Homemade Yogurt

I seem to be late to the homemade yogurt party. I thought I was being creative but the more I talk to people about this, the more it seems I have missed a trend. When living in Asia, or anywhere away from home, there is always a trade off between how much you want that ingredient you are familiar with and how much you are willing to pay for it. We can get most things here but the prices of some are just ridiculous. It has always bugged me how much yogurt costs here. Sweet, fruit, full-fat yogurts are cheap and readily available but trying to find skimmed or low fat plain unsweetened yogurt at a reasonable price is hard. So much so that I don’t buy it anywhere near as often as I would like to.

Fast forward to the last couple of weeks. I finally got around to googling how to make yogurt. I was amazed! Who knew it was so easy! I have definitely been missing out. So after a bit of reading on the subject and a bit of searching Taobao.com (Huge, Chinese online retailer) I ordered a yogurt maker and the starting cultures. I know you do not need a yogurt machine to make yogurt but at about £3.50 for the set I felt it was easier than using a thermometer to measure the temperatures etc. It was fair to say I was a little excited, probably way more excited than I should have been over a yogurt maker.

Once it arrived, I took no time in putting it all to good use. I started with whole milk as I had read that it was the easiest and produced the most reliable results. I have to admit that the thought of it taking hours to make, frustrated me immensely. I just wanted it to be ready now. Anyway, I left it to get on with its bacterial, microbial, probiotic job. I had everything ready for breakfast the next day.

I was not disappointed! The yogurt turned out to be thick and creamy and delicious. It was as good, if not better than anything store bought. I paired it with fruit and oats for breakfast which was delicious and I made up a couple of small jars with honey and jam for John and I as a snack for work the next day.

That was a few days ago now and I have eaten lots of yogurt. It seems to get better with time which has been great. I am looking forward to trying another batch with low fat milk and adding different flavourings.

I urge you all to try making your own yogurt, it is worth any effort! I didn’t take many photos of my first attempt but there is my proud Instagram post below. I will try to document the process better next time.

First pot of homemade yogurt! Delicious! #yogurt #homemade #food #foodie #instafood

A post shared by Clair McEnhill (@clairsfoodtravels) on

St Patricks Day Cakes

For St Patricks Day this year I wanted to make some cakes. Here are my Irish cupcakes. They were not a huge success but the Baileys in the icing made up for anything the cakes were lacking. I liked practising my piping and think they at least look quite good.

They were Guinness cupcakes with Baileys buttercream frosting.

Irish Cupcakes Irish Cupcakes

Cooking at home

It’s not just eating food overseas that I love, I also love cooking food at home too. I have had a few chances to try new things this week and I am quite happy with the results. 

Last weekend, as with many weekends, I made a few different curries for dinner. According to my husband, my curries have got better and better and he now gets very excited to try them. I love collecting spices from the different places we travel to and seeing how they are used. It has been interesting see how familiar spices from different countries have slight differences in taste. We had a rather intimidating visit to the wholesale spice market in Colombo while visiting Sri Lanka at Christmas. They were clearly not set up for tourists buying small quantities and as a result I came away with much bigger bags of spices than I had planned on. The black peppercorns we bought were very fresh and have a very strong, spicy aroma and taste. They are distinctive when added to dishes back home.

So, using lots of these new spices I cooked a curry feast back home. I made tikka masala, John’s favourite, and a lamb pasanda which I have made previously but this version tasted completely different. I also made a lamb kofta curry from The Hairy Bikers Meat Feasts book. I have not made a curry like this before but it was delicious. The lamb meatballs give the curry a really nice flavour and texture. 

Here is a photo of the final results…with me looking exactly like I had spent the afternoon in the kitchen.

  
A few days after the curry feast, I made another recipe from The Hairy Bikers Meat Feast cookbook. We were trying to think of a dinner that would be a good way to celebrate my grandma’s passing. We decided it had to be something with an Irish element and in the end went for a Guinness and steak pie. I have never made a meat pie before on my own, or at least not quite like this so I was excited for the challenge. 

I slow cooked the beef in the stout along with mushrooms, carrots and onions. I added herbs and seasoning also. The pie filling then spent the afternoon slowly cooking away. When it came to the pastry, I made it from scratch, which was a bit more difficult than anticipated. In the end though I managed to line, fill and top two quite presentable pies. One went in the oven and one in the freezer. Here is the pie ready to be eaten.

  
Lastly, I took on another challenge this weekend. John chooses our Saturday night feasts and he requested pizzas. He insisted that it was about time I added a pizza to my repetoire. We bought the best ingredients we could find for our pizza toppings, which in China is not always the easiest. After much looking we could not find anchovies, which was a shame but we settled on pesto and salami and ham and pineapple. 

I made the bases in the bread machine with yeast that seemed to have a life of its own. The dough had risen so much by the time it had finished that it overflowed the pan. I rolled it out and added the toppings. We had originally planned on thin crust pizzas  dough was so risen that they became deeper based pizzas. Once cooked they were actually pretty tasty, I surprised myself. Here they are… 

  

  
   

Bacon and Salmon

This post is not so much about food travels as bringing food from England to me. I make sausages quite easily here but we have missed bacon, proper English bacon. While I was home in the summer, I bought some bacon cure and have just tested it out.

It is quite easy to use. All you have to do is coat the bacon in the cure rub, wrap it tight in cling film and place in the fridge for approximately 5 days. After this I smoked the bacon to cook it. It was quite a success, the cure does not have the perfect flavour but it definitely worked.

While curing the bacon, I also bought some salmon to cure to make gravlax and with the intention of hot smoking one piece. I cure the salmon with lemon juice, sugar, salt and dill. The salmon needed to be wrapped tight and placed in the fridge with weights on top to help the brine do its job.

Once complete I sliced one piece and we ate it as gravlax and the other I hot smoked. I personally preferred the hot smoked salmon as the curing had given it a delicious flavour and I found the gravlax a little too salty.

I think I would try it again with a little more citrus and less salt and sugar. We are down to our last few slices of bacon so I would be interested in trying that again and seeing how the flavour could be improved.

Here are some photos of my attempts at curing and smoking.

Hot smoking the salmon in the wok
Hot smoking the salmon in the wok
Hot Smoked Salmon
Hot Smoked Salmon
The Finished Bacon and Gravlax
The Finished Bacon and Gravlax