This week I held a one-on-one cooking class for a wonderful new friend, and fellow volunteer from the Garden for the Community at Stratford, Maggie. She wanted to learn how to make my gluten free Weed Pies – I continue to be fascinated how popular these pies are. I did a blog on them last year and whenever I serve them up they are a hit – they have been served at lunches, morning teas, even the opening of the local Stratford Shakespeare Festival a couple of months ago!
Anyway, I suggested we hold the lesson in her kitchen so that she could use her equipment, and if she didn’t have similar equipment and/or appliances to what I have, we could adapt the methods accordingly. I had forwarded the recipes for the Gluten Free Potato Pastry and the pies earlier so that she could have all the ingredients necessary, and also asked her to have two litres of milk on hand for the cheese.
On the morning of the lesson I decided to write up a recipe sheet for the cheese also, and took that along. When I arrived we sat in front of the wood heater with “Puss” her gorgeous grey cat, and enjoyed a warming cup of tea and a chat – we’re very good at the “chat” side of things…
Finally we went to the kitchen and started. First to be made was the cheese, based on the recipe for Queso Blanco from the book Home Cheese Making in Australia, the milk was placed into a saucepan, and stirred and watched, until it reached 80˚C. Vinegar was then added and stirred through, the lid placed on and it was set aside for a little while we got onto cooking the potatoes for the pastry.
When we checked pot, the curds hadn’t formed as I would like, so we added a little more vinegar and started to gather the ingredients for the pastry, and mash the potatoes before setting them aside to cool. This time the curds were perfect and Maggie carefully ladled them into a colander lined with a couple of layers of muslin, the corners were pulled together and tied with string, before hanging the cheese, in its muslin bag, over the pot to drain until we were ready to use it. All the time we were working, or should I say, while Maggie was working, we continued to chat and share stories about our life experiences, cooking, gardening etc.
It was now time to gather the ingredients for the filling for the pies – I couldn’t wait! We ventured into her gorgeous back yard which is filled with fruit trees, a magnificent chicken pen, and many beds of various shapes and sizes for vegetables and herbs. We wandered around while she explained what all the trees were, I got to meet her gorgeous girls,
we checked out all the herbs and veggies, and then we set to work gathering weeds and leaves for the pies. I had spied the nettles and suggested that they would be perfect for the pies, Maggie donned the gloves and gathered them while I gathered some chic weed and mallows to add to our collection of nettles, chard, bok choy, broccoli shoots, carrot tops etc. Finally some fresh herbs were added to our gorgeous basket of greenness and we were done.
Back in the kitchen we picked the leaves from all the greens, with Maggie very carefully taking care of the nettles. They were all washed and then chopped finely. Onion and garlic was added to a little oil in a pan and sautéed before the weeds were added and allowed to cook down a little.
With that done, the pastry needed to be made – with everything in the food processor, it quickly come together and was ready to roll out to line the lightly greased pie tins. Maggie took the cheese down, placed it into a bowl and salted it before adding some of it to the greens together with a couple of beautiful fresh eggs. The mix was seasoned and tasted, and it was decided it still needed a little more seasoning. Meanwhile I had rolled out the pastry, lined the tins with it, and had them resting in the refrigerator, and we had even remembered to turn the oven on!
Finally the pies were filled, the pastry lids put on and sealed. Finished with an egg wash and a scattering of sesame seeds they were set into the oven to bake.
Time for a very late lunch of Maggie’s delicious pea and ham soup in front of the fire – well kind of … With all our time in the kitchen and the garden we hadn’t been giving any attention to the fire and it had kind of gone out!. A little kindling, a couple of fire starters, and we were back in action. With Puss at my feet we settled down in front of the fire, enjoyed our soup and chatted some more.
Half an hour later, the pies were out of the oven, so with the main part of her dinner prepared, it was time for me to go home and start doing a little work there.
I love teaching people how easy it is to cook, how to use what they have and adjust a recipe to that end, I love teaching tips and tricks, and sharing my knowledge, I also love learning from others.
Oh and the verdict from Maggie – “Delicious”
I make this cheese for my weed pies and ravioli ignuedi recipes. I shorten the hanging time to an hour and it gives the perfect cheese for these recipes – not too wet!
2 litres of full cream milk ¼ cup white vinegar 1 tsp of cheese salt, or salt to taste
Stainless steel pot large enough for your two litres of milk Dairy thermometer Stainless steel perforated spoon Stainless steel ladle Tight weave cheese making cloth Large stainless steel or enamel colander String Somewhere to hang your cheese – an overhead cupboard door handle is ideal
Place your two litres of milk in the stainless steel pot and heat milk by direct heat to 80˚C. Remove from heat.
Add the white vinegar and stir well. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. There will be a clear separation of the curds and whey. If this separation has not occurred add a little more vinegar.
Line a large colander with your tight weave cheese making cloth. Carefully ladle your curds and whey into the lined colander and drain for a few minutes. Tie the corners of the cheese making cloth together and hang, using the string, to drain for a further six hours or until the whey stops dripping.
Remove the cheese from the cloth and place in a bowl. Salt to taste.
You can use skim milk, but you will not get as much cheese. The salt is important not only for flavour, but it acts to preserve the cheese. The cheese will last up to two week in the refrigerator. I make this cheese for my weed pies and ravioli ignuedi recipes. I shorten the hanging time to an hour and it gives the perfect cheese for these recipes – not too wet! This is similar to lemon cheese but has a milder flavour. This style of cheese is used in Mexican cooking and also for making béchamel style sauces and pairs beautifully with tomato based dishes. I like to crumble the cheese through salads and over smoked salmon tarts. Source: Home Cheese Making in Australia, V Pearson (2015) p42.
- 1 quantity of Savoury Potato Pastry
- 350 g mixed greens (refer to note below)
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 150g dry ricotta or feta
- 30g grated parmesan
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
- Rinse the greens and remove any yellow or damaged leaves.
- Finely chop the onion and any stems, and then finely slice the leaves, keeping separate
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and stems, sauté until soft, then add the leaves and put the lid on the pan and cook until the leaves have all wilted. Set aside to cool. Drain off any liquid.
- Preheat oven to 200˚C (Fan forced).
- Combine the cooled greens with the cheeses, eggs and oregano, and season with salt and pepper.
- Lightly grease the pie tin(s).
- Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking, paper, and line the pie tin(s).
- Leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes, before filling.
- Cover with pastry, make a little hole to allow steam to escape, brush with egg wash and bake 25 minutes, until golden.
- For your wild greens, use a combination of dandelion, mustard, chickweed, rocket, wild fennel, beetroot tops, turnip tops, silverbeet or rainbow chard. You could also add some fresh herbs if you want.
Until next time…
Happy gardening & bon appétit!
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