Sunday, June 28, 2009

Smoked White Wensleydale Cheese

This is stunningly superb. It's GREAT. My MIL is from an area very close to Wensleydale (just one ridge and a moor away) and she knows all about how Wensleydale cheese should taste.

She also has stated that mine is better than any she's had in the last 80 years. No, she doesn't have dementia! I make very good white wensleydale (ww).

And I also like to experiment...

In the kitchen, duh. Harumph!

The last cheese round of ww I made was three and a half pounds. Not too bad from starting with 5 litres of milk. Anyways, the other night there was just a bit left and I happened to have some red gum wood chips soaking for the smoker.

"Hmmmmmm," thought YT (Yours Truly, me), "I wonder what ww will taste like when smoked?" YT also deduced that, "dang, I'd better put a piece of foil on the rack of the smoker otherwise it'll drip down and be ruined."

To cut a long story short (trust me, I can make this very long), here's what you do when smoking a soft cheese.

Slice your soft cheese to about one cm thick (use a wire cutter). Lay the cheese slices on your smoker rack that has aluminium foil over it. Smoke for 15 mins, then flip the slices and smoke for a further 15 minutes.

Note: the cheese slices will be very soft. If you can't flip them without the slices falling apart, then just lay a piece of foil over the top and flip with your hands on each side. Peel off the old bottom layer before smoking for the last 15 mins, of course.

You can use this in many different ways. The cheese is very soft when it first comes off the smoker so you can use it as a spread before it cools. The other night I spread it on some garlic bread... mmmmmmmmmmmmmm; Ambrosia!

If you can restrain yourself from eating it all in one day, then you'll find it ages quite well and firms up nicely. I like to let the slices age overnight on a rack and then the next day wrap them in grease-proof cooking paper and toss them in the fridge. They are seriously good after a week or so.

Hey, give it a go! You never know till you try. I'd try this with any soft cheese, should be darned tasty with a nice, firm bleu.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Marinated, Smoked, Tofu

Mmmmmmmm, yummy! I loves me some tofu. It's great to cook with cus it takes up the flavourings of whatever you're cooking. So now it's time to do something with tofu by itself.

I was inspired to do this when WP (Wifey-Poo) and I picked up some seasoned tofu on a quick sale at a grocery store. It was very tasty. Very, very tasty. Obviously, I had to come up with something to make a reasonably close facsimile.

It worked.

Very well!

Now, you'll need a smoker for this. If you don't have a smoker, then it is very easy to make one. One large wok (steel, non-coated), large wire bread rack, top of a large turkey roaster, and some foil. Oh, and wood chips. I use red gum since it's plentiful down here in Oz, but in the US you can get hickory and maple wood chips easily.

Do I really need to tell you how to put it together? No, didn't think so. The foil is used over the top of the wire rack if you are smoking something soft, like cheese or tofu.

Here's a pic of my setup:

I purposefully used a rectangular lid on a circular wok so that heat dissipates so the food only gets smoked, and not baked. Soaked woodchips go in the bottom of the wok and the wok gets set onto the side burner of you OUTDOOR barby. Don't do this indoors.

Here's what you need:

One block of FIRM tofu

For the marinade:
1/2 cup light soy sauce
dash of dark soy sauce
splash of fish sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cardamon powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
pinch of chilli powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup water
1/4 cup port (or sherry or sake or mirin)

What you do:

To make the marinade, add all the marinade ingredients to a bowl and whisk the heck out of it till the sugar is dissolved.

Now you get to cut the tofu. I use a wire cheese slicer for cutting tofu. If you use a knife there is a very good chance you'll pulverise your tofu, make a big mess, and then curse the day you started reading my food blog. So just use a wire! You'll get four equal blocks from a piece of firm tofu.

I even have pictures to show you the cutting process so I don't have to explain it!

cutting tofu 01

cutting tofu 02
That's a nice, smooth cut!

cutting tofu 03

cutting tofu 04
These are the sizes you'll end up with --you'll get four of them.

I had to slice one of the four pieces in half in order to get them all to fit in the bowl with the marinade.
marinated tofu

Next time I'll do the ole plastic bag marinade thingy so I have four equal sized pieces.

Let it marinate for 2 hours. Now's a good time to get your woodchips soaking in some water. You'll want enough chips to keep your smoker smoking for 30 mins.

*two hours go by*

Ok, drain the woodchips and put them in the bottom of you wok. Turn your gas burner heat to LOW, put the wire rack over the wok, lay a piece of aluminium foil on top of the rack.

Go inside and get the bowl with the tofu.

Place the tofu pieces on the foil (which is on the wire rack, which is in turn resting on the wok, and the wok is over the lit burner) and put the lid on.

In a few mins your smoker will start to smoke.

30 minutes later, turn the burner off.

Eat the tofu.

It won't last long, very very very tasty!

Don't forget to save the marinade, it has many uses.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tortilla Wrapped Baked Feta with Nopalito Sauce

That certainly does sound like a mouthfull. And yes, they are a mouthfull! Tasty too. I was originally planning on using tomatillas instead of the cactus for the sauce, but I couldn't see opening a HUGE can of tomatillas (since I only needed a bit of sauce) when I had a jar of cactus strips.

There's also no pretty pictures of the process as I had a few other things to make and this was kind of a last minute throw-together. BUT, I do have some cool crayon drawings for slicing up the tortilla!

No idea what to call this, but it certainly was tasty. Here's what you need to make a side dish for 2 to go along with a big ole Mexican meal.

What you need:
One 10-inch flour tortilla
8 pieces of feta cheese, two inches by a half-inch by a half-inch
20 to 30 pickled nopalito cactus strips (with some of the sticky juice)
one fourth of a small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp Mexican seasoning
1/2 tsp cumin powder (I LOVE cumin powder and seeds!)
a small bit of minced coriander (cilantro) leaves
1/4 tsp ginger powder
dash of sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 cup water

What you do:

Put the nopalito strips (with a couple of tbsp of the sticky juice from the jar), the onion, the garlic cloves, and the water into a blender. Then blend it. Blend it a lot.

Put the sauce (it should be a bit runny, if not add a bit more water) in a saucepan and add the 1/2 tsp Mexican seasoning, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, a small bit of minced coriander (cilantro) leaves, 1/4 tsp ginger powder,dash of sea salt, and the 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder.

Give it a good stir and simmer till reduced by half. Stir occasionally.

While that's simmerin', we get to slice the tortilla into 8 equal (sorta) pieces. It goes thusly:
tortilla 01
tortilla 02
tortilla 03
tortilla 04
tortilla 05

See? Wasn't that easy?

It gets even easier. Just roll each piece of feta in one of the tortilla pieces. Pack four of the rolled feta pieces into a large (4 and 1/2 inches in diameter) ramikin dish --four should pack in quite nicely. Then pack a second ramikin dish with the other four. Pour the reduced nopalito sauce into each dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 mins at around 350 F.

This made a very nice side dish with the shredded pork and other sundries. I'm sure you can adapt it to a main course, just depending on how much feta you can get your hands on or make.

When cutting the feta, use a wire. That way no matter how crumbly the feta is the piece will hold together. Also, the creamier the feta is, the easier it is to use in this recipe. I tend to make my feta so that it's consistency is halfway between Danish and Bulgarian; just creamy enough to spread, but still firm enough to sprinkle over salad: the perfect texture for wire slicing.

For the semi-creamy feta, you can substitute Quarg, Queso Blanco, or my Lemon Cheese. Or you could just go down to the shops and get some feta. Whatever is easiest for you!

BTW, WP (Wifey-Poo) said I can make this anytime, don't have to wait for a full-on Mexican meal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cider Fadge

Hmmm, methinks there might be a term or two that needs to be defined. Ya think?


Knowing how The Urban Dictionary likes to use obscure words to mean other (usually crude) things, I would not be surprised to find "fadge" in their listings. I, however, don't go there. So whatever crude, vulgar, or slang term you think "fadge" means; just don't even go there. This recipe has nothing to do with whatever The Urban Dictionary thinks it means.

Many of you may know of Irish Fadge. It's a pan fried bread made with leftover mashed potatoes (and various bread type things). This post is nothing like that.

Ok, some of you may be thinking of the fadge made in Durham county using a piece of old bread as a starter (the original sourdough). Close, but no cigar.

This type of fadge is made in the south of Durham County and most of Cleveland County (at least it was a hundred years ago) and the starter is the leftover yeasty sludge from the bottom of your primary beer fermenter tank. If you haven't guessed yet, I'm not talking about Cleveland, Ohio, USA but rather Cleveland County, UK.

I got the idea for making this when I was bottling the latest round and had remembered that Cooper's Brewery down here recycles their yeast. That meant the yeasty sludge from the bottom of the tank must be active!

I then chatted about that with a certain octogenerian I know (from Stockon-on-Tees) and she said, "Oh great! I haven't had fadge in over 60 years!" Hmmmmm, well it should work then!

The first batch didn't turn out well. Firstly it was from a batch of dark ale so it didn't have the colour I was hoping for. Secondly I treated it more like a baking powder bread. It ended up tasty, but was very thick and heavy. Good for frying though.

The second batch was PERFECT! I'd just finished up bottling some apple cider and the yeasty sludge at the bottom was not only the colour I wanted, but it also smelled ohhhhhhhh so apple-y. This time I also decided to treat it as a yeast bread (this was a big DUH moment!) and to write down how much of what I used and the procedure.

Now don't think that you can't make this if you don't homebrew cus I've come up with an idea. It has to do with sourdough so if you are familiar with sourdough baking you can probably guess where I'm going with that.

But I'll tell you about that after I get finished with the recipe. You'll just have to read along and be patient.


What you need:
6 cups high quality baking flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 and 1/4 cups yeasty cider sludge
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup of flour for dusting and kneading

What you do:
First, let your yeasty cider sludge "age" in a small, covered (but not tightly sealed as it needs to breathe) container for 3 to 5 days. Don't worry if it separates cus it's supposed to. When you take the lid off you'll be hit with a beautiful apple smell. Mmmmmmmmmm! Give it a good stir to recombine it (just like you'd do with sourdough starter).

Now follow the "whut yoo due" directions in my easy white bread post. The only exception is when you are supposed to add the 400 mls of water you instead add the cidery, yeasty, sludgy goodness (plus that extra 1/2 cup of water). Oh yeah: DON'T add any yeast! Just use the ingredients from this post, but the procedure from the Easy White Bread post.

The second rise will take anywhere from one to two hours, so be patient! It's worth it, trust me.

Here's some pics of how the cider fadge turns out:
cider fadge 01

The crust is nice and soft, not sure if you can tell by these next two shots. The first is with my finger on top of the crust and in the second I've pushed the crust down a half inch and the crust sprung right back:
cider fadge 02

cider fadge 03

And the texture is ohhhhh so good --along with the apple scent when you slice it!
cider fadge 04

This loaf lasted approximately 12 hours. Gone in a day!

But Dave, I don't homebrew so how can I make this?

Easy. Take some sourdough starter and add a few tbsp of apple sauce to it. Let it sit in a covered (but not tightly sealed, it needs to breathe) container for a couple of days and use it in the recipe where it calls for the yeasty cider sludge. Should be perfect!

But Dave, I don't have any sourdough starter! Help!

No worries. To make sourdough starter all you do is take some leftover mashed spuds, add some water, some flour, some sugar and a bit of yeast. Cover it (but let it breathe and stir a few times per day) and keep it in a warm spot for 3 days --it'll then be nice and bubbly and sour. As far as the amounts go here's a good rule of thumb:

1 medium spud, cooked and mashed
1 cup water

Mix them so you get potato water and then add
1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 pinch of dry yeast

Easy stuff!

Once your sourdough is ready (3 or 4 days) then add your apple sauce and let it "mingle" for a few days before using.

Yeah, the initial set up may take some time (for the starter) but after that you can make this every day by just keeping some of the starter back to make a fresh batch the next day and then again the next day, etc.

Does this mean I need to make a post about sourdough?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Addendum to White Bread Post

My previous post was about how I make the bread for the ole homestead that everyone here loves. I now realise there were one or two thing I've left out. No, not with the basic procedure. Just follow the directions from the previous post and you'll be right.

Rachel (nice lady who cooks wonderful goodies) mentioned she'd like to see a pic of the spongy type bread, and she also was asking about spongecake.

I will, of course, answer the second question first, and the first question second. Just because I can.

Spongecake: I keep forgetting that I've been in Oz for 9 years now. Many of my spellings have become UK standard instead of US standard and I'll be darned if I can figure out which is which nowadays. I also am forgetting whether a term I'm using is an aussie term or something from Alaska.

Hence, spongecake. Think of a cake you've made that has the texture of a sponge. Not soft like an angelfood cake, but has that same texture. Here, maybe this picture will help,
spongy bread 01

Notice how thin I'm able to slice the bread even though it has a very "airy" texture. This is what you get if you let the bread from the previous post rise for 4 or 5 hours during it's second rise after the punch down. Make sure that you divide the dough into two buttered bread pans, otherwise it'll do a blob-dripping-down-the-side routine.

Reminder, here's what you'll get if you follow last post:
finished bread
Excellent toasting and sandwich making bread

And this is the airy, spongelike bread you get by dividing in two and letting the second rise go for 5 hours:
spongy bread 01

Obviously, this spongy bread isn't good for toasting. I tried just to make sure, but it don't toast well. However, it makes the most awesome bread for soup dunkers! It's also great just buttered and eaten. It's not too good for sandwiches; the reasons should be obvious.

But if you want a slice of plain buttered bread or something to dunk in soup, this "takes the cake" if you know what I mean.

Up next: cider fadge! And then how to make great feta cheese!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Easy White Bread

Firstly, let's start with a picture of how the bread is supposed to turn out.
finished bread

Yeah, looks good! Mmmmmmmmmm... But dave, how do I make it?

This could be the easiest yeast bread you've made; time involved, ease of making, ease of cleaning up, etc. If you've done a bit of bread baking before, you'll quickly notice that this is NOT a standard bread recipe and it doesn't use all the "standard" techniques. But it works nonetheless!

I came up with this myself after doing some experiments. Hey, you never know if something will work till you try. Remember the saying, "From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success!"

Here I am showing my age again...

Ok, let's get on with it!

Dingo Dave's Easy (and tasty) White Bread

What you need:

One large mixing bowl (the one I use is 13 inches wide (330 mm) at the top
One heat source for baking --I recommend an oven, preferably gas
Sturdy wooden spoon for stirring
One or two 9" by 5" bread pan(s)
Pie dish with some water in it


4 cups baking flour (minimum 11.9% protein)
1/2 cup flour (for dusting and kneading)
2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp raw sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp dried yeast
400 ml (1 and 2/3 cups) water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Whut yoo due:

First, fill your shallow pie dish about half full of water and put it on the bottom rack of your oven. I always do this first so that I don't forget to later on, ahem. What the water does is keep the oven humid so that not matter how dark your bread crust looks, it's nice and soft.

Next, put 4 cups of the baking flour in your large bowl. Remember, your flour should be at least 11.9% protein. Most household flours are anywhere from 9.6% to 10.9% protein and they don't make really awesomely good bread. Just check the nutritional info on the back.

Ho[pefully it'll look something like this:
bread making 001

Wallaby Bakers flour is made at Strath, about 30 miles from here. It has one ingredient: Unbleached wheat flour. Gotta like that!

So here's where we are at:
bread making 002
Just ignore that pack of thawing lamb chops in the background...

Now add your sea salt, raw sugar, and dried yeast. Give the bowl a couple of quick tosses to mix things (or use a spoon).

A quick word about dried yeast. If you buy it in large quantities you'd better make sure you use it within a few months. Otherwise your dough rising won't be too good. This size cannister lasts me about 2 months:
bread making 003

Add your 400 ml of water
bread making 004

And then drizzle the olive oil over the top
bread making 005

Grab your solid wooden spoon and start mixing!
bread making 006

In about 10 seconds it'll start looking like this
bread making 007

Now's the time to turn your oven on high. Don't worry, you'll be turning it off in a minute or two, this is just to get a nice warm place to rise the dough.

Kinda roll the sticky dough around the bowl to get all the stuff off the side
bread making 008

In around 30 seconds your dough should look something like this
bread making 009
Make sure you get all the doughy goodness off the spoon!

Sprinkle some flour on, it looks like I used about 1/2 of a cup
bread making 010

bread making 011
Please note, my orange scoop holds 1/2 a cup

Roll the dough around the bowl to get the dusting flour on it
bread making 012

Now you get to start kneading the dough. Remember, always use the "heel" of your hand to knead. The only time you use your fingers with the dough is just to move the dough towards you so you can knead it again.
bread making 013

bread making 014

bread making 015

bread making 016

bread making 017

And in less than a minute it'll look like this!
bread making 018

Ok, turn the oven off. It should only have been on for 2 minutes MAX. This is just so there's a nice warm place to rise the dough. You may want to leave the oven door open for a minute if it got too hot.

Now put the bowl in the warm oven. Let it rise for around 90 mins. It should then look like this:
bread making 022

Here's the point where you need to make a decision... do you want one really good loaf (like the pic at the top of this post) or do you want TWO really soft, sponge-cake like loaves?

Let's say you want one. Butter up one bread pan. Just use your finger, no one's looking I promise. You don't need much, maybe 1/2 a tbsp.
bread making 019

bread making 020

bread making 021

Now is when you get to punch down the dough! Always a fun thing, woo-hoo!
bread making 023

Then gather the dough up (the bottom will be a bit sticky)
bread making 024

Look! Dough!
bread making 025

Form it into a roughly bread pan shape
bread making 026

And plop that puppy into the bread pan
bread making 027

Here's another technique that baking purists won't like... Stretch the dough so it forms into the pan
bread making 028

And it'll look something like this
bread making 029
But maybe not as blurry

Put the bread pan into your (hopefully) still warmish oven for the second rise. When the bread reaches the top of the bread pan, then turn the oven on. 180 C (that's 350 F) for 45 minutes should do the trick.
bread making 030

And when it looks like this, it's done! Cool on a rack, then enjoy!
bread making 031

finished bread

Remember, the top may look crusty, but it's very soft cus of the water in the dish in the bottom of the oven.

Let's say you wanted the two loaf spongy type. Once the dough has risen the first time, butter up two bread pans. After punching the dough down, divide it into two. Shape each into somewhat bread pan size and plop them in. Now, let them rise in a warm place (like the still warm oven) for FOUR OR FIVE HOURS. Then turn the oven to 180 C with the water dish still in the oven. It'll be like spongecake!

I'm sure I'm going to hear from some bakers saying that this is all wrong, but it really does work! Try it.

And clean up is a breeze. Just soak the large mixing bowl in water for a while and then wipe it clean. Ta-da!