Making curds and whey is a nostalgic practice, a very basic form of cheese-making that can be done at home quite easily. You can buy vegetarian rennet online, at some supermarkets and at specialist and health food shops; some people still use it to make junket, a sweet version of curds. Oh, and of course curds were made famous by a certain Little Miss Muffet.
A nice variation to this recipe are garlic-flavoured curds: simply add a garlic clove to the milk before heating.
6 golfball-sized beetroots
400ml whole milk
juice of ½ lemon
20g sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
50g toasted sunflower seeds (see here)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
Tightly wrap the beetroots in foil and put on a baking tray. Bake for 50 minutes, turning them halfway through. Pierce one with a knife; there should be no resistance.
Meanwhile, make the curds: gently heat the milk, lemon juice and salt to 40°C (105°F) on a thermometer, or until it feels as if it is at blood temperature. If it gets too hot, it won’t work.
Take off the heat and gently stir in the rennet in one direction. Allow to rest for 30 minutes; it will look a bit scrambled, as if it is separating, which of course it is.
Lay a muslin cloth or clean tea towel in a sieve set over a bowl and carefully pour the curds into the cloth. Let them sit for 20 minutes. Transfer the curds to a container and reserve the whey for another recipe (see here).
Leave the beetroot until cool enough to handle, then peel it and slice into wedges (you may wish to wear plastic gloves for this, as it stains).
To serve, put the beetroot in a bowl, season, then add spoonfuls of curds and a sprinkling of toasted sunflower seeds.