Diary of time in Melbourne- entry no. 3

After a week at Hellenic Republic, this week I was back at The Press Club. I also got to spend two days learning how cheese was made and distributed, which really is fascinating!

I was back on the larder section of Press Club, and the honeymoon period was definitely over. I have done a few shifts now, and need to start standing on my own two feet. I also need to be  a valuable member of a team rather than asking questions every five seconds! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still here to learn, but I now need to start being responsible for the section I’m on.

I spent Wednesday at a cheese retailer and small scale producer, La Latteria. They make their own fresh cheese and yoghurt on site, and are able to do so every day to ensure the products customers are buying are fresh. I was rather excited at the prospect of making my own mozzarella, and I wasn’t disappointed. For those who are interested in how it is made, read on. If not, feel free to skip ahead!

The milk is pasteurised by heating it to 72C for 15 seconds. Then at 38C a starter culture is added (which can be as simple as citric acid) to start fermenting the milk. Traditionally, rennet (cow stomach lining) is added to coagulate the milk, but now in Australia up to 80% of cheesemakers use non-animal rennet (a misnomer really as non-animal rennet isn’t rennet) which are enzymes derrived in a lab. The coagulated milk which is set almost like a jelly, is then cut with a series of parallel wires, separating the curds (solids) and whey (liquids). The smaller the curds, the more whey is released. Therefore, for a moist cheese the curds may be cut the size of golf balls, and for hard cheese the whey is cut more to the size of a pea.

The curd is drained from the whey, and is used to make cheese. The whey is used to make ricotta by firstly adding around 1% salt and 10% milk and then bringing to a high heat. Flakes of ricotta form in the water, and are removed with a spider/slotted spoon as it rises to the surface. As the fat is mostly in the curds, ricotta is naturally low fat and protein-rich. Alternatively the whey is fed back to animals or disposed of.

To make mozzarella, the curds are mixed in a bowl with salt. At this stage the curds resemble a bowl of crumbled feta. Hot water is then poured over the curds where they melt into a smooth, slightly stretchy mass.  The curds are then stretched and worked to make the cheese more elastic.

The water is then replaced with more hot water (hand-burning hot) and the cheese is shaped into balls by hand. Once the desired shape has been achieved, the mozzarella is dropped into cold water to set the shape. I was to eager to see how my first few turned out and touched them before they set, leaving finger marks in my otherwise smooth ball!

La Latteria make small batches of mozzarella fresh every day, so it’s nice to know that what you’re buying is fresh. I had a whale of a time playing around with the stretchy cheese, forming it into somewhat egg shaped balls (it’s not as easy as it looks to get spheres) as well as making ricotta and yoghurt.

On Thursday I was at Calender Cheese, a cheese distribution company started by Will Studd. I had a really interesting day, learning all about different varieties, how they get it from a producer to a restaurant/retailer, and of course I ate a fair bit of cheese! I was given the opportunity to cut big wheels of parmesan and gruyere cheese, among others. I was a little nervous as the wheels are very expensive and after a brief demonstration I was handed the ropes (well, the wires really) and portioned the 36kg wheels into 2kg wedges.

In my first diary entry I mentioned that I was freezing at the fishmonger, I made sure not to make that mistake again so I wore an outfit suitable for a skiing holiday to battle through the constant 2 degree temperature.

Both days I managed to bring home quite a bit of cheese which I was very grateful for. I decided to make myself a really simple salad with one of the buffalo mozzarella I acquired

Pickled beetroot and mozzarella salad:                                                                    (serves 2)

2 medium beetroot

2 oranges, segmented

large handful rocket

1 buffalo mozzarella

6-10 slices black pig prosciutto

hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

pickling liquid:

150ml olive oil

1 star anise

1 T coriander seeds

1 T fennel seeds

100ml white wine vinegar

Method:

Preheat oven to 165C. Wrap beetroot in foil and put on a tray on top of a little pile of rock salt (to absorb any moisture from the beetroot during cooking). Roast for 1 hour, allow to cool slightly, then rub the beetroot to remove skin (it’s a good idea to wear gloves). Cut into wedges.

Combine oil and spices in a small saucepan and infuse over a low heat. Add vinegar, then beetroot wedges. Sit beetroot in liquid until cool. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Lay prosciutto on a tray and stick it under a grill until crisp.

To serve, tear the mozzarella in half. Chuck everything else on the plate and drizzle with a good olive oil and salt. I don’t think it needs a vinaigrette as the beetroot and orange both have acidity.

Some lessons learned this week:

  • Take your time to be organised and do every job right the first time. Do the little things right: prep everything before you start cooking, keep your knives sharp so it doesn’t take twice as long to get a worse result. Sharp knives are also safer.
  • It is believed that cheese was accidentally invented by nomads transporting milk in a cows stomach (they didn’t have milk cartons hundreds of years ago apparently) and the rennet in the stomach set the cheese. Like charcuterie for meat, cheese was once used as a way of preserving milk. Not really a lesson learned, more a short anecdote.
  • The wait staff at restaurants are your friends. Help them out by making them a dish they love, and you’ll notice a difference in the amount of coffees made for you. (and the odd dessert order may come your way!)
  • There’s no better way of finding all the little cuts and nicks on your hands than juicing lemons.

More from me next week guys! If there are any suggestions about how I could improve what I am blogging about at the moment I would love to hear them!

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Really enjoying your blog just as it is. I’m learning more about food and sometimes you’re kinda funny too. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Posted by Alex on October 31, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Keep blogging mate. Always a good and honest read, I really appreciate how well you connect with your readers. Sounds like the pace is pretty exhausting, but don’t be discouraged, because even on the days when you may feel like you’re stuffing up, your lovely personality will get you over the line every time. And one day not too far in the future, you’ll wake up and realise you’re a capable and experienced chef, and everyone’s asking you the questions, not the other way round.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Katrina on October 31, 2010 at 6:44 am

    That was fascinating stuff! Your blog is fine the way it is. Perhaps more photos though, especially of food!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Kitty on October 31, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Callummmmmm 🙂 those food looks amazing.. wish i can have someee 🙂
    when r u leaving mel? I wanted to meet u but im not in mel atm 😦 so sad….

    Reply

  5. Posted by sonia on November 3, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Your blog is great the way it is Callum. I especially love the “lessons learned this week” section. Not sure if it is meant to be funny but I always get a laugh out of it. Apologies if that is inappropriate. Going to have a go at the peanut butter brownies this weekend.

    Reply

    • No need for apologies, I don’t take myself too seriously and I hope that comes across in the blog. So if you get a laugh from it that’s great! Good luck with the brownies. If in doubt, it’s better to undercook them than overcook them in my opinion.

      Reply

      • Posted by sonia on November 7, 2010 at 8:14 am

        Thanks for the good luck wishes re brownies. Unfortunately they weren’t too clever. Not a complete disaster, and to the untrained eye could have possibly passed with a hefty shove. I didn’t realise I needed as much plain flour as I did, so substituted half for self raising, as I ran out (I know, I know, you said not to do that) so they kind of fell apart into mis-shaped lumpy things when I tried to cut them into squares. On a happier note the 12 hour braised lamb shoulder was a hit though.

  6. Posted by farah tasneem mou on November 6, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    ummmmm….those looks just so yum 🙂

    Reply

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