Monday, 21 November 2016
Burrata with crushed blackberries, castelfranco, fennel seeds and thyme
Late November and December sees the first of the bitter leaves emerge, with all kinds of multi-coloured radicchio, kale, chard and chicory now firmly on the menu. For me, learning to love these winter vegetables has been a struggle I’ve only recently overcome. Despite appearing beautifully sculpted and painfully photogenic, this produce requires a bit of work and balance to tease out the true delights. Eaten in a raw, undressed form they can be a trifle unpleasant. In the past I would often rustle up a chicory-heavy salad with very little else, and then sit dumbstruck as to why others considered it edible. But experience eventually taught me that tempering is the name of the game. Toss kale in an anchovy and garlic heavy Caesar dressing and it is suddenly no longer the yellowing bag of greens waiting patiently at the back of the fridge. Grill half a radicchio until singed and crispy and a hidden sweetness is released. Bake chard piled high with parmesan and be prepared to fight for the last spoonful. It felt like a new world had been opened, and now I actively look forward to the season coming around.
This week I’ve been rather short of time during my days off, and with daylight hours at an absolute premium at this time of year it’s been a challenge to get anything on film. In the past I have been devastated when hours of cooking time have gone to waste due to a dimly lit room and unusable photography. These days I plan my testing days more effectively, and this recipe was more of an assembly of ingredients rather than a labour at the stove.
The winter leaf of choice for this dish is castelfranco, a beautifully marked and delicate type of radicchio. Sitting toward the lower end of the face-squirmingly bitter scale, left raw it provided the perfect balance with the rich, creamy burrata and the sweetness of the blackberries. In East London I’m luckily surrounded by a number of brilliant greengrocers, but I realise that castelfranco may be an elusive beast to get hold of. In which case, regular purple radicchio, rocket or even spinach would work as a handy substitute.
2 balls of burrata
A few large leaves of castelfranco radicchio, washed and roughly torn
1 punnet of blackberries
1 tsp of fennel seeds
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 lemon, zest only
Bring a frying pan to a medium-high heat. When hot, scatter in the fennel seeds and toast for a minute or two, then pour into a bowl. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil along with a good pinch of salt and pepper, the lemon zest, fresh thyme leaves and the blackberries. Use a spoon or fork to lightly crush the blackberries and toss everything together. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Break the burrata into rough pieces and arrange onto each plate with the torn castelfranco leaves. Spoon over the blackberries and flavoured oil, making sure all of the cheese and leaves receive a bit of dressing.