Wednesday 9 April 2014


Whenever in the past I wanted to lose weight I was told to stop eating cheese because it contains too much fat. A better alternative would be low-fat cheese, if I was really opposed to cutting cheese out of my diet all together. But, that means eating processed food (remember my article from the third of April?) and eating a lot more of it to at least give the idea of eating something full of flavour. The problem, you see, is that to remove fat from cheese it requires a lot of work and in the process you lose texture and flavour. I tried it. I loathed it. And went back to proper, I-don't-care-if-it-is-bad-for-your-health-and-waistline, full-fat cheese. And then I wrote the article on processed foods...

A dear friend of mine asked me about cutting processed foods as much as possible out of my diet. More precisely, she asked me if I had finally given up on cheese as this is a processed food as well, and one that is not easy to make yourself... Not a fair question, I thought, as life would be not worth living without cheese (in my humble opinion). She had a point though, making cheese at home isn't the easiest as you need all kinds of equipment, the right environment and rennet (a complex of enzymes found in the stomach of baby mammals that allows them to process mother's milk, which is used to coagulate, or thicken, milk during the cheesemaking process). But, I thought, it wouldn't be impossible. After all, it has been done for millennia... Even the ancient Egyptians had tomb murals depicting the activity. And, until the industrialisation, cheese has been made in homes and farms all over Europe and the Middle-East.

And then I remembered a venture in making my own cheese several years ago. I love cheese on all of its guises; from very young through to 3-year-matured, from cheddars to blues, from soft to hard, and everything in between (except low-fat). But one of my favourites has got to be the herbal fresh cheeses such as Boursin. They are, however, extremely expensive for what they are (anywhere from £4 to £18 per kilo); thickened milk with herbs... I love these kind of cheeses because of their many uses: be it on toast or crackers, as a dollop in soups, as a quick stir-in-sauce for pasta. Years ago I had a blast at making it myself. I drained thickset yoghurt overnight and stirred in salt, herbs and garlic. It worked a treat but was slightly more sour than the well-known fresh cheeses and not everyone was as enamoured with it as I was. The result was that I stopped making it. Until now, that is. Because I have an easy recipe to make one kilogram of fresh cheese for less than £2... And that will taste like the real deal... And that you can adapt to your own preferences and requirements... Life is sweeeeeeet!!!

  • 2 litre whole milk (unpasteurised would be best, so if you know a local farmer...)
  • juice of 1 lemon, or little splash of a neutral vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 200 gram buttermilk
  1. Pour the milk into a large enough pan and heat slowly on low heat
  2. Slowly stir the milk until little bubbles appear at the sides of the pan, making sure the milk doesn't boil
  3. Turn off the heat and pour the lemon juice or vinegar and the buttermilk into the milk
  4. Leave the milk for about ten minutes
    • the milk will start to separate into curds and whey
  5. Pour the whey and curds into a sieve, lined with a tea towel and placed inside a bowl to catch the whey
  6. Leave the curds to stand for half an hour until they whey has drained off and only the curds are left
  7. Pick up the four corners of the tea towel and tie them together of the handle of a wooden spoon
  8. Place the tea towel with the cheese into a high bowl (for instance a large mixing bowl or the jug of the blender) making sure the towel does not touch the bottom of the bowl and let the wooden spoon rest on the rim
  9. Leave this to stand for several hours for all the remaining liquid to drain out of the curds
  10. Remove the cheese from the tea towel and place in a dry tea towel
  11. Place the cheese into a bowl and leave to rest in the fridge, overnight would be best
  12. Remove the tea towel and serve

Herb cream cheese

  • One recipe of cream cheese, as above
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped finely, to your taste
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • a drop or two of olive oil
  • a drop of honey
From step 6 above
  1. Add a little salt and pepper, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs, 4 cloves of minced or pureed garlic, a couple of drops of olive oil and honey and stir this into the curds 
    • Be careful with the amount of salt you add: start with a little and keep tasting to make sure the flavour is to your liking
    • The more garlic you add, the more pungent the flavour (and smell) will be so add this to your liking, or leave it out
  2. Follow from step 7 above
As stated earlier, you can make this with Greek yoghurt: Spoon 1 tub of yoghurt into a tea towel and follow from step 7 above, adding the ingredients after it has been left to drain overnight. You will need a little more olive oil because this has a risk of becoming slightly too dry otherwise.

For those who are lactose intolerant, you could use sheeps or goats milk or kefir in much the same ways as above.

As you Make It Yourself, you can change the flavours of the cheese to your liking, requirements and desires. Try for instance:
  • Smoked Paprika and very finely chopped Shallots
  • Honey and Thyme
  • Herbes de Provence and Garlic
  • Lemon and Chives (can only be kept for a day or two)
  • Coriander and very finely chopped Green Peppers
  • Chilli Pepper and Horseradish
  • Mint and Rosemary
  • Anchovy, Olives and Capers (leave out the salt)
  • Garlic and Parsley
  • Cinnamon and grated Apple (can only be kept for a day but is perfect on fresh toast)
  • Ginger, Coriander and Black Pepper
  • Carrot Cake (grated carrot, chopped walnuts and raisins)
  • Wild Garlic and Thyme Flowers
The list is practically endless (which is perfect as there are so many uses for cream cheese) and is only limited by your own imagination. I do type that sentence a lot but that is the principle of cooking: You can make anything your imagination lets you.

So, next time you are invited for a dinner party and are trying to think of what to bring for the host but don't want to bring the obligatory bottle of wine, bring them some MIY cream cheese... Use half the recipe, place the cheese (when you come to step 10) inside the tea towel into a nice little bowl, leave it to rest overnight, remove the tea towel and place the cheese back into the bowl and press it gently down with the back of a spoon. Cover the bowl with some clingfilm, a nice piece of checkered cloth and tie with a ribbon...

Now all I need to do is think of something to eat with my cream cheese, because I've been told I am no longer allowed to just use my fingers...


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