things that grow: homemade yogurt

Lately my kitchen has seen a lot of things grow. This April has sometimes felt like autumn and so I have made up for it by growing my own signs of spring. On my counter top you will find alfalfa sprouts, a bubbling sourdough starter, and a regular rotation of fresh homemade yogurt. 

That is because I just can't stop making yogurt. 

There are some things that I make at home with the intention of cracking the process in order to better understand the food. Take mustard for example. I really love homemade mustard, especially fig mustard, but because I live in South Germany where different varieties of very good mustard are easy to find, I am certainly going to continue to buy mustard here and there. However, yogurt is a different story. It takes very little effort to make. You only need two ingredients. If you have a thermometer use it, but it is not necessary. And if you eat a lot of yogurt, like me, and have a thing for all things organic, like me again, then it even ends up being cheaper than buying it. 

I started making yogurt when I got back from India. I have always been a big yogurt eater (my favourite childhood snack which has carried on to my adulthood is yogurt with chunks of apple and honey), but India gave me a new appreciation for yogurt, or as it is called locally curd. I came to look forward to it with every meal to balance out the spices and textures on my plate. Plus, everyone I talked to seem to know how to make it so I figured that I could make it too. No one I talked to used a thermometer. So if you don't have a thermometer you really don't have an excuse. It just seemed so simple and it is. As always with dairy, use organic ingredients if you can.

I recommend making this in the evening so that you have fresh yogurt for breakfast.

Homemade yogurt


4 cups whole milk (cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, as you wish)
1/2 cup yogurt

In a saucepan heat milk until it is just about to boil (180F/82C). 

Take off heat and let the temperature drop (110F/43C). Stir the 1/2 cup yogurt into the milk and mix well with a spoon. Cover the pot with a lid and leave in a warm spot overnight. If your kitchen is a bit on the chilly side, wrap the pot in some tea towels and leave it in your oven with the pilot light on, or close to a radiator. If you put the yogurt in the oven overnight you might want to preheat the oven first so that it is already toasty.

In the morning transfer to a glass jar or container and refrigerate. The longer you let the yogurt sit, anywhere from 10 to 24 hours, the thicker it will be.

The yogurt will last in the fridge for up to a week. Remember to save half a cup for your next batch. 

If you want thicker yogurt, Greek style, simply place a colander over a bowl, line it with cheesecloth and pour some of your regular homemade yogurt into the cloth. Gather the ends of the cloth and secure with a rubber band. Transfer to the fridge and leave it overnight to drain. In the morning you will find very thick yogurt in the cheesecloth and the excess liquid in the bottom of the bowl. If you don't have cheesecloth, you can also use paper coffee filters. 



kala ghoda cafe

Surprisingly Mumbai is full of chain coffee shops. Cafe Coffee Day, somewhat like Starbucks but with a stronger emphasis on sweet iced coffees, is a common sight. Thank goodness for independent gems like the Kala Ghoda Cafe. It might be harder to first stumble across, but it is well worth the effort. Read about my favourite Mumbai cafe over at Honest Cooking.


some like it hot: homemade sriracha

And some, including myself, like it hot and homemade. I am talking about chili sauce of course, sriracha in particular. Although sriracha stems from Thailand and/or Vietnam, most of us are familiar with the plastic bottle with the rooster, a product of Los Angeles, California. A few years ago I remember reading "A Chili Sauce to Crow About" in the New York Times. It tells the story of Huy Fong Foods and the development of their infamous rooster-wearing-bottle of hot sauce. It is a story of how immigration, mixed national backgrounds and multiple passports disregard boundaries when it comes to food. Does something have to be "pure" to be authentic? And does something have to be "authentic" to be good? Obviously, not. So who cares what national label a chili sauce wears, or whether a chili sauce challenges or disobeys that label? What really counts is how much hot sauce you can eat before your faces turns the colour of a chili pepper.

And, of course, the ingredients of that hot sauce count too. As I said at the beginning, I like it both hot and homemade. I have absolutely nothing against bottled sauces, but I do have some bones to pick with the unpronounceable preservatives that a lot of them contain. This is why my partner has started referring to my philosophy about ingredients as Food Marxism. It might have something to do with a regular rant that I give about alienated labour regarding food production (which is why I am a regular at farmer's markets), the horrors of industrial meat production, and why our balcony and kitchen window are best used for growing herbs and plants. He also likes the idea that Food Marxism, like Marxism itself, comes out of Germany.

I assure you that making homemade sriracha is completely worth it. Other than chopping chilies and occasionally removing their seeds (okay and you have to blanch some garlic too), the food processor and time do most of the work (my sincere apologies if you don't have a food processor or blender of sorts). You can make the sauce as hot or as mild as you desire based on the number of chili seeds you include (although I do believe that sriracha tastes best when it is hot, hot). It lasts forever in the fridge and it has only six very easy to pronounce ingredients. 

And then what to do with it? If you are like my old roommate in Copenhagen, the lovely Mathilde, you'll eat it with everything. Bon Appetit also has an inspiring list of 25 ways to use sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

adapted from Gwenyth Paltrow's 'Notes from My Kitchen Table' 

makes about 500ml, around 2 cups 


1 small head of garlic
2 cups of packed chilies, thinly sliced and with some seeds removed according to preference (jalapenos are common to use, but use any chili you like and can find)
275 ml (1 cup and 2 1/2 tbsp) rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp fish sauce or soy sauce

Peel the head of garlic and place the cloves in a small saucepan. Add cold water just to cover and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water boils, immediately remove the pan from the heat and drain. Cool the garlic under running water and then repeat the blanching process once more. After blanching the garlic the second time, thinly slice it and then add to a medium sized pot with the chillies and rice wine vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cook for three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the agave and salt. Stir well and then let the mixture sit for 1 hour.

After 1 hour process the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce should be slightly reduced and it should have some body. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the fish or soy sauce. Once cool, transfer the mixture to a glass jar and store in the fridge. 



breakfast: here and there

I always associate Easter with brunch. I think of eggs and chocolate and chocolate eggs. I think of vases full of spring flowers and relatives dressed in pastels. I think of eating breakfast with all of the above for hours and hours.

Although I am knee deep in a thesis and I have been on the road as of late, my breakfasts have been no less serious. When you feel overwhelmingly busy and severely short on time, breakfast is the perfect excuse to just sit down and take that time out that you often feel guilty taking. Plus, isn't it silly to feel guilty about something as essential as breakfast? Few of my recent breakfasts require that much time for preparation, but they all provide the possibility of lingering and feeling and breathing (and eating) that holidays like Easter and Passover encourage.

Happy Easter weekend! 

Breakfast: here and there

  homemade lemon and pistachio granola with cardamom and flax seeds

a very full breakfast table, German style, with family in Saarland

a poached egg on date bread

apples and eggs with maple syrup

yogurt, strawberries and Swedish honey

buckwheat pancakes

Molly Wizenberg's custard filled cornbread

raspberry smoothies

hummus on toasted sourdough topped with avocado, lemon juice and salt

a sequence of breakfasts in Gothenburg with fried eggs and potatoes, grapefruit and sliced avocado 

* * * *

Honest Cooking has been nominated for the Best Group Blog in Saveur's Best Food Blogs Awards. We're pretty thrilled to say the least. You can vote for us here.


swedish knäckebröd and french applesauce

When an airline graciously allows me to travel with checked luggage without having to pay more, I always leave a little room (okay, quite a bit of room) for smuggling food. Food is a medium for strong expressions of culture. For this same reason I always make a point to visit local grocery stores and markets when traveling. How else does one learn how much the French value packaged ham and flavoured yogurts, or which sausages a German state prefers? 

When I was back in Gothenburg I stocked up on my favourite knäckebröd. The chili and sesame knäckebröd is addictive and I like it best with a soft goat cheese (perhaps one with a crust of mixed pepper). Over the weekend I was off to visit family in Saarland. One of the perks of driving to Germany's smallest state is being able to stop in Strasbourg to have lunch and raid French grocery stores (sorry Germany, but France still has my favourite grocery stores. You'll understand why once you see the size of the yogurt section). When I was an au pair in the south of France I kept a stash of applesauce, Swiss chocolate cookies and red wine in my room. The French just seem to be into good flavour combinations when it comes to applesauce. Apple-rhubarb is quite something, and apple-pear is just a classic.   

The New York Times also knows about the joys of smuggling food and a while back featured reader's photos of their edible souvenirs. Oh, the joy of travel!

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