ricotta

Mango Shrikhand – Yogurt And Mango Dessert

In my experience when writing a regular food blog, often two disparate food-related events culminate in a new recipe or a twist on a memorable flavor. This time around, it was a case of overripe mangoes in addition to excess yogurt from experiments with a starter culture. Combining these two ingredients brought back memories from my childhood in Bombay of a wholesome, custardy dessert – shrikhand.

Shrikhand (pronounced shreek-ind), from the western states of India, combines the velvety richness of thickened yogurt with hints of warm floral notes from saffron and cardamom and a crunchy finish of pistachio nuts. Similar to ricotta, the creamy strained yogurt also complements pureed fruits, which gave me the idea to pair it with mango. When I was young, my father would bring home a small box of freshly-churned shrikhand made at a roadside stall. This unpretentious shop was exactly what today’s gourmet hopes to find, tucked in a market selling everything from vegetables to plumbing equipment. At that time, shrikhand was expensive as the ingredients were all top quality; which is why we only ever received a small box! Making shrikhand at home was much easier than I had expected, and perfectly recaptured the taste of my memory. The silky, thick consistency of the strained yogurt pairs well with mango’s natural sweetness.

Shrikhand

Yogurt (32 oz) – 1

Mango – 1, peeled and pureed

Superfine sugar – 2 tbsp + more if needed

Saffron strands – 3-4

Milk – 1 tbsp

Cardamom powder – ½- ¾ tsp

Pistachio nuts – 10, lightly crushed

Cheesecloth or muslin

  • Strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together to form a bag. Suspend the bag high over a bowl, such that the whey liquid can drain out without touching the bag.
  • Peel, slice, and puree the mango. Put the mango pulp in a colander, to drain any excess juice.
  • Warm the milk for 10 seconds, and add the saffron strands. The milk should turn a warm yellow color in about 5-7 minutes.
  • Combine the strained yogurt, mango, sugar, saffron milk, and cardamom powder. Whip them together with a fork or whisk, until smoothly combined.
  • Divide and serve in small, individual ramekin- sized bowls.
  • Garnish with a few pistachio pieces.

Note: Use the best quality saffron and cardamom that you can get, as these flavors are subtle. Try the original shrikhand recipe (which uses no fruit) if you don’t have mangoes, adjusting sugar according to your taste.

 

 

 

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Fresh Homemade Cheese — Paneer, Ricotta, Queso Blanco

I came to enjoy cheese late in life, and the cheese counter is still not a place I gravitate towards in a grocery store. When A. suggested a trip to a mozzarella factory in Sorrento, I was hesitant at first. However, I was sold on the idea when I heard that I would get a chance to braid my own mozzarella! Later, watching the third generation family members hover over metal vats that spun churned milk curds (rennet had already been added earlier to the milk), and as a steady of stream of locals popped in to pick up fresh mozzarella, I knew that I had made the right choice.

The trip to the mozzarella factory concluded with a cheese sampling – 10 samples of provolone, fresh and smoked mozzarella, and caciotta, but it was the warm ricotta that took me down memory lane. The pearly-white ricotta curds scooped out from the vat reminded me of my mother’s fresh paneer, an Indian cheese. The cheese was fresh, light, and mild.

When I returned home, I was determined to make cheese to capture both memory and its fresh flavor. Here I was, a not-so-into cheese person, debating over each step in the process of curdling milk to get fresh cheese – from the best type of cloth (muslin vs. cheesecloth) to strain the curds, to the acidic agent (vinegar or lemon juice) that causes the milk to curdle and separate into curds (milk solids) and whey (yellowish-green liquid). I wondered if I should add salt or citric acid that would preserve the cheese or omit them completely as I planned to savor the cheese immediately.

I discovered that “fresh” cheese made throughout the world just differs in the choice of milk used – paneer is made from cow or buffalo milk, ricotta from sheep or cow’s milk, and queso blanco from goat or sheep’s milk. Ricotta is usually made with the whey from mozzarella – or other cheese – making process. This whey already contains rennet, the enzyme that helps coagulate milk to curds.

I planned to use the fresh cheese in three ways: ricotta to pair with summer berries, paneer with its traditional pairing of spinach, and queso blanco to use in an ensalada tricolore with avocado, greens, queso blanco, red peppers and tomatoes – the colors of the Mexican flag!

My grocery store had cheesecloth, lemons, and whole milk, and I opted to use the simplest and most easily available options for my first attempt.

Ricotta/ Paneer/Queso Blanco

8 cups of whole, unpasteurized milk

2 ½ lemons, freshly squeezed

  • In a non-reactive pan (stainless steel), bring the milk to boil slowly. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, so the heat is distributed evenly and milk does not stick to the pan. This should be done patiently!
  • Check the milk until it reaches about 200°F (I used my meat thermometer, but if you have a candy thermometer, it is even better). At this point just before it starts to boil over (about 7-8 minutes), the milk should have just started to steam and become frothy.
  • Add the lemon juice. Keep stirring the mixture until the curds (white solids) form and separate from the liquid (whey). Try not to break the curds, just scoop them gently together.
  • Remove from heat immediately.
  • Strain the curds through the cheesecloth fitted over a colander. (If you want to experiment with whey, set a pan under the colander to collect the whey. Whey can be used to make butter or replace water in the recipe to soften pizza dough, flour tortilla, or chapatti.)
  • Grab the corners of cheesecloth and make a pouch over the strained curds. Squeeze out more of the liquid, by twisting the ends and making a knot. Tie it over the faucet and let it continue to drain.
  • Ricotta is ready to use after about 10 minutes. Serve with raspberries and blueberries stewed in a dash of an orange liqueur.
  • In order to make paneer: Once most of the liquid has drained out, set the cheesecloth with the strained curds onto a plate. Place another plate on top of it, and weigh the plate down with cans. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. The cheese will compact into a rectangular shape. Slice it into cubes and add them to cooked spicy spinach.