Since I was home and it was a relatively quiet weekend, I decided to do a bit of playing around in the kitchen today. Went out yesterday to make sure I had all the necessary ingredients and it’s been an eventful day of cheese making, soap making and cooking (oh my)!
I’ve been experimenting with dairy for a few months now- sometimes successfully and others unsuccessfully (I seem to struggle occasionally with yogurt). Anyways, since I was lucky to find a local raw milk producer, I’ve been using that the main ingredients for all my dairy adventures. I know there are many different opinions on raw milk (personally I think it’s nutritious and delicious) but everyone can agree on that fact that it’s got lots of helpful cultures and bacteria around to help the home dairying process along. Today’s mission – ricotta! The recipe was fairly simple but I worried that I had ended up with too much milky whey and that the curds were too small to be captured by the cheesecloth. In the end though, I had a good chunk of ricotta after draining as much whey as I could and I put it aside to be used for dinner.
On to soap making intermission- something completely new to me! The recipe that I was using was 5.5 oz distilled water, 12 oz palm oil, 4 oz coconut oil and 5.5 oz of lye. Now I was pretty nervous to be working with lye as I know it is dangerous and the skull and crossbones on the package didn’t allay my fears at all. So I mixed the lye and water, then the oils and then added them all together. I stirred the pot for about 45 minutes or so and ‘thought’ I was seeing the ‘trace’ so I added some essential oil and some rosemary I had pre-dehydrated Saturday night. Then I poured the mixture into my homemade mold (nothing fancy- a cardboard box with plastic wrap) and set it aside to dry for 24 hours. I have high hopes for this batch!
Now, onto my third adventure for the day- cooking! This recipe actually exceeded my expectations, so I have to share. I’d like to think it was my homemade ricotta cheese, but something tells me there were lots of great tastes coming together in this recipe to create a taste sensation (mmm… pine nuts, basil and loads of cheesy goodness). Enjoy!
Sweet Potato and Basil Lasagna *
1 lb 5 oz sweet potato, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ricotta cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts- toasted
¾ cup fresh basil chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushes
1 oz. Parmesan, grated
4 oz. fresh lasagna sheets
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
- Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease tray and lay sweet potatoes on side brushes with a little olive oil; Heat for one hour turning halfway through
- Place ricotta, pine nuts, basil, garlic and parmesan and mix well
- With a square 8 inch dish, arrange 1/3 of pasta sheets over the base of pan and then spread the ricotta mixture. Top with the next pasta sheet
- Arrange sweet potato over the next layer, laying them as closely as possible. Season with salt and pepper and lay final pasta sheet over. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is golden brown
- Let cool 10 minutes then cup up your lasagna and enjoy!
Voila- a masterpiece! Well, that’s enough excitement for one Sunday. Time to curl up with my book and a cup of tea. Until next time..
* Recipe adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Helen Aitken
Update: The soap was looking great… until the next morning when it appeared kind of chalky and was cracking and crumbly. From researching online it looks like the mixture might have been lye heavy- and I might have messed up the recipe by not completely liquefying my oils… Bummer! I’m going to attempt to ‘rebatch’ the soap (which I’ve read mixed reviews about online) but if that doesn’t work I’ll have to scrap it. Oh well, better luck next time!