When you finally find a food you first had years ago, and have been thinking about since (thanks in no small part to a global mania for this ingredient that somehow skips your town), you want to celebrate it. You want to make a simple dish, using the freshest ingredients and the lightest of touches; and you want to break out the prosecco to have alongside it, because you’ve been scanning every chiller aisle for it for years; even in places you know won’t have it.
The ingredient in question here is burrata, buffalo mozzarella’s grown-up, cooler, more beautiful cousin. It’s like the essence of buffalo mozzarella, but is a more delicate little construction, holding a creamy centre of ‘rags’ of mozzarella which are, unsurprisingly, pretty delicious.
Once you’ve had it, burrata stays in your mind. I first had it about eight years ago in a Pisa restaurant, encouraged into trying it by an enthusiastic Italian waiter. After worrying a little about what it would taste like initially (I was – and still am – a bit of a wimp when it comes to trying new cheeses), I was transfixed by its perfect, saline whiteness when it arrived, eating it with just salt and olive oil, and adoring every forkful.
Having finally found it in Dublin a few days ago, I decided to make a really simple salad that could be eaten like an antipasti plate, because in my experience, burrata always ends up getting shared anyway.
To make it, flatten your burrata (or buffalo mozzarella ball) with the back of a spoon and spread the pieces across your serving plate. Slice a ripe nectarine and move the segments around the plate. Roll slices of speck or parma ham up, with the line of fat on the outside, so that they look like roses, and place them throughout the nectarine slices and burrata. Add some pea shoots, and then drop a handful of peas and blueberries over it all. Tuck mint and basil leaves in around it all; cover with a good grating of black pepper and drizzle good olive oil over it. You could also add a little balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar.
Two last burrata hits:
-For another use for your burrata, try it with aglio e olio spaghetti, peas, baby courgettes and fresh herbs. Boil spaghetti, and, in a large frying pan, gently heat olive oil with diced garlic, chili flakes and sliced courgette. When the spaghetti is ready, tip it into the frying pan, add the peas and toss for a minute or two over heat. Dress with herbs and set the burrata ball on top of it just before serving. Then tear it asunder at the table and dig in.
– For stylish bar snacks (burrata with chili flakes; marinated artichokes; bright green olives; lardo toast); light, delicious main courses (broccoli and crab ravioli; rigatoni with n’duja and buffalo mozzarella), and a general feeling that Dublin can be fun, fun, fun once again, try Luna, below Super Miss Sue, on Drury Street. The decor is all clubby, basement Italian-American eatery, with velvet tuxedoes, a dessert trolley being pushed around the restaurant by droll servers, and a bar with ‘Campari’ and ‘Aperol’ over it in lights. But the atmosphere, diners and overheard snippets of conversation are most definitely Irish, making it a fantastic spot for people watching, eavesdropping….and working out what the next boom will look like.