So now I am going to tell you about the time I made my own cheese

molto delicioso

I am willing to bet that you could guess the origins of Capri salad (aka “Caprese salad”) by its name. Some people add other ingredients but this basic tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella salad is, to me, the epitome of simplicity and style in food preparation. I featured it in my recent tapas menu as a palate cleanser.

As there are so few ingredients, the quality of each element is apparent in the flavour of the dish, hence it is important to source the best of what you can find. That said, my local shops were distinctly lacking in buffalo mozzarella the last time I muddled this salad together, so I used the next best option available to me: bocconcini.

Recipe #52: Capri Salad. Serves around 4 people as a side.

Cut four roma tomatoes into thin slices crossways. Take at least five balls of bocconcini (regular size rather than baby) and cut each ball into slices, or tear into rough pieces — it all depends on how perfect or rustic you want the end result to look. Layer the tomato and bocconcini slices with basil leaves, which can be torn or sliced.To finish, rub a good pinch of salt flakes between your fingers and let it sprinkle over the salad; follow with some freshly cracked pepper, a swirl of good olive oil and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Buonissimo.

Clearly, I did not make the bocconcini featured above. I did, however, recently make paneer, an Indian cottage cheese. Twice.

Recipe #53: Paneer. All you need is milk and lemon juice. Makes around 180g of cheese.

My thanks to the lovely Turban Chopsticks team for introducing me to this method. You can find a recipe with pictures at wikiHow.

Bring 2L of full cream milk to the boil in a saucepan, then stir in 60mL of lemon juice and turn down the heat. Stir continuously until the mixture separates; you are essentially making curds and whey! If, after about a minute of stirring, the liquid in the pot is still looking quite milky, then add a little more lemon juice and stir for another minute.

Remove the curds from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a cloth [I used a fresh Chux superwipe and all was good]. Wrap tightly and squeeze out the extra liquid, then run under warm water for about 10 seconds. Press out the additional liquid, then place in a colander under a heavy weight (eg. mortar & pestle) for about an hour; more pressing time will lead to a firmer cheese.

Paneer is used as a feature or accompaniment in many Indian dishes, such as palak paneer (a spinach and paneer curry), but I prefer to serve this ricotta-like cheese cut into squares, simply grilled and warmed with olives.


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