Category Archives: cheese

Chevre Ravioli ~ It’s What’s For Dinner

 

Chevre Filled Ravioli
Chevre Filled Ravioli

I still had half a pound of goat cheese in the fridge waiting to be magically turned into some kind of snack/lunch/salad/dinner type thingie.

I  love having prepared frozen dinners ready for when I’m either are too lazy to cook or maybe running late or when I just can’t even be bothered to call for pizza!

Goat Cheese Ravioli!  Perfect answer to my dilemma!

How hard could it be to find a recipe for goat cheese filled ravioli?  

Oh, there are tons of fancy ones…from heart shaped ravioli filled with goat cheese and beets or butternut squash or pumpkin but I was hoping for something simpler.  Something that if I offered it to my kids, I won’t be met with the same wrinkly nose I used to give my mum when she offered stuffed cabbage for dinner!

I was just about to give up my search, when I saw this recipe which was just what I was looking for.  I used my own fresh pasta dough recipe and made some minor adjustments with the filling to cater for my family’s taste.

This recipe makes about two dozen.

Dough

Flour Eggs Oil Salt
Flour Eggs Oil Salt

2 cups all purpose flour

1tsp salt

3 large eggs

1tbsp extra virgin oil

semolina for dusting

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Cover and let rest for about a half an hour.

Filling

Nutmeg
Nutmeg

6 oz. fresh goat cheese

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 cup pecorino romano

salt and fresh ground black pepper

 Cut dough into four pieces.  Take one piece and pass it through the pasta machine on no.1 setting a few times.  Then on 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th, then 5th. Cut in half.  Place a tbsp of filling about an inch apart on one piece of dough.  Brush surface with a bit of water or egg wash, around the filling. Take the other piece of dough and place on top. Secure around the filling and using a ravioli cutter or knife, cut into ravioli forms. Circles or squares or wherever your imagination takes you.

Cook the ravioli in plenty of boiling salted water for 4 minutes; they’ll float to the top when ready, so be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Lift the ravioli from water with a large strainer or slotted spoon.

Set aside

Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup dry white wine

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add oil.  Fry the garlic.

Once all that is bubbling (without burning – turn it down if it is!) and the pasta has cooked in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, drain the pasta and then add it to the saute pan.

Once the pasta is coated with the sauce in the pan, add 1/2 cup dry white wine and simmer for a couple more minutes, stirring occationally.

Remove the pasta from the heat.  Place on the plate. 

Add parmesan and chopped parsley and serve!

Makes an ideal first course meal when served three on a plate!

Garnish and Serve
Garnish and Serve

I have tried plain goat cheese and a combination of goat cheese and ricotta which are both very good. Would be very happy to hear your ideas!

Preserving Chevre

Thyme
Thyme

Chèvre (pronounced shĕv·rǝ) is French for goat and refers to any cheese made from goats milk.  Fresh (not aged) chèvre is usually just referred to as chèvre.

Yesterday I was thrilled to find out that a gallon of goat’s milk makes 1 1/2lb of cheese!  Well,  that thrill quickly changed to panic when I realised that it only keeps for about a week!

So I set about looking for ways to preserve the cheese in any way or form, and after hours of searching, I came across this site that shows how to stretch that week to a month!!

Today I decided to try the Chèvre Marinated with Pine Nuts, Thyme and Orange.  I intend to try the cherry and walnut one too and a combination of sun dried tomatoes with chili and garlic might be nice! I think that would take care of my batch of cheese for the coming weeks!

Of course you don’t have to make your own Chèvre to make this recipe…store bought will do just as nicely.

Chèvre Marinated with Pine Nuts, Thyme and Orange
Makes 8 ounces

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces chèvre, sliced or rolled into balls
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced orange zest
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Pour a touch of olive oil into the jar. Layer the chèvre with pine nuts and orange zest. Tuck in the thyme sprigs along the sides and add enough olive oil to cover.

I can’t wait to try it after it’s been marinading a while!

 

Cover in Olive Oil and Refrigerate
Cover in Olive Oil and Refrigerate

 

Pastizzi – Camenzuli Style

Flaky Pastizzi
Flaky Pastizzi

Pastizzi ta’ l-Irkotta or Pastizzi tal-Pizelli!  Those are only two of the most popular fillings you will find because nowadays you  may find many more types of fillings…from sweet to savoury but I still think that the original are the best! Pastizzi get a bad rap because the dough contains a little more than your average fat.  Usually a basic dough has half the amount of fat as flour. The pastizzi dough has slightly more but is oh sooo worth it.

Pastizzi for Breakfast
Pastizzi for Breakfast

It is also slightly more work.  Well, when I say slightly, I mean a lot! And also slightly messier…ok a lot messier…but I don’t want to scare you away and really want you to try it, cause when you make it and taste it, you’re going to fall in love. There’s just nothing like that rich, crunchy but melt in your mouth pastry!!   And this recipe delivers! Pastizzi are also great to freeze so you can always have some on hand. Then just pop two in the toaster oven and have them for your lazy Sunday morning breakfast!

Uncle Fredu Making Pastizzi
Uncle Fredu Making Pastizzi

This recipe is one of those that has been passed down to me by my relatives who had emigrated to the US in the early 60’s which means they’d been here for 30 years before I made my appearance and had all that time to finesse everything Maltese!! I have a big family here and rest assured that there’s pastizzi at every gathering and not surprising at all, it would be the pastizzi that would be the first to disappear.

Uncle Alex Making Pastizzi
Uncle Alex Making Pastizzi

Pastizzi call for a mixture of butter and lard OR crisco.  There was a time when just the word LARD would make  me cringe and seeing anyone using it in cooking would immediately make me lose my appetite.  But here is an article I read recently that made me think differently.

Dough

  • 1lb all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 9oz water
  • 9oz lard or crisco
  • 3oz butter
Butter and Lard
Mix Butter and Lard

Make the dough by putting the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and water and let it knead for about 12 mins until you have a nice smooth dough. Let it rest for about half an hour. Cut the dough in half. Open one of the halves into a long strip as shown in the photo beneath.

Take both fats and mix them together. Divide in two. Take one part of the mixed fat and slather it all over the rolled out dough.

From the end closest to you, start stretching and rolling while widening the dough as shown. Keep doing this until you reach the other end. You’ll end up with a long rope like piece of dough.

Take one end and roll it into a spiral shape. Put some fat over the top, cover and store in the fridge until ready to use. Do the same with the other piece of dough and remaining fat.

Ricotta Filling
Ricotta Filling

 

Filling
Make the pastizzi filling by mixing 1lb ricotta, 2 eggs and pinch of salt together.

Forming Pastizzi
Take the end of the spiral shaped dough and cut about two inches off the end. Flatten it with your hand as you turn it round and round between your fingers so you can see the ridges of the dough forming. Form it into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter. Put a dollop of ricotta in the middle.

 

Ready for Baking or Freezing
Ready for Baking or Freezing.

Fold over and seal and place on a greased dish or on a silpat. Do this until you’ve used up all the dough and ricotta.

You can freeze them at this point. Or you can bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-30 mins until golden brown.

As with everything, moderation is the key.  Pastizzi are not the the healthiest of foods, but then neither are croissants or eclairs and it would be a shame if we couldn’t have them once in a while, so go on…have one…you know you want to.

 

Pastizzi Camenzuli Style
Pastizzi Camenzuli Style

 

Ricotta Qassatat

Qassata
Qassata

Two very popular snacks in Malta are Qassatat and Pastizzi.  You can call them cousins with pastizzi being the posher or richer of the two.  I find qassatat are the easier ones to make so we’ll be tackling that one first and then later on, we’ll try our hand at making pastizzi.

There’s all sort of different fillings you can use for the qassatat and ricotta ones seem to be the most favoured.  You can add raisins or sauteed onions or fresh fava beans with the ricotta.  These types of fillings are sought after during Lent when it’s customary to fast.

Other types of fillings include meat and anchovies, but really, you can make as many types of filling as your creativity and taste will take you.

So this is your basic Ricotta Qassatat Recipe

Dough

Dough
Dough

1 lb all purpose flour
8 oz chilled butter cut up in cubes
1 egg
pinch of salt
about 1/2 cup water

Start by putting the flour and butter and salt in your stand mixer and work it until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and water and knead until it comes together.
Take it out and knead it into a ball and let it rest at room temperature for about half an hour.

 

Filling

1lb ricotta
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (optional)

Some ricotta is more creamy than others and you might only need one egg…so use your judgement.  The filling should not be too liquidy or it would ooze out of the dough.


Put all the ingredients together and stir vigorously.

 

 

Qassatat

Roll half the dough into two long ropes about two inches thick and cut it up into two inch chunks.

Take one piece and open it up into a circle about 3-4 inch diameter depending on how big you like them.

Put a dollop of the ricotta mixture in the middle.

Take the outside of the dough and start pleating while turning the dough about an inch each time until you get to the first pleat.

Continue this until you’ve used up the dough and ricotta.

Brush on a bit of egg wash.

Bake at 400 degree oven for about half an hour depending on your oven until they’re golden brown

 

 

 

 

Ricotta

 

Ricotta
Ricotta

 

It’s the easiest of cheeses to make!!   It’s fast, easy and you don’t need any special equipment.  And I guarantee that once you taste your home made version, you’ll never go back to store bought again.  You probably ask why would I make it when it’s so easily available.   And I will say to just try it once…and then you’ll experience the answer the way I did!

This recipe was shared with me by my friend Rose who is an amazing cook and extremely talented baker!  When I saw the excitement in her eyes as she was telling me that she’d just made home made ricotta for the first time and how good it was, I knew I had to try it too.

Ricotta, which means “re-cooked” in Italian, is traditionally made from the whey left over from cheese making but this delicious ricotta is made from whole cow’s milk.  You can use lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid.  In this recipe, we’re using citric acid.

What you need is

1 gallon whole or low fat milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tsp salt

1 tsp citric acid

As with any cheese you make at home, you first need to sterilise all the equipment.

Dissolve the citric acid powder in a 1/4 cup cool water.

In a large stainless-steel pot, combine the milk, cream, salt and citric acid mixture.

Warm the milk and cream over medium heat for about 30 mins until a candy thermometer registers 198 degrees F.

Turn off the heat and leave it in the pot for at least 2 hours.

Using a skimmer, ladle curds carefully into a cheesecloth lined strainer set in a bowl to catch the whey and drain for two hours or less if you like it creamy.

Yields about 2lb 4oz of ricotta.

And just like that, you have ricotta that is much much nicer than what you’ll buy in the stores!  I know you’ll like it!

 

Gbejniet (Maltese Cheese)

 

Gbejna
Gbejna

I didn’t know I missed gbejniet until my dear friend Mary shared some with me a few years ago.

Mary was the first Maltese person I met when we first moved to the Bay Area.  In 1996, the internet was still in the early stages and there was hardly any information or even links to Malta.  The only source of interest at the time was a “chat room” for Maltese people.

Feeling very homesick, I left a message in this chat room to see if there were any other Maltese people in the area. A few days later I found a message from Mary and the best thing was that she lived only about half hour away from me.  We soon realised that her husband Tom used to play soccer with my uncle Guz when they were kids!! That’s how small Malta is.

I’ve known Mary now over 15 years and we chat and visit regularly!  We share recipes and I love going over her house to to catch up and visit her lovely garden which is like stepping into a Maltese Giardina with caper bushes and prickly pears. I think the only thing that’s missing is a Bambinella Tree…I’m still hoping!

Cheese Baskets (Qwieleb)
Cheese Baskets (Qwieleb)

So this is a recipe she so graciously shared with me.  I’ve tried to tweak it a few times.  I tried adding yoghurt and once I tried adding cream.  I’ve made it with whole milk and with goats milk.  Sheep’s milk would be ideal…but I gave up  trying to find some to buy a long time ago.

You do need these cute little gbejniet baskets called Qwieleb.  I believe there are a few online websites who carry them.  They’re 3 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 inches in height.

It is very important that you do NOT use ultra pasteurised milk or homogenised milk when you are making gbejniet. Ultra-pasteurization heats the milk to 280 degrees, effectively killing any micro-organisms in the milk. You want these microbes in the milk in order for the cheese to curdle properly and for the final cheese product to actually have flavor. 

Goat Milk
2 litres of Goat’s Milk

This recipe will yield about 8 Gbejniet.

Ingredients

  • 2 litres of Goat’s Milk
  • 1 cup low fat milk powder
  • 2 Rennet Junkets
  • 2 tbsp water
  • salt

Directions

First you need to sterilise all equipment.

Heat the milk with the milk powder in a non reactive pot on low and stir until the milk powder is dissolved.

Stir the Mixture
Stir briefly

Add 2 tblsp of water to the rennets and stir until dissolved and set aside.

When the milk temperature reaches 98 degrees, take it off the heat.

Add the rennet tablet mixture to the milk and stir briefly.

Cover and let set at room temperature for about 3 hours.

In the meantime, prepare a draining container with the baskets on top.

Ladle the curd into the baskets and let drain overnight.

Ladle curds into baskets
Ladle curds into baskets

(You can pour the collected whey in a glass container and  store in the refrigerator. You can use this instead of the water for the ftira and maltese bread.)

Next morning, flip the cheese and put them  back in the baskets and let them continue to drain overnight.

Flip the cheese
Flip the cheese

Cover with a net.

Cover with net
Cover with net

Next morning, making sure that they’re strong enough to handle, take them out of the baskets and sprinkle about 1/4 tsp salt all over and around each gbejna and let drip for a few hours more.  Make sure to always keep them covered in case of bugs.

 If you like them dried and peppered…you can do this at this stage.  Grind some pepper in the plate and pat each gbejna into the pepper and cover all over and let them dry for another day (always depending on how hot and dry the day is…please use your judgement).

I don’t like a lot of pepper, so I let them air dry without the pepper.  That’s the good thing about a recipe…you can adjust and substitute to your liking.

Here they are drying before being soaked into the vinegar.

Air dry
Air dry

Here they’ve been dried for a couple of days indoors.

After 2 days of drying
After 2 days of drying

I then fill a bowl with pickle vinegar and let them soak for 2-3 hours. You can use a vinegar of your choice.

Soak in vinegar
Soak in vinegar

Store them in a sterilised jar.  I add about 2 tbsp of vinegar and olive oil and a bit more pepper.  Some people cover them in vinegar.

Store in sterilized jar
Store in sterilized jar

 

I like to store them in the fridge and give them a good shake every now and again.

The great thing about gbejniet is that they are tasty at any stage.  They are delicious fresh after you flip them.  They go well with toasted bread and butter or in Soppa ta’ l-Armla (Widow’s Soup).  Personally I like them after they’d been dried and soaked in vinegar.  Love them on my ftira with tomato paste and olive oil!

Happy Cheese Making!

Sprinkled with pepper
Sprinkled with pepper
Ready to enjoy!
Ready to enjoy!

I made cheese!