The Creamery Kitchen – The crème de la crème – cow not included!

I recently started making my own cheese with the “One-Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer–Even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make in an Hour or Less!“, and was looking to expand my fledgling cheesemaking to crème fraiche and mascarpone…enter “The Creamery Kitchen.” My first exposure to “The Creamery Kitchen” came in the latest issue of the UK baking magazine “Baking Heaven Savoury;” I’ve discovered several great British cookbooks through the magazine, including The Pocket Bakery.

Jenny Linford is a freelance food writer, a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of fifteen books ranging from cookery books to ingredient guides. Her interest in food stems from living as a child in Singapore and Italy. In “The Creamery Kitchen” she gives both instructions how to make simple dairy products (butter, buttermilk, sour cream, crème fraiche, yogurt, labneh, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, feta-style cheese) and showcases simple recipes using those products (storebought works just fine if you’re in a pinch). There is a brief introduction to “Creating your creamery” and ingredients, although I wish the author gave recommendations on substituting vegetarian rennet tablets for liquid rennet, which is what the recipes here call for (I purchased vegetarian rennet tablets in bulk when I bought One-Hour cheese).

Starting with simple yet delicious flavored butters (fennel, caramelized, piquant, fragrant spice, rose, and saffron butters), you’ll find a chilled cucumber and mint soup with parmesan crisps that is perfect for a sweltering summer day, elegant beetroot latkes with smoked salmon and crème fraiche, asparagus, pea and labneh salad, not one but two variations of the classic Balkan burek, ricotta and spinach dumplings, cheesecakes, and even spaghetti with gorgonzola, pecan and mascarpone sauce. The recipes are straightforward and come together quickly with impressive results.

Most of the recipes are vegetarian with a few meat-based recipes (buttermilk fried chicken, lamb skewers, lamb and asparagus tacos with roasted tomato salsa). I loved the distinctly Middle Eastern flavor in the orange semolina cake and roasted red pepper, pomegranate and sumac raita, lamb skewers with za’atar labneh, and dukkah flatbreads with herbed labneh, and saffron and cardamom labneh with mango. There are also some Italian-inspired gems like the spaghetti with gorgonzola, pecan and mascarpone sauce and ricotta and spinach dumplings with cherry tomato sauce. Dairy-based desserts, including sour cream raisin pie, coeur a la crème with strawberries and passion fruit, yogurt gelato, whisky and raspberry cranachan cheesecakes, and fig and honey ricotta cheesecake, make up the majority of the offerings.

As with other Ryland Peters & Small titles, each recipe is lavishly photographed and layout is clear yet compact on matte pages. At certain points in the recipe / instructions, a cursive font is used that is a bit smaller than the regular sans serif font. Measurements are given in both metric and American measurements. British cooking terms/ingredients give American equivalents when possible (clingfilm = plastic wrap, courgette = zucchini, single cream = light cream, etc.).

I tried the lemon thyme feta loaf and orange syrup semolina cake, which is basically a revani/basbousa. The lemon thyme feta loaf was tremendously fragrant and moist from the olive oil and zucchini. My one recommendation is taste your feta first if using storebought as it can be tremendously salty. The recipe calls for 1 tsp salt as written, but I included both the salt and feta and found it was a bit too salty for my taste; next time I will cut back on or eliminate the salt entirely. I baked it in my Nordic Ware Lemon Loaf pan, which makes for a festive appearance (see photo). For the semolina cake, the crème fraiche took the place of the yogurt I normally use, and although the recipe yielded less syrup than I am accustomed to using, the finished cake turned out perfectly moist and froze well, making it a perfect teatime or breakfast snack.. I loved the chilled soups and simple and easy fresh veggie salads like the asparagus, pea and labneh salad and the broad bean, feta and dill salad; perfect when it’s too hot to feel like heating up the oven.

Overall this is a great first book if you’re new to making soft cheeses and dairy products at home; the instructions and recipes are simple and straightforward and most use ingredients that you should already have on hand (except for some of the Middle Eastern spices like sumac, za’atar, and cardamom and some basic cheesemaking supplies like rennet and cheesecloth). I loved the variety of dairy-based Mediterranean/Balkan/Middle Eastern dishes as this is my favorite cuisine, and I love that the preparation is manageable and the recipe yields are small (most main dishes serve 4-6). This is an excellent counterpart to One-Hour Cheese, which focuses on firm cheeses as opposed to creams and soft cheeses, and I will certainly find myself coming back to the “Creamery Kitchen” on a regular basis. If you are interested in learning to make your own crème fraiche, mascarpone, yogurt, cottage cheese, and feta, this is the book for you. And I concur with the reviewer who stated `”…by the end of the book, I was ready to buy my own cow!”

(Review copy courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small)

Lemon thyme feta loaf
Lemon thyme feta loaf

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