For a long time, I never realised how simple certain milks and cheeses were to make at home. I would often be caught out when recipes called for ‘one cup of buttermilk’ or ‘two tablespoons of ricotta’. Damn! I would mutter, dragging myself down to the shops. Other times when I just couldn’t summon the energy to race out and buy what the recipe called for, I risked throwing the whole thing out of whack by replacing said ingredient with (often questionable) substitutes.
Luckily, my eyes have now been opened to the ease with which some of these awesome ingredients – coconut milk, buttermilk, cream cheese and ricotta – can be whipped up at home. These recipes are easy, economical and best of all, you know exactly what is going into your product. If this last point is important to you, I recommend always using high quality ingredients to start with. This includes filtered water, good quality sea salt, milk, and yoghurt, and unsweetened preservative-free coconut flakes.
Homemade Coconut Milk
Adapted from this recipe, by Tropical Traditions.
Makes 1.5 cups (approx 375mL)
1 cup coconut flakes (approx 70gm). Preferably unsweetened & preservative free e.g this brand
2 cups hot water (not boiling). Preferably filtered.
1. Add coconut flakes to blender. Pour in water and allow flakes to soak for 2 minutes.
2. Blend for 2 minutes.
3. Pour mixture through a straining cloth (muslin cloth, cheesecloth, a (clean!) thin tea towel, or an un-used chux cloth) and into a bowl.
4. Squeeze cloth well to extract all coconut milk.
Refrigerate your coconut milk and use it in cooking, baking and tea/coffee. What to do with the leftover coconut flesh? Add it to your baked goods or try making coconut flour!
Makes 1 cup (250mL)
1 cup (250mL) good quality milk (whole milk or semi-skimmed work best)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (white vinegar or ACV will also work)
1. Add your acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to a bowl (I use a 500mL measuring jug).
2. Pour in the milk, and whisk with a fork to combine.
3. Let buttermilk rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before use.
If not using immediately, store buttermilk in the fridge. Use in pancakes, scones or as recipe directs – it plays a role in making baked goods airy and light.
Homemade Cream Cheese
Makes 2/3 cup (+ 1/3 cup of whey)
1. Scoop yoghurt into a straining cloth (muslin cloth, cheesecloth, a (clean!) thin tea towel, or an un-used chux cloth) and suspend it over a bowl. I like to tie my cloth to a wooden spoon, and prop the ends of the spoon between two tall jars. The idea is for the liquid (whey) to separate from the rest of the yoghurt by dripping into the bowl.
2. Leave yoghurt to strain for 12 hours. You can leave it for longer (up to 24 hours) but note that this will produce a thicker, less moist cream cheese. During the cooler months, I tend to strain my yoghurt overnight on the bench at room temperature, but you can also let it strain in the fridge.
After 12 hours, check to see if you are happy with the consistency of the cream cheese. If not, leave it to strain for longer. Store cream cheese in the fridge and use it as a spread on bread and vegetables, mixed with herbs as a dip, or sweetened for baking. Whatever you do, don’t throw out your whey! Freeze or refrigerate it, and use it to make mayonnaise, sauerkraute, or add it to your smoothies for extra protein.
Adapted from this recipe, by Not Quite Nigella.
Makes 1/3 cup. *Note: double or triple the recipe to get a higher yield.
500mL (2 cups) good quality whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. In a saucepan, add milk and salt and gently heat until it is almost boiling (but not quite). Keep a close eye on it to ensure it does not boil and overflow.
2. Remove milk from the heat, and stir in lemon juice.
3. Allow mixture to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Pour mixture through a straining cloth (muslin cloth, cheesecloth, a (clean!) thin tea towel, or an un-used chux cloth) and into a bowl (I’ve been known to use pegs to secure my cloth over the top of the bowl). The liquid whey will drip into the bowl beneath, and the curdles – the ricotta – will remain in the cloth.
5. Allow ricotta to strain for at least 30 minutes, or until desired consistency is achieved.
Store ricotta in the fridge and use it as a spread on bread or pancakes, in pasta dishes, to make falafel (recipe coming soon!), or sweetened for baking. Whatever you do, don’t throw out your whey! Freeze or refrigerate it, and use it to make mayonnaise, sauerkraute, or add it to your smoothies for extra protein.
Best of luck – if you give any of these recipes a shot I’d love to know how you go!