In between International Dinners, we make some yoghurt at home

Saturday, 27th October 2012

We’ve had a busy couple of weekends with birthday parties for Ryan and myself, so haven’t had time to do our next International Dinner yet, Papua New Guinea is on it’s way – but in the meantime I decided to show the boys how easy it is to turn milk into natural healthy yoghurt, without all that added sugar and stabilisers etc.

Ryan is a bit of a yoghurt connoisseur – I say connoisseur, but really I just mean particularly picky. He has one favourite yoghurt brand and only likes the vanilla bean flavour of that particular brand, one week the supermarket was totally out of this particular brand so we bought another thinking it wouldn’t be an issue… he never saw the carton, but after about two bites he asked if it was the purple (packaging color) yoghurt. “I don’t like it” And that was the end of that.

So here I am vainly hoping that if I show them the magic of turning milk into yoghurt in little over 5-6 hours, that’ll be enough for him to give it a chance…

Making yoghurt is easy…

Here’s the ingredient list…

• 1L (1 quart) full cream milk
• 2Tbsp plain unsweetened store bought yoghurt with live cultures
• Sterilised jar with airtight lid
• Sterilised spoon (straight from a just finished dishwasher cycle is  sufficient, or just boil them in water for a minute or so)
• Some sort of thermometer (I used the one we have for the kids when they get sick as it doesn’t require direct contact with the liquid, but a cooking/candy thermometer would be better, and the temperature range of the kid’s thermometer is not large)

You only need the store bought yoghurt as a starter the first time, after that you can simply use 2Tbsp of the yoghurt you’ve made again and again.


Bring your two tablespoons of starter yoghurt out to warm up to room temperature while you heat the milk.

Take your full cream milk and heat it in a saucepan on a low heat until tiny froth bubbles start to cover the surface, just until it is starting to boil. Heating the milk has two purposes, it kills any undesirable bacteria already present in the milk and also chemically changes the milk enabling it create stronger bonds and therefore a thicker yoghurt. Once the milk is heated fully remove from the heat and  pour into your sterilised jar and allow to cool until 45˚C (110˚F).

At that temperature you can safely stir in the starter yoghurt (2Tbsp) without killing the live bacteria. Make sure it’s mixed thoroughly into the warm milk.

That’s pretty much it for the preparation. Now you need to incubate your yoghurt at between 35˚C and 45˚C (90˚F – 110˚F) for 5-6 hours. There’s a few ways to do this.

The method I used was to preheat the oven to 45˚C (110˚F) and using a baking dish create a water bath at temperature from the kitchen hot tap.
Then each hour I just checked the temperature inside the oven, in a good well sealed oven the temperature only dropped to about 39˚C (102˚F) over the hour, then I just turned the oven on for about 30-45 seconds to bring it back to heat and closed it  again for an hour.

You can also leave it in the sun on a warm summer’s day – just keep your eye on the temperature. The previously mentioned temperature range is optimal for “culturing” the good yoghurt bacteria, any higher and you’ll kill the bacteria, any lower and undesirable bacteria will likely take over.

Heating mats and simple insulating-yoghurtmakers are also good. And I might try the warming cycle on the rice cooker, but as a cost exercise minimal use of electricity was the aim.

Once your yoghurt has a custard like thick texture it’s up to you how long you leave it incubating, the longer, the stronger the yoghurt “tang” will be.

Once you’ve got a good yoghurt texture simply remove from heat and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight – then you’re ready to enjoy your fresh, homemade unsweetened yoghurt.

Now, back to the boys – given that Ryan only likes his special vanilla yoghurt, i showed him that we could make it simply by adding some honey for sweetness and some vanilla extract (vanilla been juice – as I called it to help by reinforcing the idea that this was just like his normal vanilla bean yoghurt).
He was not keen to even taste it as first, but after Sam had a bowl he didn’t want to be left out so had a taste, decide he liked it and ordered a bowl as well… success… he did get me to add a little extra honey as well to it… He left a couple of spoonfuls behind, which I tried, that was a little too sweet for me… but all good… maybe we can wean him off his “purple yoghurt” (making it at home is 1/3 the cost of buying it!)

Next up Papua New Guinea… Ryan’s had friend’s birthday party’s this weekend so we haven’t really had a chance to go grocery shopping yet…

Just a final note on the yoghurt, when you first open it up just give it a sniff, if it’s really repugnant then something has gone wrong in the process (like bad bacteria sneaking in) and you’ll definitely be able to smell it a mile away…! Otherwise it should mildly yoghurty-smelling… 😀


International Dinner Project #35 Ryan goes Gangnam!

We had a brief break from our International Dinner, to celebrate Ryan’s birthday, but now we’re back at it… and Ryan’s back into his groove, taking a while to choose…

Intergalactic Dinner Project: Star Wars Old Republic

We took a brief break from international dinners so we could have a birthday party for Ryan, there was no way I was going to try and make a Star Wars birthday cake AND try and do an International Dinner – I needed a lie down after the party as it was!

But we’re back at it again, with Ryan choosing his next country…

International Dinner: Norwegian pepper cookies and fish burgers

Sunday, 30 September

When we told Samuel that we had been to Norway on our honeymoon, he asked “Did you see any witches?” And that’s when the penny dropped, he had chosen Norway because of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” which I have been reading to the boys each night, and in the story Norway has the highest concentration of witches. Their absolute favourite part? “Children are rrrrevolting, children is smelling of dogs droppings. Dogs droppings is smelling of violets and primroses compared to the stench of a child!”

I don’t recall having any of these dishes there apart from maybe the Skolebrød which I think we may have had at our continental breakfasts at the hotel, but everything was so expensive over there that we only went out to dinner once – I mean a Big Mac combo was 4 times the price we pay in New Zealand, and it was the end of the honeymoon so the cash reserves were running out…

Spinatsuppe (Spinach Suppe)
Lefse (Potato flatbread)

First up tonight is Spinach Soup. If you find a new food the boys like, use it regularly is my motto (mainly so they don’t forget that they like it – it’s happened before!). But having said that, Spinach soup may be a hard sell, Ryan loves spinach fresh, but not cooked so much – but there’s no harm in trying especially since the base is chicken soup. I think the green colour may be what was offputting for the boys, Samuel did have a taste though, he’s getting really good at trying new foods at least. But I ended up finishing his off. A healthy starter to be sure, and the adults enjoyed it so I think at least up grown-ups might have that again as it’s quite simple and quick to make. Traditional served with a slice of hard boiled egg on top – but I wasn’t going to push it tonight!

On the night I had too much cooking at the same time and I was really dreading these Lefse, rolling a potato dough out as thin as a pancake (flapjack for you Americans) looked to me to be a task fraught with expletives and doomed to failure, making the sticky potato Kroppkakor had given me an incorrect view of this dough. So on the night, although I had already prepared the dough I opted for  serving everything while it was still hot and the kids were in a good mood – and passed this planned dish, I did however cook it the next night and it was actually not that difficult at all, the end result was pretty much a perfect light, fluffly, spongey pancake/crêpe/flapjack, more time consuming than the pancakes we normally make, but a good way to get the kids to eat potatoes without knowing it!!

Sam’s rating: 2/10
Ryan’s rating: 4/44
It’s like a pancake”

Rugbrød (Rye Bread – Rolls)
Fiskekaker (Fish Patties)
Gløgg (Norwegian mulled wine)

Looking for recipes for the main meal I came across a few, so I gave the boys a choice.

“Fishburgers!” was the unanimous reply.

So I found a nice norwegian bread recipe and adapted it to good size buns. Quite simple, similar in flavour to the Icelandic Thunderbread, except instead of slow cooking to develop a molasses flavour, this on had molasses added to it, it was softer and lighter than the Thunderbread though. The flavour was a little strong than the boys liked, but the fish cakes were a hit, both Sam and Ryan polished there’s off with even less coaxing than a normal dinner night – so they were a good success, easy to make as well.

The Fiskekaker were simply pureed fresh fish fillets, chives, nutmeg, pepper, and egg to bind it, easy to cook and the kids loved them – totally different to the standard fish fillets we normally serve them so we might try those again!

Now the Gløgg, a good Viking drink, to warm you in the middle of a cold norwegian night. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we had our first proper spring day, with full sun on Sunday, so we weren’t feeling very wintery, but the gløgg was a hit with the adults, and the boys were allowed a little sip (the brandy in the soaked raisins was quite warming). Even the boys thought their little snifter was tasty, so just as long as they don’t get a taste for it!

Sam’s rating: 11/10
Ryan’s rating: X-Infinity / Infinity
GLØGG: (just one sip!)
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 44/40

Skolebrød (School Bread)
Pepperkaker (literally Pepper cakes) RECIPE

I’d have to say, decorating the pepperkaker was the most enthusiasm I’ve had from both boys to help cooking, there was almost a fish over who got to ice first! These cookies are like gingerbread except there is not ginger in the recipe, black pepper provides that zing! Interesting, not too sweet, but very tasty reminiscent of the speculaas cookies from the Netherlands, similar dough, completely different spices. Cardamom is a popular spice in these scandinavian countries, and it makes nice change from what we’re used to. Traditianlly they’re a christmas (or holiday) treat, so we made sure we included some christmas tree shaped ones. The boys had great fun decorating them, and I think as much chocolate went in the boys as on the cookies.

Skolebrød looked interesting, apparently it’s as its name suggests, a food good for putting in school lunches. As we have just started school holidays we were safe from having to include it in their school lunches next week. A cross between a bread and a pastry, sugar glazed with sprinkled coconut and a vanilla pudding centre, they were just as popular with the adults as they were with the kids (well apart from Ryan – he was busy filling up on pepperkaker I think he ended up have 5 or 6!)

Sam’s rating: Infinity / Infinity
Ryan’s rating: Wouldn’t try them because of the gooey centre
Sam’s rating: X-infinity / Infinity
Ryan’s rating: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz / infinity (suffice to say he liked them)

I was very impressed with the Norwegian food, and that spinach soup definitely felt healthy, good for the iron intake!

International Dinner, Sam gets inspired…

Sam’s country choice has been inspired by Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” which I’ve been reading to them for a bedtime story the last week or so – now we know why he was so eager to choose a country!