Monday, 25 April 2016
Last week I drove down to Brighton on a whistle-stop trip to see my parents. I’ve reached a point in my life where visiting mum and dad is no longer a needy, adolescent excursion to get my laundry done and excavate every scrap of decent cheese out of the fridge. These days I bring my own shampoo and toothpaste, and I adore the hours spent sitting around the worn marble kitchen table of my childhood, chatting away about mum’s recent paintings or the current state of the allotment (always “a total mess”, which is a total lie). Somehow the time is slower and the air that bit fresher just an hour south of The Smoke, almost a mini-holiday with the doors to the garden flung open and the squarks from resident seagulls a gentle background.
My parents have always been wonderful hosts, and on all of these fleeting visits I get spoilt rotten. Upon arrival dad will brandish a perfectly-forked, golden cottage pie. You can bet the house that mum will have made crumble or cake. As I sit there stuffed like a pig, mum will plonk coffee and more wine on the table and remind me that “there’s cheese in the fridge”. Recently I have decided to reverse this trend and cook them lunch instead. Although always simple and quick to prepare, it’s lovely to now be the one making the fuss. Living in London also provides me with an almost endless larder of interesting and seasonal ingredients that are near impossible to source elsewhere. Over Easter we feasted on seared scallops with Sicilian lemons and castelfranco radicchio, followed by fall-apart mutton tossed through pici that we had rolled by hand that morning.
Last week I upped my lunch game. Spring was on the turn and with it emerged a glut of glorious new ingredients. The first asparagus started peeping through the earth, and a large box in my car boot contained a pair of lively, new season native lobsters. To start lunch though, I wanted something stripped-back and easy, that could be plonked down with minimal effort. Burrata has become somewhat of a darling in the modern London restaurant scene, and thankfully through such popularity it is reasonably easy to source these glorious, cream-filled globes. Yet I knew that my parents would never have tried it before, and after years of fridge-raiding, it felt apt to finally provide the cheese.
Over the last few weeks, Gwyneth Paltrow has taken a bit of a bashing in the food media for including a recipe for fried eggs in a recent cookbook. But in much the same way, to serve my burrata I did little more than scoop the soft cheese from their little baskets and popped them straight onto a plate. Although often served with pickles or vegetables, I drew inspiration from the newly-opened Padella restaurant, where it is served simply with a glug of good oil and some seasoning. And that, along with a few slices of good sourdough, was all that was needed.