Jan Bilton cooks with mascarpone, creme fraiche, labna, buttermilk and sour cream
Labna, crème fraiche, mascarpone, buttermilk and sour cream are dairy delights that have become synonymous with enticing eats.
Labna is a Middle Eastern staple — a ‘cheese’ prepared from salted yoghurt. It is easily prepared at home and is a fave of mine to offer with nibbles. It can be marinated and spread on crusty bread; or if left plain, spread on breakfast toast and drizzled with honey and hazelnuts; added to crisp salads; served on sautéed greens; and it makes an interesting addition to soups.
Buttermilk — which is a little like a thin yoghurt — is made commercially by adding special bacteria to non-fat or low-fat milk, giving it a slightly thickened texture and a tangy flavour. Some people enjoy it in smoothies. It is also adds lightness to muffins, scones and fruit loaves. Just ensure a little baking soda is incorporated in the recipe. However, a substitute buttermilk can be made at home. Place one tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring cup and top up with milk to the 250ml level. Stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes. The milk should look curdled.
Instant sour cream can be prepared using a similar method. Place one cup of cream in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Whisk vigorously. Stand for 15 minutes then store in the fridge for up to two days.
Crème fraiche may be lightly whipped. Add to savoury or sweet sauces; combine with chopped fresh herbs as a dip; add chilli and/or coriander as a topping for tacos or curries; serve on hot vegetables, fish, cold fruit salads, cakes, apple pies; and add to cheesecakes. To make your own creme fraiche combine 2 cups cream and 2 Tablespoons of cultured buttermilk in a glass bowl. Cover and stand for 12 hours at (a cool) room remperature. Store in an airtight, non-metallic container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 cups.
Recipe: Pea, spinach and mascarpone soup
Recipe: Buttermilk fried chicken