Just add pepper
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.