Food fermentation is a hot topic with chefs at the moment, for the complexity of flavour that it brings to a dish. Many different types of food can be fermented, but one of the easiest for the home cook to try is yoghurt. As the product of natural bacterial fermentation of milk, yoghurt is relatively easy to make yourself. It simply requires some milk and a little yoghurt to act as a starter. The live bacteria in the yoghurt convert the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, which gives yoghurt its characteristic tang. The acid causes the proteins to set into soft curds, which causes the yoghurt to thicken. It’s as simple, yet as complex, as that. There are many different types of milk and yoghurt available, so the combinations are endless. The milk can be from cows, sheep, goats, even camels or yaks.
The quality of milk is really important to the end product as yoghurt is simply set milk, so the better the flavour of the milk, the better the resultant yoghurt.
There is a certain sense of accomplishment as you delve into the food science experiment that is yoghurt making. See the recipe below for step-by-step instructions.
And even if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own yoghurt, there are many kinds of yoghurt available commercially to enjoy.
The health benefits are high, as yoghurt is a good source of protein and calcium. It acts as a probiotic, aiding the natural bacteria in your digestive system.
So, for a little extra culture, just add yoghurt.
Homemade yoghurt with honey
Use good quality organic milk for best flavour and results. Use fresh yoghurt with live cultures (check the use by date) as this will have more live bacteria. Check the side of the tub, which will tell you whether there are live bacteria present.
1 lt milk
1 tbsp honey, plus extra honey to drizzle
1 cup plain yoghurt, with live cultures
Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it froths around the edges (around 85C on a digital thermometer), but don’t let it boil. Pour into a medium ceramic bowl and leave to cool until you can touch the side of the bowl with your hands (around 41C).
This is the ideal temperature for the bacteria to multiply. Now add the live yoghurt and something sweet (sugar or honey) to get things started. Cover tightly with cling film and wrap in a small blanket or thick towel to keep warm. Leave to sit for about 8 hours in a warm spot, for the yoghurt to form (an oven is ideal –should only be slightly warm and definitely not turned on). At this stage, it is ready to use or keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days, where it will thicken a little more. Strain through muslin to thicken further, if desired.
Drizzle with extra honey to serve.
Makes 1 litre yoghurt.
Orange yoghurt syrup cake
This delicious, moist cake is perfect served warm from the oven with a little extra yoghurt on the side.
125g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
zest 2 oranges
3 tbsp orange juice
400g self raising flour
½ tsp bicarb soda
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
4 tbsp orange juice
2 oranges, segmented
1 pink grapefruit, segmented
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 ½ cups icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease and line a 23cm cake tin with removable base.
Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and continue to mix until combined. Add yoghurt, vanilla, orange zest and juice and mix. Sift flour and bicarb and gently fold through.
Place mixture in cake tin and smooth the surface. The mixture will be quite firm.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is cooked through.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine sugar, water and juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add citrus segments.
When cake is cooked, remove from oven and poke all over with a bamboo skewer, to make lots of small holes. Slowly pour the orange syrup over the hot cake until it is all absorbed and place the citrus segments in the middle.
Allow to cool, then remove from tin.
To make icing, mix orange juice and zest with icing sugar until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake.
Tandoori chicken with mint yoghurt sauce
Tandoori chicken gets a makeover with a simple mint yoghurt sauce packed full of flavour. Perfect for your next dinner party.
1 small free range chicken
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to season
1 cup thick plain yoghurt
2 tbsp tandoori spice paste
lime wedges to serve
mint yoghurt sauce
I bunch mint (150g), leaves picked
1 bunch coriander (100g), leaves picked
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 green chilli deseeded
½ red onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced ginger
5 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Joint chicken into 8 pieces (or ask your butcher to do this) and make 2 incisions with a sharp knife into each piece. Mix lemon juice, ginger and garlic then rub over chicken. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid and discard.
Mix yoghurt with tandoori paste, rub all over chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 200C. Place chicken pieces on a wire rack in a roasting tray and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes, covered with foil.
To make the mint yoghurt sauce, blend all ingredients, except yoghurt, in a food processor until smooth, then fold through yoghurt.
Serve with chicken pieces and fresh lime to squeeze.