Highly versatile and easy to make, ricotta can be used to great effect in ravioli, on sourdough toast with honey; or in beautiful summer desserts and cheesecakes.
But its delicate flavour profile also makes it a perfect partner for the darling young vegetables of May – it makes new radishes, asparagus and little lettuce hearts sing, and, with a little olive oil drizzled over it, tastes just like early summer.
I got the recipe (and indeed inspiration) for it from Skye Gyngell’s book Spring, which showcases dishes from her new restaurant in London. According to The Independent, Gyngell’s restaurant (which shares the same name as the book and follows her famous Petersham Nurseries café) offers dishes which are ‘assemblies of beautiful seasonal ingredients, largely unmessed about with, often strewn with herbs and flowers. Mains are rustic Italian in inspiration, by way of the open-minded food culture of Melbourne and Sydney’. Everything is made in-house; the look is light and airy and feminine, and fresh produce is very much the order of the day.
Makes about 250g
1 litre of whole milk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Heat the milk in a large non-reactive saucepan over a gentle heat. Add half a teaspoon of salt and stir from time to time. Once the milk has small bubbles on top and steam is beginning to rise, check the temperature using a sugar thermometer. If it’s between 82º-85ºc, it’s ready and you can pull it off the heat. If you don’t have a thermometer, just catch it in the second or two when it suddenly looks thick, just before it starts to simmer. Once it’s off the heat, add the vinegar and stir for about two minutes. Leave it to cool completely, refrigerating for a little while. Then strain all of it through a muslin-lined sieve or colander. Leave it to drain for about half an hour and then give it a few prods and squeezes. And then a few more. Once most (but not all) of the liquid has drained off and it’s holding together nicely, it’s ready. Remember, it is meant to be quite a wet cheese so don’t go overboard with the squeezing. Finish with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and maybe some fresh mint and chives, diced and strewn over it.