Friday, February 08, 2008

Preparing for Spring

Now to frozen yogurt. One of the easiest yogurt 'ice-creams' is to mix together equal quantities of lemon curd and thick Greek type yogurt, put into a container and then freeze.
Freezing yogurt on its own needs some experimentation. There is a certain amount of water in yogurt - this can be seen once a tub of Greek yogurt has been started, when - after some hours - liquid collects in the well left by the spoon. This could cause ice-crystals. A way to stabilise yogurt is to heat it and stir in some slaked cornflour, bring it to the boil and then it resembles a type of yogurt custard, and this method is often used when adding yogurt to a savoury dish to prevent it splitting when heated.

My recipe for frozen yogurt uses gelatine to help stabilise, also the mixture needs beating at least once after a short freeze, but with an ice-cream machine this would not be necessary. Like many home-made ices, it needs to be brought out of the freezer for about 15 minutes to soften slightly before serving. Soft-scoop ice cream is like its name, can be served straight from the freezer.
Frozen Yogurt: serves 4 - 6
1 tsp powdered gelatine
3 fl.oz (75ml) evaporated milk
2 0z (50g) sugar
10 fl.oz (300ml) yogurt
half a tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle the gelatine over a little warm water, and leave to soften. In a small pan, bring the evaporated milk to not-quite-boiling, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin forming. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and the softened gelatine. Stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the yogurt and the vanilla. Mix well. Cool until the mixture has started to thicken, then freeze.
After one hour, remove from the freezer and beat the mixture well, stir in any chosen flavouring (see below) and return to the freezer.
flavourings for frozen yogurt:
strawberry: add 4 oz (100g) pureed strawberries.
lemon : add the juice of 2 lemons, more if wished.
pina colada: add 4 oz (100g) crushed pineapple and grated coconut to taste.
blackberry: add 4 oz (100g) pureed fresh or frozen blackberries.
chocolate mocha: add 1 level tblsp instant coffee to the evaporated milk before heating, and one tblsp melted chocolate after beating the partly frozen mixture.

To cut costs in the following recipe used the cheaper and lower-fat non-dairy version 'creams' that in the original recipe which used 'real cream'. These work very well in a recipe such as this.
Yogurt Fruit Ice-Cream: serves 4
8 oz (225g) pureed fresh soft summer fruits
sugar to taste
squeeze of lemon juice
10 fl.oz (300ml) thick yogurt
5 fl.oz (150ml) non-dairy cream
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Put all the ingredients, except the egg whites, into a large bowl and whisk together to incorporate as much air as possible. Freeze until the mixture begins to solidify round the edges, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Return to the freezer. This needs to be removed from the freezer for 20 - 30 minutes before serving.

Soaking dried fruit in yogurt, such as sultanas, raisins, apricots etc., thickens the yogurt dramatically if left overnight, as the fruits absorbs much of the liquid, so ending up with almost a cheesecake texture which can be used, spooned over a biscuit crumb base, as a cheesecake in its own right, or instead, make this version of a curd tart. The mint is well worth adding, but can be left out if you wish.
Yogurt Fruit Flan: serves 4
10 fl oz (300ml) thick yogurt
dried fruits (sultanas, apricots, raisins etc)
1 tblsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
8 oz (225g) shortcrust pastry
2 eggs, beaten
sugar to taste
Stir the dried fruit and mint into the yogurt and leave to stand in the fridge overnight. Line an 8" (20cm) flan dish with pastry. Stir the eggs and a little sugar into the thickened fruit and yogurt mixture and pour into the pastry case. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for half an hour. Eat hot or cold.

A tip for making yogurt scones: Why not substitute a fruit flavour yogurt for the fat and milk in a normal scone recipe? It makes very light scones. Scones are always best when freshly baked, so I usually make up a large batch and freeze them uncooked, bagging up when firmly frozen. Then two or three or more can be taken from the bag to be baked in the oven when it is on for something else. No left-over stale scones. They can be baked straight from the freezer, but if so add a further five minutes to the usual baking time.

Always on the look-out for waste-not want-not ideas, I came across this old method of making your own fat for frying. Some time back I mentioned how chicken fat (saved from boiling the skin, and carcass of a chicken) is somewhat healthier than some oils, so why waste something we get for free. Fat prepared in this way can be used for making plain cakes, for making pastry (instead of lard) as well as for frying. Keep the fats from different meats separate. Pork (lard) and chicken fats are the best for cooking, beef 'dripping' is wonderful on toast and for roasting potatoes etc., ask you butcher for extra fat when buying your joint, and for the best flavour, pour this from the tin after cooking the meat. Meat jelly collects at the bottom of a dish of chilled dripping and this keeps perfectly as long as the fat is left intact. Once cut, use up the jelly, either adding to a beef casserole, or spread on toast, then melt and clarify the dripping if you wish.
To clarify and render fat for frying:
Trim the fat from the meat and remove any meat or discolouration. Cut the fat into small pieces and put into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for half an hour. This helps to keep the fat white. Remove the lid, and keep simmering, removing any scum from the surface. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and the fat has turned to liquid, looking like a clear oil. Cool, the strain through muslin. When cold, and kept in the fridge, it will form a hard cake. Either keep in a container, or wrap in parchment. Chicken fat (just skim the chilled fat off the top of a bowl of made chicken stock then reheat and strained) is excellent for cooking and can be used instead of butter for frying.