Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Home-made happiness

I had yoghurt and oatflakes for breakfast this morning, with a big dollop of stewed plums, and a generous swirl of honey. I only mention it because,

  1. it was good!

  2. I stewed the plums (not major, but gratifying)

  3. I made the yoghurt! Yeehah!

Of course, I stirred it all together, but do you really want to see that image? Not for nothing do the yoghurt manufacturers favour pale fruits, or small, definite bits of fruit in their pots..... (More staggering insights into the marketing of dairy products LATER!)

I got the recipe from an old copy of Earth Garden, that excellent, very practical magazine and forum on ideas and strategies for living sustainably and well. There have been other recipes, but this one doesn't require a yoghurt maker or GCSEs in Biochemistry or Food Science. (None of which I have).

Basically, all you need is live yoghurt, milk powder, hot water and a vacuum flask, plus the sense to follow instructions. In practice, I'm an Englishwoman in Spain, following an Australian recipe, so I'm a little anxious about quantities, and not entirely sure about the beasties that need to be swimming around in my yoghurt base.

So here's the recipe, which really is as straightforward as it sounds.... with some personal observations, just to complicate things................

  • one and a half cups of skimmed milk powder (or ordinary milk powder)

  • 2 pints of hot water

  • 3 tablespoons of yoghurt
    .....and that's it for the ingredients....

  • Use hot water - not boiling. If it's too hot, you'll kill the yoghurt. You should be able to put your finger in without too much discomfort.

  • And the yoghurt you use for this recipe should be live, natural yoghurt, with Acidophilus and Bifidus.

Observations Complications Detail!!!!:

  • 'cups' of milk powder: I wasn't sure about Australian cup sizes, and we only have mugs anyway, but we thought that the glass in the photo looked like the equivalent of one and a half teacups. Deep breath - it worked.

  • 'milk powder' I had a choice between Nestlé Sveltesse CALCIO PLUS CON BIFIDUS at vast expense; and leche condensado, which probably is condensed milk after all, but I wasn't 100% sure, and my Spanish wasn't up to finding out. OK. Going with the Nestlé. It worked.

  • '2 pints of hot water' I bought a litre flask, and filled it with the cheapest supermarket mineral water, which I then heated in a pan. And if you think I'm being prissy, well, firstly, you're not alone, and secondly, you probably haven't smelt or tasted the eye-watering concentration of chlorine in Madrid tapwater. Ye gods!

  • 'Acidophilus and Bifidus' There are plenty of live yoghurts in the supermarket these days, every product label cheerily promoting the assorted flora and fauna required for healthy intestinal activity. Lovely! But while everything (included the powdered milk I bought) contains Bifidus, Acidophilus doesn't get a mention anywhere. Was it in there or not, and if not, would my starter start without it? Er..... Labels mentioned Bifidus and 'other live cultures'. Danone labels merely referred coyly to their 'own' special ingredients (Danone are much more forthcoming on their website.) Even the organic foodshop labels only mentioned the big B 'and others'. Organic products are thin on the ground in Madrid, and I wasn't about to make a crusade of this. What to do? I found a reference online to the merits of Onken Biopots as a starter for making your own. I LOVE Onken Biopots, and have been known to eat an entire tub for lunch - (That's lunch, ok, not dessert, or elevenses....) - but the Onken website explains that their Biopot recipe includes "two live bio-cultures, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum - as well as live cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus" in their recipe. Stre-......???

.....Ah...... and the Euro finally dropped........

...............Imagine you're down at the chill counter, choosing something nice for breakfast or a mid-morning snack. Being a responsible consumer, you read the label on that smart little yoghurt pot. Let us take a moment to consider your instinctive response to the phrase 'Lactobacillus acidophilus'. Hmm....

And don't you experience a very particular frisson at the happy concatenation of 'Bifidobacterium longum'?

And doesn't the thought of a spoonful of 'Streptococcus thermophilus' just set you up for the day? It does, doesn't it?!

And discretion is the better part of marketing, so............ we'll just call it 'Bifidus', shall we? And take great care at every stage of the production process........... it's dairy after all!

O.K. Enough of the hyperbollox, let's get to 'The Method'!

  1. Pour the litre of hot water into a basin, add the milk powder and whisk well. (I don't have a basin or a whisk, but a casserole and a wooden spoon worked just fine.)
  2. Add the three tablespoons of yoghurt, and whisk til smooth. (I don't have a ........ yeah, ok, moving on).
  3. Pour the hot mix into the 1L vacuum flask and leave overnight.
  4. Open in the morning, enjoying trepidation and anticipation - and be extremely pleased with yourself!
  5. Spoon / pour a helping into a bowl with fruit and cereal and honey. Put the rest in the fridge, and enliven your breakfast with thoughts of yoghurt cake, yoghurt ice cream, yoghurt muffins, yoghurt dip .... because you'll have to go some to get through the best part of a litre of yoghurt.........

So these are the ingredients, and the extreeeeeeeemely complicated equipment required to make your own yoghurt, and yes, that's the finished product in the blue bowl. A little lumpy perhaps, but mine own. And when there's only 3 tablespoons left, I can use it as a base for the next lot. (Must find a cheaper brand of powdered milk when this runs out.)

And this is half a kilo of red plums (ciruelas rojas) washed, halved and their stones removed but left in the pan (I've got an idea that there's pectin in the stones, which gives the finished goop a thicker consistency - you can fish them out when it's cooled). You can cook them very gently with the lid on, with no more water than the moisture left on the plum skin after washing, or slosh in a little extra water and cook a little faster. If it sticks a little, it's not exactly the end of the world, because there's no extra sugar to burn.
And cooked. Sharp, but add honey if you like it sweeter. (I do.)

I prefer greengages - ciruelas de la reina - but they're twice the price of ciruelas rojas this week. I used some rather wrinkled eating apples the other week - cored but unpeeled, and with the cores in (pectin in the pips!) and removed later: the cooking is so gentle that they don't break up into a pippy mush.

And the kitchen smells soooooooo gooooooood.


Keefieboy said...

Crikey! When did all this happen?

nzm said...

You'll be sending recipes to The Fat Expat soon!

Keefie - maybe you were sleeping?

MamaDuck said...

You were there! He was there!Sitting on the terrace with a book, I think. (It's surprisingly easy to lose someone in a place this size.)Did I mention that it's quick & easy?