Making paneer

I LOVE cooking curry, its so much better when you make it yourself. And it also means you can use an ingredient I don’t think you see enough of in menus and that’s paneer.

Better still paneer is really easy to make yourself so you can feel super smug home-made curry AND home-made paneer.

Panner and whey

So last time I fancied curry I decided I’d do some paneer. I got a bargain carton of proper whole milk in the supermarket reductions and I was away.

Paneer (makes enough for 1 main dish curry for 2-4 depending on what else you serve)

2 pints whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. Heat the milk in a pan until it comes to a boil. stir it to prevent it burning.
2. Turn the heat right down and add the lemon juice stirring as you add it. Turn off the heat.
3. Continue to stir off the heat whilst the curds form.
4. When the curds have separated leave to stand for 10 minutes.
5. Carefully spoon the curds into a muslin lined colander or sieve. Fold the muslin over the top and weigh down with a plate a tin.
6. Leave to drain and firm overnight.
7. Unwrap and store in the fridge covered until needed. It will keep for two weeks.
If the curds don’t separate properly initially then add a little more lemon juice and reheat.

I used the whey in bread making, it gives a lovely loaf for toasting.

2011 bread experiments #1

So what was loaf one then and how did I select it? I used a random number generator which lead me to Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf p161, which has a picture on…so i flipped forward to the first recipe after that to find on p163


Sounded yum. It uses the usual Dan Lepard low knead technique that I’m a big fan of and have written about here.

It was pretty easy to make and came out with a lovely soft crumb. It made fantastic cheese sandwiches and wonderful toast.

Definitely one to repeat.

I haven’t found the recipe online anywhere so just some pictures this time.

Festive menu, part 2 (cheese terrine)

The first of the recipes from my festive menu is the cheese terrine we had as a starter with Peters Yard crispbreads and a selection of smoked and cured salmon from Forman’s.

The terrine is adapted from a recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas (the old version I’ve no idea if its in the recently published version). I particularly wanted to use a range of Lancashire cheeses but you could use any mix of cheeses you have and it would be a good way to use up what’s left of a cheese board. It makes a good starter or a light lunch dish (which is what I’ve been doing with the leftovers).

Cheese terrine

You need:

  • 275g of cottage cheese or other mild young soft cheese, I used Lancashire curd from Butlers but I think Brock Hall Farm soft goat cheese would also be brilliant.
  • 75ml mild good mayonnaise or greek yoghurt
  • sachet of gelatine powder or two leaves of sheet gelatine
  • 50g each of three hard cheeses, one of which should be a blue cheese, I used  Blacksticks Blue, Creamy and Tasty Lancashire combined (25g of each) and Goosnargh Goats all from Butlers Cheeses
  • tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs of your choice, I used flat leaf parsley
  • water and lemon juice to dissolve the gelatine
  • 150ml double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • a loaf or terrine tin 18 x 9 x 5 cm lightly oiled

Dissolve the gelatine as per the packet instructions. Blend the cottage/curd cheese with the mayonnaise/yoghurt until smooth. Cube the hard cheeses into 1/2 cm pieces. Whip the cream to the floppy stage.

Add the dissolved gelatine to  the soft cheese mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the hard cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper and mix. Then add the cream and stir through. Pour or spoon into the terrine mould. Cover with cling film and leave to set for 3 hours or more in the fridge. Turn out onto a plate and serve in slices or allow people to help themselves.

Enough for 8 as a starter.

Festive menu, part 1

I’m sure everyone has their festive menu’s already sorted. Their shopping list written, deliveries planned, meat ordered and so on. Down to the last detail. So my festive might have come to late. But if you are dithering then read on (and into the remaining parts as they appear) you might find some inspiration. And for those who have everything planned out with military precision well you might find some ideas for surpluses or things to make if you can’t get what you need for your menu on your final dash to the shops.

I cooked this menu last weekend when we had a pre christmas, Christmas dinner with my parents and my brother and sister in law. we’ll all be in different places with other bits of our families on Christmas Day so this was our festive get together complete with tree decorating, silly games, sherry and presents. and of course lots of food.

Here’s the menu:


Selection of smoked and cured salmon
Terrine of Lancashire cheeses (recipe to follow)


Slow roast shoulder of pork served with two stuffings (Chestnut Stuffing recipe to follow)
Roast root vegetables
Roast potatoes
Sprout and peas
Lashing of ‘jus’ from the meat


Sticky ginger pudding
Clementine sorbet (recipe to follow)
Jersey cream

And in the spirit of making things easy for the chef so everyone could spend time chatting rather than sweating over hot stoves lots of it was ‘cheaty’ so bought in but from top quality suppliers. And some of it was very easy to make in advance.

Here’s where I sourced things from:

Salmon: Forman & Sons London Cure smoked Salmon and 3 gravadlax cures

Lancashire cheeses for the terrine (recipe to follow): Butlers Cheeses

Crispbread: Peters Yard (of course!)

Pork shoulder : Anna’s Happy Trotters

Sticky Ginger Pudding: Cartmel Village Shop

So that’s it delicious food from good suppliers making the menu easier but still delicious. Watch out for the recipes coming soon.

Eating Norwegian for Eurovision, naturally

Its Eurovision time again. Tonight. In Oslo. Surely you are going to be watching? And you’ll need something to eat whilst the 25 contestants do their stuff followed by the age long voting process. So how to decide what Eurovision dish to have. Well you could rustle up a menu from the cuisine of the country you are supporting, you could just have something random and un-Eurovision related or you could try something from the cuisine of host country Norway.

Some of you might be saying ‘what Norwegian cuisine, isn’t it just herrings and meatballs?’ Apparently not according to Signe Johansen of the blog Scandilicious, and currently working on her first cook book. She’s already ranted on the very topic at the Real food Festival recently and she’s one a number of people championing Nordic cuisine as being seasonal, tasty and good for us too. Another champion of Scandinavian food is Trina Hahnemann, Denmark’s own Delia apparently (wonder how she feels about that!). Trina has had two books published in the UK in the last 18 months and both have plenty of recipes to whet the appetite for a fresh regional cusine that not Mediterranean. Even Jamie Oliver cooks Sweden in his latest book and series.

Regular readers will know that I’ve sampled various Norwegian dishes before, and that I have a particular penchant for the curious thing that is brown cheese (gjetost). But always keen to explore more, particularly if there is cheese on the menu, I jumped at the chance to attend a cooking demo and lunch with Trina being held at Madsen earlier this, especially because it was in association with Jarlsberg cheese.

Its not that Jarlsberg is new to me in fact I’ve been eating it from back in the days when it could only be bought in the food halls of smart department stores (all good department stores used to have rather nice food halls back then). My Dad used to buy it and rather lovely German style rye bread and it quickly became a staple on sandwiches. For whatever reason that’s kind of where it stayed. It never occurred to us to cook with it, and so it has remained in my mind a cheese for pairing with good bread and tomatoes but not one that is cooked with.

Until the lunch spent with Trina. To start off Trina explained a bit about how Jarlsberg is made (the exact recipe is a secret of course!), the process and ageing are like Gruyere and in fact the gentle nutty flavour and texture are very similar. Had I spotted this similarity myself I might have thought of cooking with it sooner. We then moved on to the demo where Trina made a cheese bread and a rye based pizza using Jarlsberg. I can hear the traditionalists howling at the very idea of the latter and Trina was mindful that it was a dish inspired by pizza but made with ingredients more traditional to Scandinavian food. I was a little sceptical, I love rye bread, I love pizza but I wasn’t sure how the two would fare together. Whilst Trina finished off the other elements of our lunch we all went back up to the restaurant where we sampled beers from AERØ. The food started to arrive and Trina came back to join us. We had a huge spread of citrus cured salmon with scrambled egg, Jarlsberg bread, rye pizza with bacon potatoes and Jarlsberg, a kale apple walnut and Jarlsberg salad, crispbreads, huge hunks of Jarlsberg, a variety of AERØ beers, tomato salad, plum compote and… you can imagine we were pretty full by the end. Trina was great company telling anecdotes about cooking in Denmark and also a font of useful information about Scandinavian cuisine.

After coffee we were packed off with giant goodie bags. And in my case a new set ideas for a cheese I’ve been a fan of for many years. For all you doubters the rye pizza was delicious, very hearty and full of flavour and just what you probably need for a long evening in front of the Eurovision.

You can find the recipe here on the Jarlsberg site.

With thanks to Jarlsberg, Trina Hahnemann and Madsen for hosting a great event.

Asparagus Rolls

I love asparagus. Really love it. I could eat it everyday for the duration of its short season and not get bored. In fact I would probably have it nearly the same way each time, nice and simple with good butter or oil. I might steam it, roast it or chargrill but I’d still dress it simply. I might have it with some cured ham or hard tangy cheese. But in the main I’d let the asparagus do all the talking.

And once the season was over that would be it. No more asparagus for a whole year. Because even more so than other vegetables asparagus loses much of its taste if its transported any distance. Not for me asparagus flown in from Thailand or Peru or Chile, it just doesn’t taste good enough to justify its price or its carbon footprint. The perfect situation for me would be to grow some in the garden but we don’t really have the space to create raised beds and London clay doesn’t make asparagus happy. I might dare to try it in a large tub and see how I get on; even a few home grown spears would be a wonderful thing to have. Until then though I’ll buy at local farm shops and PYO to get the best flavour. And I’ll eat and eat it until the season is done.

The short season usually starts in late April (traditionally St George’s Day) and lasts through to mid June though of course this is dependent on the weather during winter and early spring. Anywhere with sandy soil is good for asparagus growing and each well-known area from Formby in the North West to East Anglia and the Vale of Evesham stake their claims for being the best. Of course the best asparagus is what you can find that has been picked very recently and arrived in your kitchen quickly and landed on your plate ready to eat with minimal fuss.

Asparagus has always been prized and ‘The Neat House Gardens’ relates how the early market gardens surrounding London vied to produce asparagus as early as Candlemas by use of hot-bedding techniques and the liberal application of horse manure sent out from the city with the forced vegetables being sent back for consumption by the rich. Up to at least Mrs Beeton’s time asparagus continued to be forced and available from January. But at some point forced asparagus seems to have disappeared so either it didn’t taste much good or the cost became prohibitive, by the time Jane Grigson is writing about it in the 1970s there is no mention of it.

Times have changed in terms of cooking as well. Modern books suggest it takes about 8-12 minutes to steam whereas in the 1800s Acton, Beeton et al were saying 20-25 minutes of boiling and Grigson says it can take anywhere between 20-40 minutes. Goodness knows how big the spears needing 40 minutes were! Maybe the varieties grown have changed and we certainly seem to prefer our vegetable with lots more crunch than in the past but still 40 minutes seems extreme unless the aim was to make puree. Also common was to serve asparagus on toast to soak up some of the water from the boiling, steaming of course gets rid of this problem. And naturally the Victorians’ had special asparagus tongs for serving, mind you I think they had special cutlery for serving just about everything you can think of.

Recipe wise asparagus is often paired with eggs: hollandaise, dipped in boiled eggs, in omelettes, with fried egg in tapas, in tarts and quiches. Salty cheeses and cured meats also make great partners. Then there is the classic soup (which I have to confess I’ve never tried). Oh and of course with salmon or crab or chicken or….well almost endless possibilities. Googling ‘asparagus recipes’ gives 3.3 million hits so there is no shortage of ideas out there. One site I do recommend though is Fiona Beckett’s which will help you pick the right wine to enjoy with your treasured asparagus; focus on how you are serving it to help you make a good choice.

Because you can easily find so many ways to serve asparagus I thought I’d offer you something a little different. Flipping through various books I found a recipe from Hannah Glasse in 1747. Here it is (complete with archaic spelling and quirks):

Asparagus forced in French Role

Take three French Roles, take out all the Crumb, by first cutting a Piece of the Top-crust off; but be careful that the Crust fits again the same Place. Fry the Roles brown in fresh Butter, then take a Pint of Cream, the Yolk of six Eggs beat fine, a little Salt and Nutmeg, stir them well together over a slow Fire, till it begins to be thick. Have ready a hundred of small Grass boiled, then save Tops enough to stick the Roles with; the rest cut small and put into the Cream, fill the loaves with them. Before you fry the Roles, make Holes thick in the Top-crust to stick the Grass in; then lay on the Piece of Crust, and stick the Grass in, that it may look as if it was growing. It makes a pretty Side-dish at a second Course.

Inspired by this I did:

Asapargus and Egg Rolls:

Serves 1 for lunch

1 crusty French roll or half a small baguette

8 spears of asparagus

1 large or two small eggs

Mayonnaise (fresh or your favourite shop bought)

Cut the top off the roll, remove some of the crumb or else you will face the dangers of squirting egg mayonnaise everywhere. Hard boil the egg(s) and make into a light egg mayonnaise with as little mayonnaise as will just bind the eggs. Part steam or blanch the asparagus and then finish on a chargrill. Slather the egg mayonnaise on both sides of the bread. Put the asparagus on the bottom part of the roll. Put the top of the roll back on. Serve with salad. Watch out for escaping egg mayonnaise.

This article was first published in Francoise Murat & Associates newsletter in May 2010.

In Season: Cheese and Onion

This article was first published in Francoise Murat & Associates newsletter in March 2010.

Mention cheese and onion and most people think of crisps. My quick Twitter survey revealed answers naming the Walkers brand, the colour of their bags (blue apparently) and even Gary Linekar, the face of Walkers crisps for so long he must surely have earned more from promoting crisps than from playing football and being a pundit. A few people were more inventive suggesting pasties and toasties but for most it was all about the crisps. The reason the crisp flavour works well is that the milky sour tang of cheese and the pungency of alliums are happy bedfellows, which means they have lots to offer in the kitchen, and spring is when plenty of both are at their best, real cheeses and real alliums, not Walkers crisps.

Thinking about the combination a whole host of dishes come to mind: leek and cheese sauce for pasta or chicken, onion soup with a lovely melting cheese crouton, cheese with pickled onions, cheese and onion marmalade sandwich, fresh goats cheese with chives, Yarg cheese wrapped in wild garlic, omelettes, frittatas or flans in a variety of allium and cheese combinations. The possibilities are endless.

British grown alliums are at their best now, lovely slim tender delicate leeks, new season spring onions, regular onions, shallots and of course wild garlic. Wild garlic has become an ‘on trend’ ingredient in the last couple of years as foraging has grown in popularity. It’s easy to find (the smell is a giveaway) particularly in woods by streams, you can grow it in your garden in a shady spot (but beware of it taking over) and you might see it at farmers’ markets or farm shops. You can eat the leaves and the flowers but like any allium it can range from mild to blow your head off in strength so always taste a little first before deciding how to use it. If you go foraging make sure you aren’t on private land or ask permission first, don’t collect from close to busy roads and be sure you know what it is you’ve picked. Don’t dig it up, leave enough for others to have some and for the plant to survive next year. The flowers are pretty sprinkled on salads and the leaves make a good substitute for leeks or spring onions.

As for cheese, fresh cheeses are particularly tasty in the spring as herds start to feed on grass again enriching the milk with clean herby flavours. Britain has a wealth of artisan cheeses and you should be able to find at least at one or two fresh cheeses in delis and farm shops. If you can’t then why not do a little experimenting in the kitchen and try making your own curd style cheese. It’s very simple to do and works with all types of fresh milk: cow’s, goat, sheep, even buffalo. Unpasteurised milk is lovely but normal works fine. This method is quick and easy and good as a supervised experiment for children. The yield varies depending on the milk, its highest with buffalo and lower with cow’s milk but whatever you choose you’ll get a lovely fresh delicious cheese. You can use the leftover whey in bread making in place of some of the milk or water.

Fresh cheese

Adapted from a recipe in the Casa Moro Cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark.


  • 750ml milk
  • 1 tbsp essence of rennet (note that essence of rennet has already been diluted if you use undiluted rennet you must dilute it with water first)


  • Warm the milk to between 32-37C.
  • Add rennet and stir.
  • Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film.
  • Leave in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  • The curds will have set so cut them into about 3cm cubes whilst still in the bowl. Be gentle.
  • Leave for a further hour in a warm place.
  • Strain the curds into a muslin-lined colander.
  • Leave for about 6 hours for the whey to drain.

It’s as simple as that. The cheese will keep for up to a week in the fridge. It’s very mild in flavour and is particularly good rolled in some finely chopped wild garlic leaves or other fresh herbs. It also works well in omelettes, flans, and frittatas and stirred into pasta, with alliums of course and maybe a little mustard.

So next time you think of cheese and onion go beyond the immediate thought of a crisp flavour and branch out a bit in the kitchen.