Fresh, homemade Ricotta (&remembering my grandmother)

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I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot these days. Funny thing, this memory – one cue from the past and it all comes back to you so organically, like it happened yesterday. Pavan and I were watching this film Mera Naam Joker the other day on TV and I remembered of all those summery afternoons my grandmother and I spent watching old Tamil and Hindi films after a comforting lunch. She was crazy about movies, my grand mom, and she had an eye for the good ones. She would tell me stories about how she would beg her father for 50 paisa to go watch a matinee show at the erstwhile Gaiety Theatre (Madras) all by herself, how she never went to sleep without listening to Rafi on Vividh Bharti or how she went on several movie dates with my grandfather in Bahrain and the ones that paired Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala were her favourite; she loved their chemistry. If she were magically alive today she’d probably say how films made these days are a terrible scourge to Indian cinema.

Though she never looked the part, she was quite the foodie. I didn’t anatomically take after her but I’d like to believe that I inherited my sweet tooth from her (of course I did). Growing up, there was never a dull moment on my palate because the kitchen was always stocked with fresh, homemade treats. She didn’t believe in “store bought rubbish”, didn’t believe in their quality and certainly didn’t believe in the price they came in. Even if it got in the way of her nap time, to her, making ribbon pakoda from scratch is an afternoon well spent.

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Making ricotta, reminded me of how my grand mom used to make butter at home with just a blender. While in the process, she would make balls out of them and give them to me and they would just melt down my throat. I am not quite the butter maker, but having visited the cheese aisles at grocery stores, I have decided to conjure my own soft cheeses, thank you very much! 200 grams of ricotta costs Rs 400 and don’t even get me started on the imported hard cheeses. I have made my peace with the hard ones, I know I can’t make them at home and I love my cheeses too much to not buy them! But having gone over so many tried and tested recipes of soft cheeses, I can’t believe I didn’t think of attempting this earlier.

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Why ricotta? I badly needed it for a recipe that I am going to be posting soon, in addition to the fact that I haven’t had much experience cooking with it. For Italians, ricotta is a ritual and after reading a post on David Lebovitz on this Italian Epicerie, I couldn’t help but try spreading fresh ricotta on toast with some honey and a few sprinkles of sea salt – I think it is one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients           

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (I used Amul)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp white wine vingar

Method

Line a large colander with 3-4 layers of damp cheese cloth and place the colander over a deep bowl. Combine milk, cream and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan. In medium heat, bring them to the boil. Put off the heat. Add the white wine vinegar to the milk-cream mixture and give it a quick stir. Let the mixture rest for a minute till it starts curdling. Pour the mixture into the prepared colander and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Once all the whey water has been collected, bunch the cheese cloth together and squeeze the cheese to get rid of remaining water. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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