Pork and Pepper Goulash

The Bear has returned from a trip to Australia and I have returned from work. We meet upstairs in the kitchen.

I need to cook something and I need to make sure it is not only quick to cook and serve   (before he falls asleep from jet lag) but also to get us back on our diet. It will have to be something from the 400 and Under section of my recipe files.

On my way back through town, in the rush hour traffic, I pulled in to the supermarket to see what there was and saw some pork.

I knew there was a recipe that I had cooked before that turned out to be surprisingly  tasty. I say surprisingly, because it wouldn’t have been my choice when I spotted it. I said, didn’t I, that I looked through magazines and cook books for recipes that gave us under 400 calories per serving?  Well, I always index tab them and show them to the Bear to see if there’s anything he fancies. He picked this one  from delicious.magazine (sept 2008). And this one had two things going against it in my eyes… it involved pork (not my favourite meat) and caraway seeds – very definitely not my favourite flavour.

Still, it was his choice and I am, despite appearances to the contrary, quite pleasant at times….

And as it happened, it turned out to be incredibly delicious. And also very quick to cook. Time to do it again, I thought.

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So I got 4 boneless pork steaks – not too much fat on them – and not too expensive. I knew I had all the other ingredients that I would need, which is another good reason to read this recipe and keep it in mind.

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I needed a tin of tomatoes, a red onion, some smoked sweet paprika, some caraway seeds, a jar of roasted red peppers in oil and some yoghurt.

First of all, while waiting for the kettle to boil so I could make the poor, exhausted Bear a cup of tea, I sliced the red onion and put the frying pan on to heat through.

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Not much oil in the pan and get them softening, before adding 1 tablespoon of smoked sweet paprika

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and a teaspoon of caraway seeds

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Stir it all round and while the flavours are blending, cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Take the rind and any excess fat off (we are on a diet, you know!) and add that

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get that meat in and stir it round, letting it brown

I swear, all that took just a few minutes. All I had to do then, once the meat was browned, was to add a tin of chopped plum tomatoes and let it simmer for fifteen minutes.

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Now, as I was in late from work and as the Bear was starving, I didn’t want to delay supper. I had some Anya potatoes (those knobbly ones) and I put them on to steam (yes, it really should have been mash but I knew this would work) All I would have to do with them would be to crush them so the gorgeous juices soaked in….

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… and some of the juices would be coming from the roasted red peppers. Most of the supermarkets have them and they are a great storecupboard standby. They have a real depth of flavour and a long shelf life so they are perfect to get and keep for moments like this.

Cut them into pieces and then add them to the tomatoey pork after it has had fifteen minutes or so, cooking

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… then add a couple of large spoonfuls of yoghurt.

And that’s it. Done and dusted in less than 40 minutes. Squash the potatoes with a fork so they are broken up and then spoon over the delicious (and I say this as a person who doesn’t LIKE caraway) meat and sauce.

The tomato and caraway make a beautiful rich and savoury sauce for the meat, which is still tender…..

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A sprinkling of parsley sets it off… all that for less than 400 calories (396 according the the recipe) … maybe 550 if you add the potatoes?

Well… it WOULD have been 550 calories but it was so utterly delicious I did have an extra spoonful. I do my best, you know. It was quick and easy, low calorie…… but I am greedy.

It is supposed to feed 4 so if you are strict and divide it by 4………. or maybe invite two friends round? That should solve things. What can you do, eh? Totally delicious…….

Tandoori Pheasant

 As you may know (if you read my post about Game) I do tend to get my hands on a variety of game birds. The latest to turn up was pheasant.

One of the luxuries of having a ready supply of game is that you can experiment more readily than you would if you can only get  the occasional bird.

About a year ago, I scrawled some notes about a recipe for Partridge Tandoori. I know it was Valentine Warner but when I searched for it online, I couldn’t find it, so I can’t link to it. You’ll have to take my word on it. He had worked out the calorie count as coming in around 329 calories per serving. Well, pheasant would do instead of partridge and it would still be able to feature in the 400 and Under section.

You don’t need a tandoor oven to cook it on – you could use a barbecue, but I think in this weather, it is appropriate to stay indoors and use a griddle pan.

The trick with any tandoori dish is the marinade. The meat (whatever sort you are using) goes into that and stays overnight to absorb the flavour.  If you want this you need to start a day ahead . The only reason it is red is because of red food dye so we can miss that out, I think. So… start with making the marinade

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You’ll need 2 tsp of ground cumin

2 tsp of turmeric

1 and a half teaspoons of ground coriander

1 tbsp of garam masala

Nutmeg – a good grating

1 tsp salt flakes

6 garlic cloves, peeled

Half a small onion

1 red chilli, de seeded

Half a juiced lemon

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Blitz them all into a fine paste

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Then  add 250 ml yoghurt  – I was using the Total Greek Yoghurt 0%

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and give it a quick blitz but don’t over process it – see it has some texture?

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Put it all into a large bowl. It needs to be large because you are going to put your pheasant in there.

And now for the fun bit. I have some poultry shears, which are big, strong scissors that can snip their way through any bird… if you are going to be doing this sort of thing a lot then it would be a good idea to get some. If not then have at the carcass with a sharp knife – but watch your fingers

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You need to cut the bird, first down the breast bone

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so you have two bits

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and then separate the legs and thighs

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Then, take the skin off… the skin of game birds is not like the sweetly savoury crispy skin you can get on a roasted chicken, so just stick your fingers in there and rip it off. It’s quite easy, really… and besides the skin is already torn from where it was shot.

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Now then.. you have a plate of naked pheasant, cut neatly (or not)  into pieces.

 Because you are going to marinade the pieces overnight, you want that spicy, yoghurty mix to get into the flesh. Score the breasts and thighs with a sharp knife so that the marinade can get into the flesh.

Really give it a good covering, squishing it about….

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and then cover the bowl with cling film and leave overnight.

The next day, wipe your griddle with a piece of kitchen roll and vegetable oil then get it hot. Lift out each piece of pheasant at a time, shaking off the excess marinade and lie it down in the pan.

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Don’t move the pieces around too much because you want them to get a lovely. slightly charred crust…

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It will take maybe 8 or so minutes on each side…..

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Just check that you are happy with the amount of cooking… I quite like it just cooked and tender but you may be different.

All you need to serve it with are some lemon quarters and maybe some naan braed on the side

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That was delicious … and perhaps one of the tastiest ways of eating pheasant.

All that and under 400 calories…. oooh, I feel thinner already!

Lemon glazed cake

There’s something very nice about a plain cake to have with a cup of coffee or tea. A plain and simple cake with a single flavour… no huge amounts of whipped cream and jam… just something to have with a hot drink. Something to change a snatched drink and a quick pause from work into a relaxing break.

Easy enough to make, as well…. I had an old recipe that I thought I might do – hence the measurements being in ounces… I have converted them because I can’t, for the life of me, work out how to get my digital scales to switch from grams to ounces.

I thought a nice plain cake with perhaps a lemon glaze would be good…

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 Start off by heating the oven to 180 degrees then mix

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310g /11 oz caster sugar

56g/2 oz butter

3 egg yolks (you use the whites later)

Get everything mixed together

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See, it is still grainy here… keep going until it is smooth.. then add  225g/8 oz of yoghurt –

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Zest a lemon and add that to the mix

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Stir it in gently – don’t overbeat things at this stage, then fold in 170g/6 oz self raising flour

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Then whisk the egg whites

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And carefully fold them into the cake mix… start with a spoonful first to get the mix broken up slightly and then add more

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There you are, done.

All you have to do now is pour that into a cake tin – a springform is best as you can get the cake out easily afterwards, and popping in a paper cakeliner makes it the easiest job in the world.

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Into the oven with it for maybe 35 minutes.

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You can occupy yourself by making the lemon glaze….remember you zested a lemon for the cake mix? Squeeze it now

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and add it to some icing sugar  in a pan and heat it through, making a lovely syrup

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.. which needs to cool.

You can relax now until the cake is ready to come out… stick a skewer in to make sure it is cooked and then get it out to cool

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Once everything has settled… stick holes in the cake and then pour over the syrup to make a lovely glaze

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It is a really rather lovely cake, you know. Light and moist and beautifully tangy.. just the thing for a mid afternoon boost.

My boss, who doesn’t normally like cake, ate two slices and would perhaps have eaten more… but for the fact the whole thing had been polished off already. I suppose that is as good a rating as you will get for a cake.

Chicken Jalfrezi

We have decided on a new regime. We seem, somehow, to have become rounder.

Somewhat stout, actually. We are going to have to go on a diet. Only thing is, we aren’t very good at diets … well we aren’t very good at chewing on celery and raw carrots.

What we thought we could do is eat as if we weren’t on diets but make sure what we do eat is low calorie.

I started to go through magazines looking for recipes that came in at under 400 calories a serving. My thinking behind this was that if we ate sensibly at breakfast and lunch then we could look forward to something nice at supper.

But supper had to be low calorie….. I wanted proper food not some kind of packet.

You can buy packets of ready meals that have the calories counted for you but that wasn’t the way I was going to go.  If I could make sure that each serving was low calorie but still home made and tasty.. well that was the answer.

If it was only 400 calories a serving then that would mean there was still room to bring in a side dish… we could diet and feel as if we were still enjoying ourselves! All I had to do was find some recipes

One of the first recipes I found was Chicken Jalfrezi in Olive magazine, October 2008.

And it was only 250 calories per serving!

That had to be a winner. So, what did we need?

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A large onion, sliced,

3 cloves of garlic

2-3 green chillies, sliced

Ginger grated

Chicken thighs – 6 cut into chunks

Tomatoes, 5, roughly chopped

Green pepper, chopped into pieces

Coriander – small bunch with the leaves picked off

Yoghurt – small pot

Spice mix

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves , ground
  • Well, you can see in the picture that it is, first and foremost, rather dark. That’s because I was late in from work and despite all the lights being on, it still looks dark.

    You can also see a tin of tomatoes – I forgot to get fresh. Just as I forgot to get fresh garlic and ginger, hence the tubes of puree. Oh, and the pepper is not green but orange.

    Still… everything else is OK……

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    First thing.. heat 2 tablespoons of  oil in a pan and add the onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until it is soft and golden, then add the chillies, garlic and ginger and cook for another couple of minutes

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    Make the spice mix

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    And add it.. I had also put in the stalks of the coriander (they can’t contain many calories, can they? And they do taste nice)

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    Cook it all for a couple of minutes to round out the flavour..

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    Add the chicken pieces

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    And stir round

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    Then add a splash of water, the tomatoes and the pepper

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    You can now cover the pan and let it cook gently for 30 minutes or so.

    That gives you enough time to go and settle yourself for a while… it had been a long day for me and I was tired. Even so, that wasn’t a lot of work and was surprisingly quick to do….

    The sauce will have started to thicken up by now.. if not then take the lid off for the last ten minutes. If you are using the yoghurt, add it now and stir it in for a creamier sauce. I still had plenty left from the Total Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment, so this was an ideal dish to try it in.

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    and add the coriander leaves

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    I made steamed basmati rice to go with it….and served it up.

    Even with the rice that had to be less than 500 calories.

    A bowl of ice cream is 500 calories.. and that’s a small bowl. I know what I prefer.

    The Chicken Jalfrezi  was quick and easy to prepare (there was a half hour break in the middle while it cooked) and it was ready and served within the hour. It felt like we were having a real meal….. it certainly didn’t feel like any kind of diet I had been on before. The yoghurt made the sauce taste rich and creamy so there was a definite level of luxury about it all.

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    There you go. A way forward out of the diet doldrums. I made that after a long day and it certainly wasn’t difficult but it certainly was delicious.

    400 and Under is the way forward!

    Blueberry yoghurt cake

     I am back at work again, in an office with people I have worked with before. It’s good to work together and I am enjoying myself, even with the large amount of work that we have to get through. There’s laughter and friendliness and they have made me so welcome … so what better way to show them I appreciate them than to bake a cake? We could all have a slice with our coffee or tea and share it with anyone else who comes into our office. (And  maybe I could fatten them up a bit? They are all very slender and I am getting very stout. I need to even things up a bit)

    As I am in the middle of the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment I could make a cake involving yoghurt! I once had a marvellous recipe for a cake that involved either sour cream or yoghurt and blueberries but I had  let a friend have my copy and it has disappeared for good now. Drat. Let that be a lesson to you – if you ever find a really great recipe, make sure you don’t let someone have your only copy.

    I had to start searching for something similar and found something on one of my favourite blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini, a recipe for a Blueberry Yoghurt Cake. In fact, it wasn’t that similar but it sounded good. Well, it had blueberries in it so it was vaguely similar to the other cake…..this was going to be a light, not overly sugary or sticky cake. Just something that would go well with a cup of tea. There’s a place for over indulgent cakes and sitting at our desks probably isn’t it. A plain cake, as my Granny would call it. Light and moist with blueberries popping up throughout to give a little sharpness and a light crunchy topping of sugar…. that should work for our elevenses.

    Get your cake tin ready – I am using a springform lined with those brilliant paper liners. Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees

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    Then, ingredients  –  yoghurt – about 250 ml (that was most of these two pots and the rest could be eaten later…. 😉 )

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    200g of sugar

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    2 eggs

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    80 ml of sunflower oil

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    1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste extract

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    A sloosh of cognac… the recipe said rum but we didn’t have any, so it was either cognac or gin. As I feel gin is necessary as a medicinal measure every now and then, I thought I would use the cognac.

    I’d have to use cognac.

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    That had to be combined gently – no furious beating.

    In the meantime, in a bowl, combine

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    2 cups – (which actually weighed out as 300 g) of plain flour. (I like to use the Italian ’00’ flour as it is ground extra fine and makes beautifully fine and light cakes and smooth sauces as well as marvellous pasta)

    1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and  1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.

    Make sure they are well mixed together then add that to the cake batter.

    Again, don’t over stir it.

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    Next, frozen blueberries – just before you pour the cake mixture into the cake tin, throw a handful or so of the frozen berries in (if you don’t like blueberries try raspberries)

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    Then put it all into the cake tin and put that into your oven.

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    Thirty five minutes or so later, have a look  – is it browning nicely?

    Does a skewer come out clean? If not then put it back in for a few more minutes

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    And so… we have a cake.

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    Most of it was taken to work, and none of it came home. Make of that what you will.

    Well, make it, will you?

    Woodpigeon Breasts on toast with lemon and thyme fresh cheese

    I had got some woodpigeon breasts and thought they would make a lovely lunch.

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    Beautiful wild game with no additives

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    Except, perhaps the lead shot that killed it!

    I also had the lovely fresh cheese that I made specifically for this on the Great Greek Yoghurt Challenge….

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    And I have a fresh loaf of No Knead Bread

    (I think I have seen a recipe for something very like this but I really can’t find it… I can’t have imagined it, surely? I have spent ages flicking through my magazines looking for the recipe but I just can’t spot it. It was probably in Olive or delicious. a year or more ago and it involved some kind of game, on toast with a lemony, thyme-y ricotta…. probably.  I have searched online and I still can’t find it – if any of you know who did it then let me know so I can give due credit. I would hate for someone to think I was stealing their ideas and I always try to link back to originals. I would hope that people would do that for me too)

    Anyway, this is as simple as simple can be and oh-so-fast.

    First, slice and toast your bread

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    Heat some oil in a pan (I use my oil that I have steeped chillies in – it just gives things a little lift) 

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     and after seasoning the woodpigeon breasts with salt and some thyme

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    start to fry it quickly -it will only take a few minutes to get the outside browned beautifully while the inside stays pink

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    Once it is done, take it out and let it rest while you deglaze the pan with something.. wine, perhaps? Sherry? Port? Or, as I did, a Balsamic truffle glaze.

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    Slice the pigeon breast and lay it on the toast,

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    Drizzle with the pan juices

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    Put a spoonful of the fresh cheese over the meat

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    And that, I should tell you, was a lovely weekend lunch.

    And I know that, hard though it is to believe, that one portion of this will come in at under 400 calories. Just a squeak under, but under, nevertheless.

    It would be a brilliant week night supper as well, as it can be made in less than 15 minutes, if you have everything to hand.

    Fresh Cheese

    When I was young my mother would sometimes make cheese if milk had started to sour. Not a matured cheddar cheese or anything like that but a simple, home-made, fresh cheese, just as people have done all over the world whenever they have had spare or spoiling or leftover dairy products.

    It’s easy enough – all you need is some milk or yoghurt, a sieve, a jug, some salt and some muslin. If you want to flavour it, you can mix in some chopped herbs say, or lemon zest, or garlic.. maybe crushed black peppercorns….. anything at all.

    As part of the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment I thought I would use some of the yoghurt to make cheese as I need some for another recipe.

    You do need to allow some time for this but don’t worry, it’s not as if you have to be busy with it, hour after hour. Like much else we do, it is a case of starting it off and then leaving it to do its business until we wander back to it.

    So, first of all, get your yoghurt

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    ………and think about what you want your cheese for.

    I want to use it in a recipe that will involve roasted game, thyme and lemon so I will add lemon zest and thyme to it. If you want plain cheese then you make plain cheese – if you want something else then you add it. It really is as simple as that.

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    My balcony herb box is looking a bit battered now but there’s still plenty of thyme.

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    Strip the leaves from it and chop it finely.

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    Get a lemon (make sure that you wash it properly – especially if it is a waxed one. You certainly don’t want wax in your lovely fresh cheese! If it is unwaxed then scrub it just as carefully because you certainly don’t want people’s dirty fingers in your cheese either)

    Get a lemon zester and get some lemon zest (that was a difficult photo to take… clutching the lemon and the zester in one hand as I leant over to take a shot with the other) and then chop the zest finely

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    And now for the important bit – using the yoghurt. This will make lovely, thick, smooth cheese. (If you are using sour milk it will be an awful lot thinner and more lumpy, more like cottage cheese.)

    Total Greek Yoghurt is already strained so it is, to start with, thick and smooth.. look at it….

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    it’s so thick you almost need to cut it.

    Get it into a bowl and then add a pinch or two of salt and the finely chopped thyme and lemon zest

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    Mix it all together and then….

    …….Get your high tech cheese making equipment together

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    You need a sieve and a jug and some muslin, if you have any

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    I can’t find mine so I bought some new dishcloths – they are tightly woven and at 3 for 25p, a bit of a bargain. Give them a good wash in plenty of hot water, rinsing well to make sure they are clean

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    and line the sieve, which is now placed over the jug

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    and then scoop your yoghurty, herby, lemony mix in there.

    Technical, huh?


    Then you put it in the fridge and leave it. You’ll need at least a day, preferably two. I put it in on Friday night and now, Sunday lunchtime, it is perfectly drained. The Total site has a recipe for making much the same cheese – except they add mint and  call it Labna. Just goes to show that wherever you go people make the same food using the same ingredients.

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    Even though it is strained, some whey can still come out… there’ll not be much, though and you will see the yoghurt is becoming more dense. More cream cheese like…

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    See? It is so dense you can just lift it out of the draining cloth.

    And that’s it… you’ve done it. Perfect cream cheese, flavoured exactly as you want it, made with the simplest ingredients.

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    It’s ready for you to eat now, just as it is. What could be simpler?

    I am going to use this in a couple of things I am making……. and I bet you will want to make them too, so start on your fresh cheese now and catch up with me later!

    The Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment

    Those lovely people at Total Greek Yoghurt sent me a big delivery of yoghurt so that I could try out recipes…..

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    Yoghurt has been made for over 4,500 years and is eaten all over the world  – for many adults, milk is hard to digest and yoghurt is perhaps the only way that milk can be consumed. It is only really the North European who generally escape the problems of lactose intolerance and can drink milk with impunity.

    When yoghurt is made, the bacteria in live yoghurt, by breaking down the sugar into lactic acid, makes it easier to digest and even those with lactose intolerance can sometimes eat yoghurt. It’s worth a try if you do suffer….

    And there are so many things you can do with yoghurt  – apart from eating it with honey or fruit and nuts, it makes beautiful moist cakes; it can be used in savoury dishes instead of cream… and it is my mission to work my way through  a variety of recipes and really extend my repertoire.

    Phase one of my first recipe has already been started and tomorrow, all will be revealed. Then of course there are the other things….