Step by Step

Making your own Feta Cheese in India

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If you like Meditteranean and Greek food as much as we do buying feta cheese for salads and other preparations in India digs a deep hole in the pocket and one is tempted to use it very sparingly when the only way to eat it is liberally.
I love a watermelon salad with feta especially in these horrifyingly hot days of summer.
The last feta I bought was half used and then got lost in the fridge for some days. When it was brought forth it had melted into a pathetic slurry.
I was emboldened to try making feta cheese when I saw that goats milk is not strictly necessary and that cows milk would do just fine. With rennet and culture now available through Essdee Marketing it seemed possible.
So I bought 2 litres of pasteurized Standard cows milk. Raw milk is better as the calcium required for curdling survives. But no matter, even without it was fine . I added one tablet of Shelcal 500mg , powdered, but if you have calcium chloride add some of that to make up for the calcium lost during pasteurization.

Started by washing the pans thoroughly and setting the jars, lids, spoons and utensils to boil in a large pan. Sterilise by boiling for 15 minutes. Then kept it all covered tightly.
In a large pan heat the pasteurized milk to blood heat. "Kosa" as we say. ( test by dipping your little finger in the milk and count to ten. The finger should not burn but stay comfortable) If you have a thermomenter heat to 37 degrees C
Take an envelope of culture and stir it into the milk throroughly.Turn off the heat and pour into a deep glass dish. Let this stand for 40 minutes. Now mix ten drops of the rennet into a 1/4 cup of water. Pour this mixture lightly over the milk and mix with deep stabbing motions with a stainless steel spatula or wide knife going right to the bottom of the dish. Do this slowly over the entire area. Cover and let it stand for 1-3 hours.When the whey has clearly seperated from the curds and the latter are quite firm its ready to work on.
Pour off the whey and reserve. Cut the curds in lines from top to bottom and left to right, as if making cubes, to release more whey. Line a strainer or large paneer maker with fine muslin and transfer the curds to drain further. After another hour hang the curds up over a dish and let stand for a few more hours.

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Making the Brine
Fill the whey into glass jars. For each 500 ml of whey add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Let the salt dissolve.
Cut the drained curds into cubes and lower them gently into the jar of brine. Cover and keep refrigerated for 4 days - 1 week before using. The cheese will taste even better after 4 weeks as it it will get a stronger flavour and become crumblier as it ages.

I got about 300 gms of cheese from 2 litres.

If any whey is leftover keep it for making gjetost, a Norwegian creamy, caramelised cheese.( It probably only worth making if you are using 5 litres of milk as part of the whey goes towards the brine for the feta.) Small amounts of whey added to atta makes great soft chapathis by the way. :)  It also works well in bread dough.


Govaricheshenga, Govarphalli or Cluster Beans Bhaji

An earlier post on ridge gourd drew several reactions mostly of the 'ughh', 'yuck' and 'sheee' (Maharashtrian expression of extreme disgust ) genre. Gustad ( the Ironcheff), in New York went so far as to call it..."bahhji". I never realised so many people didn't like ridge gourd. Perhaps it is like karela / bitter gourd...an acquired taste.


Govariche Bhaji, Govar Phalli Sabzi, Cluster beans veggie

Not many people I know wax eloquent about cluster beans either but once you taste this version you will be a fan for life.The slight bitterness is tempered by the addition of gur and the milk gives it a creamy feel.This is one of my favourite Maharashtrian recipes.

For those who would like to know what Govar is known as in their own language here is a glossary in Indian languages.

Tamil- Kothavaranga
Telegu-Gokarakaya
Malayalam-Kothavara
Kannada-Chavalikai
Konkani- Mitkesaang
Gujerati-Guvar ni sing

Ingredients:
250 gms guvar/ cluster beans chopped into 1/2 " piece
Water
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp rai/ mustard seed
1 potato peeled and cut into small cubes.
Pinch of hing / asafoetida
1/2 tsp haldi / turmeric
A generous pinch of ajwain / thymol seeds
Salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp grated gur /jaggery
1 tbsp chopped green coriander

Clean, chop and cook the beans in two cups of water till done.Drain and keep aside.


Fry Potatoes

Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the mustard seed . When they pop add and fry the potatoes. When golden brown add the hing, ajwain, haldi and salt and stir well.


Add cooked beans

Now add the cooked beans and the milk


Add chilli powder and jaggery

Bring to the boil and  add the chilli powder and grated jaggery. Cook till most of the milk has been absorbed. Then add the coriander, stir once and serve.


Cluster Beans

The bean must be picked when young and tender as it becomes woody, fibrous and hairy as it matures and then is not fit for human consumption.They can then be fed to animals ! The beans have always been used as fodder for animals and it is said that it was originally brought to India by Arab traders as horse feed from the Middle east, where it grew profusely in the deserts.Contrary to this version of history it is also said that guar originated in India and since the country has so many arid and semi arid areas it also produces 80% of the world guar crop.

The cluster bean has a large endosperm which is used to produce a guar gum, a highly refined form of which is used as a stabiliser in cheeses and whipped cream substitutes. It is also used as a stiffener in icecream.

It is a good crop for India as it is drought resistant, nor does it deplete the soil; in fact it actually enriches it with nitrogen. After the harvest , if bits of the roots and other "waste" materials are ploughed back into the soil, it improves succeeding crop yields. Rajasthan grows most of the guar produced in India and it is harvested in October-November. However this vegetable can be found throughout the year in most markets here, and it is a pretty popular part of the Maharashtrian Thali.


Stuffed Mixed Dal Paratha- Mixed Lentil filled Flat Bread

A paratha is a wonderful thing; a bit like a sandwich it can be filled with all sorts of things and make a one dish meal. More restaurants are opening up here with just parathas on the menu.

I recall that in Kodaikanal the miniscule restaurants along the one main road that exists there, serving quite awful food to the hungry students of the big residential school close by. The inside information was that the safest thing to eat was the cheese paratha, served hot by one of the joints they called a restaurant. They did not have other variations . Keeping ingredients fresh was a problem. Most of them were expensive, having been trucked up the long, winding and sometimes treacherous ghat road. Vegetables were likely to be bad by the time they were served up. Especially if it was not the tourist season when the village became as dead as a dodo, with its few residents and starving students wandering about disconsolately in the mists, in search of a good meal. Eventually everyone would end up at the paratha place. Safe to eat, hot and filling.

I always think the younger Earl of Sandwich pretty enterprising to use his title to market the most upmarket of sandwiches. We should have a Maharaja of Paratha. He would be well employed in working out new variations on the theme. How about a Maratha Paratha? It should do well in Pune.

Meanwhile many of us have our own versions of parathas, not simply the standard methi, gobi, and alu types. Here is my friend Subhasini's great recipe for lentil filled paratha. It makes 8 plump ones, 5" in diameter, and a fabulous one dish dinner.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp ghee
1/2 tsp salt
Water

1/2 cup channa  dal / Bengal gram
1/4 cup toor dal
1/2 " piece of grated ginger
Pinch of haldi

I onion chopped fine
1 green chilli minced
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
Juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 tsp ajwain /thymol seeds
2 tbsp ghee or oil

Combine wheat, salt ghee and water to form a ball of dough. Knead for 5minutes. Keep aside covered with plastic or damp cloth

Drain Lentils

Combine the lentils , turmeric, grated ginger and 1 cup water and cook for 2 whistles in a pressure cooker or over the fire till just done.Drain off any extra water.

Frying onions

Heat 1 tbsp ghee and fry the onion, chilli and ginger garlic paste.

Sprinkle ajwain

When done add the lentils to the fried ingredients, the lime juice , sprinkle the ajwain and mix well.

Make 8 balls of the dough and roll out into a circle about 3 " in diameter.

Smear ghee on circle

Smear a bit of ghee on the circle

and place a spoonful of the mixture in the centre.

Sprinkle wheat flour on filling

Sprinkle some dry whole wheat flour on top and

Form a ball

and then form into a ball by gathering the edges up together. Twist the pointed end and press back into the ball.

Roll out paratha

Press flat between palms and roll out the stuffed ball into a 5" circle.

Ghee on tava

Put a spoonful of ghee on the heated tava and slap the paratha onto the tava.

After a few minutes when it has formed brown spots on one side, turn and cook the other side . Smear a little ghee on the edges of the paratha as it is cooking. When the dough is cooked remove from fire and keep warm wrapped in a cloth or paper napkin till all 8 are cooked.

Serve with yogurt/ dahi, raita or any vegetable.