From Afrim Pristine’s salad of tomatoes, toasted almonds and prosciutto to Alison Roman’s crushed pea and black olive recipe, these burrata dishes are the perfect springtime starter.
It’s always a happy day when we discover a simple way to elevate our food, whether that’s with the help of a cooking hack from a wise grandmother, or by simply experimenting with a new ingredient. A tablespoon of miso, perhaps, or a swirl of tahini: one ingredient can transform a plate of homemade food into something exceptional.
Burrata is one such ingredient. Derived from the Italian word burro (meaning butter), this semi-soft, fresh cheese hails from the Murgia region of south-eastern Italy.
While it looks very similar to mozzarella – which is also one of burrata’s key ingredients – there are key differences. On the outside, burrata has a shell made from stretched curd; but break open the casing, and inside you’ll find a lush mixture of cream and shredded curds called stracciatella (little rags). It is, frankly, a dreamy concoction.
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Even if you haven’t frequented the deli counter recently (or ever, for that matter) to pick up fresh burrata, chances are you’ve eaten the soft stuff in restaurants. Relatively unknown a few years ago, it’s now a staple at restaurants across the UK – from Number 16 in Glasgow (where it’s served as a starter with asparagus, fresh pea, lemon and pine nuts) to Hispi in Manchester (where it comes with pickled kohlrabi, chilli crackers and a blackened spring onion dressing) and Gloria in London (which has an entire burrata section on its menu).
Quite simply, burrata lends a luxurious edge to everything it touches. If you fancy cooking with it at home, you can order it online via Farmdrop, Ocado or The Fine Cheese Co – and we have three irresistible recipes to try below.
For a straightforward but devastatingly effective summer recipe, start with Afrim Pristine’s pretty burrata salad. The Canadian cheesemaker serves burrata with ripe tomatoes, toasted almonds and slivers of serrano ham or prosciutto (and can speak from experience about the challenges of attempting to craft your own burrata from scratch).
Alison Roman likes to eat burrata with crushed peas and black olives, an elegant dish that’s given added texture thanks to roughly torn spicy greens and fresh mint leaves.
Chef Theo Randall, meanwhile, pairs burrata with asparagus, parmesan, fried sage leaves and pangrattato – a type of garlicky Italian breadcrumbs. Any of these dishes would make a perfect spring lunch or dinner party starter – enjoy.
Afrim Pristine’s burrata salad
Afrim says: “When I was in Italy years ago, I visited a dairy that specialized in burrata (fresh mozzarella stuffed with fresh cream) and was invited to try my hand at making it. I thought it would be straightforward for a cheese genius like me (NOT), but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“There I was, on a cheese assembly line with about 20 70-year-old women, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t line up the mozzarella cheese ball with the stracciatella cream nozzle. Either I made too large of a hole for the nozzle, or I injected too much cream and made the cheese ball break. Maybe I was just too clumsy for the task altogether. Any which way you put it, I failed, and all the Italian nonnas kept pointing at me and laughing. I never knew that little old Italian ladies could be so cruel.
“In this recipe, I won’t ask you to try to make burrata, but I will say that getting the freshest summer ingredients is a must.”
- 225g burrata cheese (1 large ball, or 2 smaller balls)
- 8 medium-sized ripe field tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 12 small leaves basil, coarsely chopped
- 85ml toasted Spanish Marcona almonds (can be found at a specialty food store)
- 250ml baby rocket
- 60ml extra-virgin olive oil
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 thin slices Spanish serrano ham or Italian prosciutto
- aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Drain the burrata cheese from its liquid and, over a large bowl, tear it into small pieces with your hands.
Arrange the tomato wedges and burrata cheese pieces on a serving platter. Top with basil leaves, almonds, and baby arugula.
Drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drape the ham around the salad. Drizzle with the aged balsamic vinegar.
The key to eating this dish is to get all the ingredients in 1 bite. Buon appetito!
From For The Love Of Cheese: Recipes And Wisdom From The Cheese Boutique by Afrim Pristine (£20.99, Appetite), out now
Alison Roman’s crushed peas with burrata and black olives
Alison says: “I’m sure you’ve already figured this out, but I’ll say it anyway. This ‘salad’ is just an excuse to eat an extraordinary amount of cheese. It’s also a way to eat an extraordinary amount of peas, which I love.
“For what it’s worth, I am not the kind of person who insists on shelling in-season, farmers’ market peas (I think frozen peas are pretty damn good and can absolutely be used here), but if you happen upon them, there is no dish more worthy of the glory of fresh peas than this one.”
- 30g oil-cured black olives or Castelvetrano olives, pitted
- 80ml olive oil
- 315g fresh peas, or thawed frozen peas
- 2 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
- flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 125g roughly torn spicy greens, such as mustard greens or rocket
- 1 large handful mint leaves, torn
- 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
- 1 handful parsley, tender leaves and stems
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, plus extra to taste
- 2 balls of burrata cheese, drained (you can also use mozzarella; just expect a different visual)
Combine the olives and olive oil in a small bowl; set aside.
Place half the peas in a medium bowl. Using your hands (or, if you’re more refined and/or own one, a potato masher), crush the peas. (You’re looking for crushed peas, not a purée, so don’t bother using a food processor.)
Add the remaining peas and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the greens, mint, chives, parsley and lemon juice together in another medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and a bit more lemon juice if you like.
Tear the cheese into pieces and arrange on a large serving platter or in a shallow bowl (you can also cut the burrata, but tearing it is much easier). Scatter the peas on and around the burrata.
Top with the olive mixture, followed by the spicy greens and herbs.
Peas can be seasoned a day ahead, covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator.
From Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food For Having People Over by Alison Roman (£23, Hardie Grant), out now
Theo Randall’s burrata with asparagus, pangrattato and sage
Theo says: “This is one of those dishes you have to taste to appreciate. It sounds odd combining the burnt butter with burrata, but it works beautifully.
“Thicker-stem asparagus tends to work better than thinner versions, but the important thing to remember is to cook the asparagus slowly in the oil. Fried sage and pangrattato and a fine grating of parmesan finish this dish beautifully.”
Serves 2 as a starter
- 200g asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 1 tbsp good olive oil
- 50g unsalted butter
- 6 sage leaves
- 2 x 125g burrata
- 50g parmesan, finely grated
- sea salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
For the pangrattato:
- 50ml sunflower oil
- 1 garlic clove, quartered
- 50g fresh or dried breadcrumbs
To make the pangrattato, place the sunflower oil in a small saucepan on a medium heat. When hot, add the garlic quarters and cook until lightly golden, then add the breadcrumbs and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the time, until the breadcrumbs are a light golden colour.
Drain into a fine metal sieve, season with salt and leave to cool.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus and boil until tender (about 3 minutes). Remove the asparagus from the water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Place the asparagus in a bowl with the olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Place a frying pan on a medium heat and, when hot, add the coated asparagus.
Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly, turning regularly, until the asparagus start to go slightly golden. Remove and leave to one side.
In the same frying pan, melt the butter and add the sage leaves. Cook until the sage goes crispy (about 2 minutes).
Remove the sage from the pan and drain on kitchen paper, but keep cooking the butter on a medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it goes a nutty brown. Pour it into a small bowl.
To serve, divide the cooked asparagus between plates. Top each with a burrata, then sprinkle over the sage and pangrattato.
Drizzle over the burnt butter then finish with the grated parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper.
From The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating The Best Of Italian Ingredients by Theo Randall (£26, Quadrille), out now
Photography: © Lizzie Mayson; Steven Elphick; © Michael Graydon/Nikole Herriott
For The Love Of Cheese copyright © 2018 Afrim Pristine. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved