Queso blanco, or Paneer (Panir)

Over on the sausage-making forum someone asked for suggestions of a cheese related activity to do with a group of school kids that wouldn't break the bank. I immediately thought of Paneer, an Indian vegetarian cheese - or the cheese your granny made out of sour milk!

That said, I've only ever made it from non-homogenised milk, which works out a tad expensive 'cos those large cheap plastic containers of milk in the supermarkets are invariably homogenised.

Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained: the investment of a whole £1 coin got me 2 litres of ALDI's best full-fat milk.

To make the cheese is simplicity itself: put the milk into a pan and bring it to the boil stirring regularly so that the milk doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Just before it boils (or at least when it's over 80°C) add a couple of lemons worth of lemon juice or about the same amount of white vinegar. Give it a quick stir then leave it for a couple of minutes or so. The milk should have split into white curds and a watery light-green/yellow/clear whey - if it hasn't, boil it back up and add some more lemon or vinegar. Pour the whole lot into a cloth lined colander and run it under cold water to cool it, then leave it to drain:

Paneer being rinsed

...you can save the whey to use in scones or soda bread if you want.

That's basically it - you can go on to wrap the cheese up and press it (I did, under a stone mortar), you can add salt, herbs, spices etc to it, or you can even use it for sweet puddings or have it dribbled with honey. If you press it for a couple or three hours, you can cube it or mould it into balls. Then, unlike virtually all other cheeses, it will fry without melting; it's great in Mattar Paneer (Panir).

Paneer in ball shapes and mattar panir
or in wild garlic pakoras instead of potato (they're also nice with spinach).

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Cheese and Onion Pie

I was going to save this post until later, but Robert posted the following comment on my Bacon and Egg Quiche thread:

And ear's me wiv nothing better to do and thinking about doing cheese and onion pie for the punters. This has been at the back of my mind for some time, just wondering how these Vancouverites will take to this 'posh comfort' food.

By the way; it smell good from here.

Cheese and onion pie

I think that he must be telepathic because that was one of the pastry items I made at the weekend.

It's simplicity itself and tastes great even if it doesn't look that good.

It's just a couple of chopped onions cooked in some salted boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes, then drained and mixed with about 8oz (225g) of grated strong cheese; I used a cheddar for this but a good Leicester Cheese is nice. Make pastry with the recipe here using 8oz flour, 4oz fat and ½ level teasp salt but don't bake it 'blind'. Line a greased flan tin with the pastry, prick the bottom a few times with a fork and fill it with the mixture. Wet the edges of the pastry with water. Roll out a pastry lid, put it on to of the pie and press it around the edges to seal it to the bottom. Brush milk or egg wash over it to glaze it, make a slit in the top to allow steam to escape, and cook it for about 35 minutes at 180°C (approx 350°F) until nicely brown.

I like it cold with a salad and it's great for buffets and picnics.

On the subject of baking tins, there's no better for the home cook than those made by Silverwood.


Bacon and Cheese Quiche

Quiche

There you go, I'm being posh and calling it quiche! It's really a good old bacon and cheese flan. It's a pity that so many poor imitations of this superb rich savoury egg custard are sold by supermarkets and presented to the world on numerous buffets with cheap frozen sausage rolls and those damned miniature scotch eggs.

A good quiche is all about the quality of the ingredients, there's few of them, so they all count. Use a good dry cured bacon (mild smoked if you like), good eggs, double cream not milk, and you won't go far wrong. One other thing, and a very important one, is that most recipes (including Delia) will tell you to cook the quiche at too high a temperature. I've said this before, but I'll say it again - cook the quiche at around 160°C or below; you're making a savoury custard, not an omelette!

I was fortunate to receive Jane Grigson's book "Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery", for my birthday a week or so ago. You see, it's not just me:

Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes. Remember that a quiche is a savoury custard tart; it mustn't cook too quickly or it will curdle.

I feel a bit of a fraud giving a recipe; it's not rocket science, but here's my take on it:

Pastry

6oz Plain Flour
3oz lard (or lard/butter mix)
about ¼ teasp salt
water

Rub the fat into the flour/salt until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add water a little at a time and mix until it forms a dough. In all honesty, I generally make a batch using 1lb flour, 8oz fat and 1 teaspoon of salt, in the food processor. Don't add too much liquid or the pastry will be hard - about 1½ - 2 tablespoons (ish) should be about right for 6oz flour.

Use the pastry to line a loose bottomed flan tin (approx. 7½ inch diameter) then prick the base with a fork, line it with parchment paper, fill with baking beads, or rice or dried beans, and bake it at 180°C for 15 minutes. Remove the beads and parchment and bake it for a further 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C ready for the next stage.

Filling

6 - 8oz bacon
2 - 3oz grated cheese
¾ pint double cream
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

While the pastry is cooking, fry the bacon, remove the rind and discard it and cut the bacon into small pieces. Mix the eggs and cream and season. Sprinkle the bacon over the base of the pastry followed by the cheese then fill with the egg/cream mix. I do this while the pastry case is still on the oven shelf to avoid spillage. Bake it at 160°C for 40 minutes or so until it's set.

It can be eaten warm, but according to my wife is better eaten at room temperature the following day.

Oh, and if your doing a buffet, make sure that the sausage rolls and scotch eggs are the 'Real McCoy':

Sausage rolls and scotch eggs

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Smoked Cheese and Bacon - The Results

The Stilton and Edam cheeses were smoked for about 12 hours, the bacon nearer 30 hours. I've yet to taste the bacon but the cheeses are great. I didn't for one minute think that Stilton would take to smoking, but it has. They will, no doubt, improve further with a few days rest to allow the smokiness to equalise throughout the cheese.

Regrettably, the photo is not as good as the cheese. The photos that I feel are the best on the site are the ones I have taken with natural light and simple reflectors; I don't have an off-camera flash set-up... ...and it shows.

Smoked Cheese and Bacon


Savoury Ham and Cheese Cake

Ham and Cheese Cake

There's been a few posts lately on other blogs with recipes for savoury cake, apparently a fairly common thing to have with drinks in France.

This recipe's based on those – it's basically a glorified muffin recipe and was very popular in the Young household when I made it last week.

It would be great made with olives but this blog's meant to be about local food so this one's made with Leicester Cheese and my home-cured ham – it's great for using up the bit that won't go through the slicer!

Click here, there's more to read...

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