recipe

Credit: EARL CARTER

Join the culture club with delicious pot yoghurt

Pot-set yoghurt is literally milk that has had a culture added to it and been left in a vessel to set. It really could not be more simple. People can be scared of using cultures, and put off by the time it takes to set, but it’s worthwhile for the simple fact that there is satisfaction in making your own yoghurt. 

There is nothing too mysterious about the culture I use. It is really just taking a small amount of yoghurt and adding it to warmed milk to make more yoghurt. It doesn’t really matter which brand, so long as it lists live active yoghurt as an ingredient.

This process is called inoculation. Once it has been done, it needs to be put in a warm place to incubate. Temperature is the key to the success of this yoghurt. I’ve got a cupboard that sits above the fridge, and this turns out to be the perfect spot. I’ve also heard of people sitting a jar inside a dehydrator that is set at a consistent temperature. You can also partly fill an Esky with warm water and sit a jar of the inoculated milk in there with the lid on. It is important the water is warm rather than boiling, though, as you don’t want to kill the active culture.  

Once the yoghurt is set – and it may be firmer than what you are used to buying from stores – it will have a fresh tang to it and will be quite different to shop-bought yoghurts. It can be eaten as is, or whisked to a smoother texture. It is also possible to add other flavours. I like vanilla and sugar to balance the taste. If I were going to eat it for breakfast, I would probably leave out the sugar and add honey.

Poached pears are pretty naff, I reckon, except at breakfast. We can probably blame 1970s dinner parties for that. I had forgotten about them until recently, when we decided to try a variety of pears known as honey pears at the restaurant. We poached them with hibiscus, and they were delicious. Pears are one of the fruits that really benefit from poaching. Often a pear that can be hard and chalky to eat fresh will have a tender, more appetising and luxurious character once it has been poached.

All kinds of weird and wonderful techniques have been applied to poaching pears. There is the red wine poached pear with spices, such as a glühwein, which I mention here for historical accuracy but in no way endorse. Another recipe – I don’t want to say monstrosity – poaches pears in passionfruit juice. The origin of this is not known to me, but its exotic overreach would tend to suggest Britain some time before 1980.

 

Pot-set yoghurt   

Makes 1 litre

– 1 litre fresh cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk
– 2 tbsp live natural organic yoghurt
– a good-quality thermometer
– 1 large jar or a few smaller pots

Warm the milk in a heavy-bottomed pot over a low heat or double boiler. Stir constantly, as you do not want it to catch, or it will taint the milk. Once it reaches 85ºC, remove from the heat and cool to 44ºC.

While the milk is cooling, turn your oven to 200ºC for 10 minutes then turn it off. You need to create a warm place about 43ºC for the yoghurt to sit for six to 12 hours. 

When the milk is at 44ºC, make a slurry with 100 millilitres of the warm milk and the yoghurt and add back into the rest of the milk. Gently stir to incorporate, pour the liquid into your sterilised pots, cover with lids and gently wrap in a towel to insulate.

Place in the oven for six to 12 hours or until the yoghurt is thick and creamy. The longer it sits, the tangier it will be. Refrigerate until cold and set before using.

 

Hibiscus poached pears     

Serves 8-10

– 450g sugar
– 900ml water
– 45g dried hibiscus blossoms
– 1kg ripe baby corella or honey pears

In a heavy-based pot, bring the sugar, water and hibiscus to a slow boil to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, take the pot off the stove and cool. 

Leave the hibiscus in the syrup to retain the flavour and deepen the colour. When cool, strain out the blossoms and discard.

While the liquid is cooling, take the pears and gently peel them while keeping the shape of the pear. 

Warm the syrup back up until just under a gentle simmer and drop the pears in. Poach until just tender (about four to six minutes).

Turn the heat off and leave the pears to cool in the syrup. If the pears are not ripe they will need a longer cooking period.

Serve on the pot-set yoghurt.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 9, 2016 as "Culture club". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.