Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Smoked mozzarella with spring greens, wild garlic and lardo

Winter seems like it is finally waning. Although those bright mornings still hide a nasty chill, there’s no supressing those green shoots in every park and garden. Ingredients long forgotten are creeping back onto the shelves of my local greengrocers, and my mum and dad excitedly tell me about all of the exciting produce that is coming to fruit at their allotment. I won’t lie, I look forward to the next time I leave their home not clutching yet another bag of sprouts and leeks. 

This week I have teamed up again with Campo Viejo, who challenged me to come up with a recipe celebrating this change of seasons. Even on the telly recently, food programmes championing the spring have focussed on glamorous vegetables such as asparagus and peas. To me these aren’t true spring vegetables, and we’ve still got a little while before their seasons truly start. I think of proper old fashioned greens about now, leaves like chard, spinach and cabbages along with the seemingly ever-present broccoli. These all seem to take a lower-ranking, yet I wanted to create a dish that showed that they can be equally as delicious.
As ever my first place to look for recipe inspiration is my local greengrocers at Newington Green. It really is superb, and somewhere that despite moving half an hour away I still return to. On this occasion they had wonderful bunches of cime di rapa, greens that look like spindly, leafy broccoli. Although I had never cooked with them before I just had to have some. There was also a massive pile of wild garlic. Even though the hype surrounding this little herb gets to silly levels every year, finding it on every ‘trendy’ menu in town, it is always something that I look forward to eating. Old favourites of garlic, chilli and lemon were also purchased to bring the dish to life.
For a centrepiece to this warm salad of greens I decided on a globe of wonderfully smokey buffalo mozzarella. Although burrata seems to have stolen the thunder of mozzarella of late, I still think that good quality, creamy mozzarella is hard to beat. I wanted to take this a step further for this recipe by quickly giving it a blast of smoke. Both brassicas and cheese love a hint of bitter, charred flavour so this gentle smokiness helped round everything together. Being a longwinded cook by nature I did this in my garden at home, but if you are short of time or can’t be bothered, try any good Italian deli or cheese specialist.
Back to the wine. I felt that the smokey, earthy and creamy nature of the dish required a fresh accompaniment, so I decided to serve it with a glass of the 2012 Garnacha. This provided a light contrast, perfect on a gloriously sunny spring afternoon.
Serves 2
For the mozzarella:
2 balls of smoked mozzarella (if you can’t find any, a good creamy buffalo mozzarella will do)
For the greens:
2 good handfuls of spring greens such as sprouting broccoli, spinach, cime di rapa or chard 
½ a lemon, zest and juice 
A sprinkle of dried chilli flakes 
1 garlic clove, grated
For the wild garlic:
8-10 wild garlic leaves 
A squeeze of lemon juice 
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
To finish:
8 slice of lardo 
A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil 
Salt and pepper

If you are using thicker greens such are sprouting broccoli or the heads from the cimi de rapa it is nice to grill them. Preheat the grill to high. Arrange the greens onto an oven tray and toss with salt and pepper and a little oil. Grill for 4-5 minutes, until tender and slightly crisp and charred. Dress with a squeeze of lemon juice. Keep warm. 

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the leafier greens for 2-3 minutes or until just tender.
While the greens are simmering, heat a generous amount of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Gently cook the garlic, chilli and lemon zest for one minute. When the greens are ready transfer them into the frying pan using tongs and toss to combine. 

Dress the wild garlic with a little lemon juice and olive oil.
Arrange the greens onto each plate around a ball of the mozzarella. Top with slices of the lardo and some wild garlic leaves. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil, some more chilli flakes and some salt and pepper.

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