glass bowl big enough for your milk
Jam jars or a big enough glass container for your yogurt

So first you want to pasteurise your milk. Get it in a pot on your stove and heat it ever so slowly (to avoid burny milk) to 82°C – I actually did this in my slow cooker. Once it reaches that temp remove from heat and let it cool to 43°C. While cooling, put your jams jars in the sink and submerge them in hot water. Basically you don’t want cold jam jars for when you transfer your milk and yogurt mixture. Hot liquid and jars: friendly bacteria sexy times. Pour hot water into your glass bowl now too, you’ll need it for the next step.

When your milk has cooled enough get that hot water out of your bowl and pour your milk in. Add those tablespoons of yogurt starter and whisk up a bacillus party! When mixed thoroughly get your jam jars outta the sink and decant the milk mixture in through a sieve. Now place those jars in a warm place and don’t touch them for 8-12 hours – your bacteria like a bit of calm so they don’t die but multiply…I’m sure there’s a rap lyric in there somewhere…oh! Haha, brilliant. Pinoy hip hop. God, I love the internet. I’m just going to go ahead and let that play in the background while I continue to write this…Anyway, I put my yogurt vessel in the oven with the light on overnight.

The next day you should have made beautifully set yogurt! Now put it in the fridge until it’s cooled and ready for you to eat.

I was surprised at how light and creamy mine turned out. The yogurt I used as my starter was quite sharp and I sort of expected it to cultivate a similar flavour. Nope. I served my first ever batch of yogurt with mixed berries, some shredded basil and a drizzle of honey. Delish. If you want a Greek style thicker set yogurt, strain your yogurt over some muslin cloth and sieve for 2-3 hours in the fridge. Also, it turns out that the good bacteria doesn’t denature when you freeze it, so when you’re almost done eating don’t forget to put a few tablespoons in the freezer so you can use your own starter next time. Happy cultivating.

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