|In the kitchen at Zigi's Wine & Cheese Bar, Abercrombie Street, Chippendale|
Bar owner Zigi Ozeri is our cheese master of the day, although he's also bar tender, personal chef, cooking class teacher and industry body representative through his normal week.P
He learnt his cheese trade from Marrickville-based, Italian cheese maestros, Paesanella, which also sponsors his technologically-sophisticated and spacious kitchen, used for Zigi's numerous cooking classes.
|Adding salt to natural yoghurt for labneh|
In this particular class, we were going to make less labourious fresh cheeses like labneh, mozzarella, haloumi and feta (and ricotta) though it was a squeeze for time to achieve all these in four hours.
Technically not cheese but strained yoghurt, labneh is the easiest of all and the one I would most likely try at home. Simply stir natural yoghurt with a fair whack of salt and slug of olive oil, and you're half way there.
|Putting stirred yoghurt into a cheesecloth|
Have a bowl ready to put underneath because there's a serious amount of yoghurt seepage in the beginning. Towards the end, what drips out from the yoghurt looks like clear water.
|Yoghurt/labneh ready for hanging|
We moved on to mozzarella, which in this class was to be a mozzarella di bufala as Zigi had sourced fresh buffalo milk, only lightly pasteurised, from somewhere in Western Australia.
There's no raw milk for commercial sale in Australia, although 'bath milk' and other loopholes are still vexing the regulators and delighting small cheesemakers.
|Putting milk with rennet into a controlled water bath|
|Checking the milk temperature|
|Rennet in liquid form|
|Adding the rennet to the milk|
|The milk starting to curdle|
|Cutting the curds|
|Curds and whey|
|Draining curds from whey|
|Breaking up the curds|
|Pouring brine over the crumbled curds|
|Zigi stretching curds for mozzarella|
|Forming bocconcini cheese|
We had a quick sample before moving on to other cheeses, and I'm not just saying, but it was pretty decent (though still not quite on par with the real deal I had in Italy, probably unpasteurised).
|Adding mint leaves to milk|
There is also the addition of mint leaves to the milk and throughout, which I've never noticed in commercially-bought haloumi before.
|Adding rennet to the haloumi milk mixture|
|Pouring hot brine over haloumi curds|
|Curds setting for feta cheese|
|Feta curds draining|
|Pressing curds for feta|
|Putting curds into a basket|
|Labneh served with olive oil, za'atar and flat bread|
|Sprinkling za'atar on the pizza base|
|Mozzarella, chilli and za'atar pizza|
Amid all the hands-on work, Zigi was kindly pouring us a number of wines from the bar. Being warm milk, spoons and colanders in the kitchen, I suppose he wasn't too worried about us injuring ourselves while drink-cooking in the kitchen.
Five days later...
We returned to Zigi's Wine & Cheese Bar on a Friday night, with Zigi himself behind the bar serving wines to locals and others in the very cosy space.
Feeling a little special, we were able to go back to the scene of cheese making and behold our matured creations.
It was intensely salty, best served with something or as part of an overall dish than eaten on its own as we did to sample.
Nonetheless, this was rectified easily as we were having the haloumi grilled, at which point salt could be added. Cutting the haloumi into thick slices, I could see the lumpiness of curds was only a visual feature on the surface of the cheese, with the middle as smooth as the feta.
|Grilled haloumi cheese with lemon|
Fun, educational and satisfying for any cheese lover, the cheese making class was a great success overall. Many thanks go to the gregarious Chef Zigi, whose knowledge, humour and patience in the kitchen make the class a fantastic experience, especially for kitchen newbies.
Zigi's is holding the cheese making class twice weekly during next month's Crave Sydney International Food Festival as a Hands On cooking class- see here for details and bookings. And see my Facebook page for more photos from the cheese making class.
Food, booze and shoes attended the Cheese Making Class as a guest of Zigi's, with thanks to Michael Shafran.