Monday, 24 February 2014

Recooked Ricotta

Bad puns for titles aside, this really is a cooked ricotta dish with the cheese being the major component of the dish.  In Italian ricotta literally means recooked and the cheese is made using the remaining waste liquid from the hard cheese making process.  Heated and "recooked" with some acidification, the resulting soft curds are strained off and drained, there you have it, ricotta.

If you want to make your own fresh cheese it's a very simple process at home and all you need is milk, acid (usually lemon juice or vinegar) and a little salt if required.  Cheating may not be the right word to describe the process, but unless you're producing hard cheese I don't think it's slack to not use the traditional method!  Heat the milk to 91 deg then take off the heat, add 1/3 cup of the vinegar or lemon juice and swirl to combine.  The milk will start to curdle immediately but leave it to sit for 10 minutes or so, allowing large curds to form.  Strain these off in cheese cloth and allow to drain, from here you can keep the cheese in the fridge or use immediately, the thing you will notice straight away is just how fresh and creamy the cheese is.  As a guide for volume, 3 litres of milk will give you about 500g of cheese.

 The thing I like about this recipe is that it can be adapted to be both a sweet or savoury dish depending on what you add to the basic mix.  This is obviously a sweet version, but remove the sugar and vanilla, add a few herbs and seasoning... Beautiful on toast or crackers!

  • 480g (2 cups) fresh ricotta
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) thickened cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
I also added cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix and topped with some zest of lemon and nutmeg.  No technique required with this one, just whisk or food process all the ingredients together until smooth then pour into a lined cake or tart tin.  Bake for about an hour at 170 deg until the top has set and is a deep golden brown.  This would be best served sliced and topped with seasonal fruit and honey.

It's got a lovely texture and flavours but really is the simplest of things to make, so it's the sort of dish that's useful at short notice or don't want to stress too much about a dessert.  It could also be used over a pastry base to make a tart, again topped with fruits.

Perhaps an Orange marmalade syrup over the top would also be nice...

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