Just add pep­per

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

Some­times serendip­i­tous events change the course of your ac­tions. I had par­tially writ­ten this ar­ti­cle when my new manchego mould ar­rived from the US (pic­tured at right). To my cheese­mak­ing soul, it is a thing of beauty.

I found this par­tic­u­lar mould after I re­luc­tantly joined Face­book to help pub­li­cise my new book, How to Make Cheese. I joined a Cana­dian-based group called Learn to Make Cheese and dis­cov­ered thou­sands of kin­dred spir­its and won­der­ful friend­ships.

Like ten­drils of a spi­der’s web, it has al­lowed me to reach so many peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­ter­ests. I men­tioned I had been search­ing for a manchego mould with a pat­terned in­sert in a 1kg size. From there, the group sug­gested Yoav Perry who founded ar­ti­sangeek.com and who has a web­site full of ev­ery­thing a cheese lover might need. He had ex­actly what I was look­ing for. I was so ex­cited to try it out.

I have been mak­ing Parme­san, Ro­mano, Manchego and Gouda for many years and have proven, fool­proof recipes, us­ing dif­fer­ent types of milk and added in­gre­di­ents. I usu­ally make these hard cheeses in a 2kg mould or larger, but my cheese­mak­ing work­shop stu­dents con­vinced me there was a need for a 1kg ver­sion, mainly be­cause of the amount of milk they can pur­chase (and carry!) and the size of their pots.

Not long after my mould ar­rived, an­other of my new cheese­mak­ing Face­book friends put up a pic­ture of her pep­per Ro­mano. It looked so fan­tas­tic I thought this would be the per­fect in­au­gu­ral cheese for the new mould.

This Ro­mano can be made with or with­out the pep­per­corns but it gives it a spicier flavour and a bit of crunch in the tex­ture. It is quite a looker on the cheese­board too.

You will need a 1kg cheese mould and fol­lower, but it needn’t be a fac­tory mould like my one. You can make a mould your­self from a large tin can with the top and bot­tom cut off. The fol­lower can be a round of wood or plas­tic cut out of a chop­ping board (you’ll need a jig­saw to cut it). Ster­ilise (boil for at least three min­utes) be­fore use.

Once ready, cut into 6mm cubes. This is very fine cut­ting, but don’t be hes­i­tant when cut­ting – be bold, it doesn’t have to be ex­act.


But never mind about not be­ing able to grow them. That doesn’t stop me cook­ing with them at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Leeks are rather harsh when eaten raw but when cooked, their del­i­cate sweet­ness im­parts it­self to what­ever dish you hap­pen to be mak­ing. This is why I wasn’t sur­prised to find a Welsh high tea leek cake in a cute lit­tle recipe book at my friend Mary’s house. Mary has a very large and var­ied col­lec­tion of books and I could prob­a­bly spend a whole life­time just read­ing at her place in Palmer­ston North. Thanks Mary, for in­dulging me.

The Welsh are mad on leeks and all be­cause of a story that goes some­thing like this: in the 7th cen­tury, the Bri­tons won a bat­tle against the Sax­ons be­cause their pa­tron saint, St David, told them to wear leeks in their hats. What­ever the rea­son­ing be­hind this, it is com­mon prac­tise in Wales to wear leeks in your hat on March 1st – St David’s Day – and eat lots of leeks wher­ever pos­si­ble.

Dis­guis­ing veg­eta­bles in bread has be­come a parental hobby of mine due to Theo’s lack of en­thu­si­asm for most things green. For­tu­nately this one has hit the nail on the head for al­most all the kids we know and has be­come one of those ‘I need to whip some­thing up in a hurry’ go-to recipe for events that in­clude per­sons of all ages. In Ital­ian, it’s called a galette but some small happy per­son called it ‘nap­kin bread’ and it stuck. METHOD Rub the sour cream and grated but­ter into the flour/bak­ing pow­der/salt mix un­til crumbly. Add just enough wa­ter to make a work­able dough. Knead it a bit in the bowl, then wrap in plas­tic wrap and pop into the fridge while you make the fill­ing. METHOD Fry the leeks and gar­lic in the but­ter un­til slightly caramelised, re­move from the heat, add the cold meat and leave to cool. Roll the dough out into a cir­cle on a lightly floured piece of bak­ing pa­per that fits on an oven tray. Leave a 6-7 cm rim of dough clear on the outer edge, spread the fill­ing evenly over the cen­tre, sprin­kling with the cheese and salt and pep­per, then brush the rim with the beaten egg and fold it over onto the fill­ing. Brush with egg on the out­side and pop into 200°C oven to bake for 30 min­utes or un­til golden brown. METHOD Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Slice the pota­toes thinly and place a layer over the base of a well-but­tered cake tin. Sprin­kle over a layer of leeks, dot with but­ter curls and sea­son with salt and pep­per. Con­tinue this way, fin­ish­ing with a layer of pota­toes. Brush gen­er­ously with melted but­ter and cover with tin­foil. Cook for 1 hour, re­mov­ing the foil 15 min­utes be­fore the end of the cook­ing time.

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