An unexpected delivery of “wondrous white stuff” has Kathy Paterson celebrating cheese month.
I recently had a delivery from the gorgeous Massimiliano De Caro of Il Cassaro cheeses. If I was expecting this 7pm delivery I would not have been languishing in the bath! Luckily my observant neighbours came to the rescue and relieved Massimiliano of his cheeses to give to me later on so I could share some recipes for this “wondrous white stuff” with you all.
Il Casaro mozzarella is made by hand from organic brown jersey and friesian cow’s milk. The classic mozzarella fiordilatte is round and made in different sizes. Freshness is the key — eat as soon as you can. Mozzarella should be taken out of the fridge at least 20 minutes prior to eating. Slice it and allow to rest. Resting allows the cheese to relax and release its milky juices and intensify the flavour. Italians serve mozzarella drizzled with extra virgin olive oil — tomato and basil are extras.
No longer do we have to travel to Italy for burrata cheese, it’s being made right here. The best way to explain barrata is like this — mozzarella is shaped into a pouch, small scraps of mozzarella are stuffed into them and these are topped with fresh cream before being closed off with a "cheese" knot. If it sounds complicated that's because burrata is a very complicated cheese to make. Timing is important; one mistake and the pouch can break. To enjoy burrata at its best you should eat it as fresh as possible.
Ricotta is a fresh cheese, grainy in texture with a creamy white appearance and slightly sweet taste.
Burrata with grilled asparagus and rocket
Burrata cheese with fresh asparagus is a springtime pleasure. Serve with a rocket salad and chargrilled sourdough bread which has been brushed with extra virgin olive oil before grilling. If you're feeling a bit fanciful, blanch a few chives to tie around the knot.
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice or chardonnay vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp liquid honey
16 thick asparagus spears, bottom of each stem snapped off
Olive oil for rubbing
4 handfuls rocket leaves
2 x 80g fresh burrata
- Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill until hot.
- Place oil, lemon juice, mustard and honey in a screw top jar with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Shake well and adjust seasoning to taste.
- If you like to, use a vegetable peeler to lightly peel the asparagus stems or just peel away the spikes. Rub asparagus with a little oil and season. Place on the hot grill and cook, turning regularly until black grill marks appear. Use the point of a small sharp knife to check if the asparagus is just tender. Remove from grill and place in a loose pile on a large platter.
- Dress the rocket with enough vinaigrette to moisten and place alongside the asparagus. Place on the fresh burrata and serve with extra vinaigrette. When you slice open the fresh burrata, a creamy centre flows out.
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Quesadillas with mozzarella, smashed avocado and fresh chorizo
These cheese-filled tortillas are the Mexican equivalent of our toasted sandwich. Serve as soon as they are cooked or they will be a bit chewy.
Chorizo sausages vary in the amount of spice they contain so choose ones that suits your taste. If you have mild chorizo sausages and want a bit more spice, add some chopped fresh chilli to the avocado mixture.
4 fresh chorizo sausages, meat removed from their skins 1 avocado
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
8 mini flour tortillas
200g mozzarella, drained and cut into thin slices
- Place chorizo sausage meat in a large frying pan and cook over a medium-hot heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon to break up the meat, about 4 minutes or until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and wipe out frying pan.
- Halve, remove stone and peel the avocado. Place on a large plate with lemon zest and juice and roughly mash with a fork. Season with salt.
- Heat frying pan (or use the flat plate on your barbecue) until warm.
- Place 1 tortilla on the bench top, spread with some avocado mixture, sprinkle over some of the cooked chorizo and top with mozzarella slices. Cover with another tortilla. Repeat with remaining tortilla.
- Carefully lift 2 filled tortillas into the frying pan and cook for about 1 minute, then turn over and cook the other side. Remove from pan and cut into triangles. Eat then cook the remaining 2 filled tortillas.
If using 4 large tortillas
Place 1 tortilla in the frying pan, spread avocado mixture on to 1 half with the chorizo and cheese. Fold the tortilla over the cheese and press the edges together gently to seal. Cook for 1 minute then turn over and cook the other side.
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Ricotta and raspberry tarts
My greengrocer had beautiful local raspberries when I made these recently. You could use frozen raspberries, but watch the amount of liquid; you will need to reduce it down. Or make a lemon filling (see below).
Use whatever size tart tins you have, use smaller tins if you wish to make more tarts, or cut out pastry into thin rounds, cook as you would shortbread biscuits and sandwich together with the filling. Any excess pastry can be formed into a ball and rolled out again.
For the tart cases 250g sweet shortcrust pastry, I used Paneton, pre-rolled sweet shortcrust
2 x 120g chips fresh raspberries
¼ cup caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup ricotta (about 2 Tbsp per tart)
Few drops vanilla extract
Icing sugar for dusting
- Heat the oven to 190C. You will need 8 tart tins (8cm x 2cm deep), and a shallow baking tray.
- Roll the sweet pastry a little thinner than usual, then using the rim of the tart tins, cut out the pastry to fit into each tin. (This will give you shallow tart cases once baked. Alternatively, you could use a cutter slightly larger than surface of the tins to cut out rounds). Place pastry rounds in the tins and using a piece of excess pastry rolled into a small ball, press pastry into tins. With a fork, prick the bases a couple of times.
- To bake blind, cut out small pieces of baking paper to cover pastry, then fill with rice. Place on the shallow baking tray and place in the refrigerator to firm up for at least 10 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the rice, then the baking paper and return to the oven to dry out for 3-4 minutes, but watch they don’t colour too much. Remove from oven and leave to cool a little and firm up before removing tart cases from their tins.
- Place 200g raspberries in a small saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until raspberries begin to collapse. Remove raspberries and cook juices until syrupy. Return raspberries to juice and leave to cool.
- Place ricotta in a bowl with the grated lemon rind and vanilla extract. Gently stir through the remaining 40g raspberries, breaking them up a little as you stir.
- To serve, place half of the cooked raspberry mixture in the base of each tart, dollop over the ricotta mixture then top with remaining raspberry mixture. Dust with icing sugar before serving for added sweetness.
Make up a quantity of thick lemon curd to replace the raspberry mixture. Mix about ¼ cup chopped candied peel through the ricotta with lemon rind and vanilla extract.