Fresh Buffalo Curd Summer Salad
I have always had the interest to try and make cheese but never really got round to do so. As a young commis chef I had this fixation and dream to give my job up for a year and travel through France, visiting the cheese making regions (most of France that is!) and do voluntarily work for the small artisan cheese makers. Well that remained a dream as I was never motivated enough to learn to speak French or to save enough money to give up my job and take a year out.
English cheeses were never looked at twice in my previous workplaces, mainly because these were establishments and restaurants specialising in modern French cuisine. It was not fashionable to serve English produce back then. It’s only recently, shall we say the past five/ six years, that British produce enjoys the focus and centre of attention. I’m very privileged to be in the thick of things at the minute and enjoy the best of British produce. Using produce, in season, is enjoying a Renaissance and I almost feel closer and even more proud to be British.
Laverstoke Park has a wonderful herd of water buffalo’s which enable them to make English buffalo mozzarella. I found the milk on sale in Waitrose, with the knowledge that they make their own mozzarella I was inspired to make my own fresh buffalo curd. It’s actually easy, all you need is a bit of time and an understanding of the processes. For me at first it was a bit of trial and error, but once mastered I got the hang of it and the second time I made it like a pro. It has the most amazing fresh taste. When I make curd cheese and it’s ready to eat I put it into a clean sterilized jar, place fresh thyme leaves and coarse sea salt on the top and cover the cheese surface with good extra virgin olive oil. This locks in the freshness and helps to retain the quality for up to 5 days in the fridge. I have now made this curd cheese with buffalo, goat and cows milk, each has their own characteristic and are all equally delicious.
I remember the first time I made curd cheese and served it with warm fresh toasted sour dough bread for lunch, Mr.P’s original reaction was ‘no thanks I will only have ham and mustard on my toast’. Well the ugly face he pulled did not go down well with me. I sat down to enjoy the cheese and after a few moments he reconsidered and asked sheepishly if he could try some of my curd cheese. Well the rest is history as he polished off the jar of fresh curd cheese and I did not get a second look in.
I get seriously excited when I discover a local producer making, growing or rearing something truly British. It’s influenced me to such an extent that I keep my own small kitchen garden. Doing so, taught me so much about food, I have this new found respect for how long it takes to grow fruit and vegetables. To my shame I do not know how most of the fruit and vegetables grow and what the plants look like. As a chef it’s delivered in a box, perhaps wrapped in plastic bags and with the outer leaves removed. The natural state of that item has been completely stripped away and it leaves you uninformed on the plants lifecycle.
It was only after I planted kolhrabi did I realise that it’s not a root vegetable but it grows on top of the soil as the other members of the brassica family. I was also unaware of the wonderful flowers that most of the plants produce. As an ignorant young chef we used to give the suppliers a hard time when the produce arrived with flowers on, we used to say it meant the vegetables or herbs were old and past-it, now that is definitely ignorant!
I now love the flowering edible plants and cannot get enough of them. These baby leaves were grown in a pot where I had sown my lettuce leaves. They are amazing and we enjoy dissecting them, looking at their perfect shapes and most importantly the magnificent colours. I never realised how easy it is to grow salad, all you need is soil in a shallow container, sow your seeds, water regularly and wait, salad growing done! Simple!
Fresh Buffalo Curd
- 2L fresh buffalo milk
- 150ml lemon juice
- 1 ½ tsp salt
Rinse a medium saucepan with cold water, measure the fresh buffalo milk, lemon juice and salt into the dampened pan and set aside for 20 minutes.
Over very low heat gently bring the milk to 80°C, stir only if you need to prevent the milk from burning. Do not disturb the milk too much. Once the milk reaches the temperature remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool at room temperature for 3 hours.
Line a sieve with muslin cloth and carefully pour the curdled milk through the muslin, leave to drain naturally for 1 hour. Hang the muslin in the fridge and leave to continue to drain overnight.
The following day, discard the whey and transfer the fresh curd cheese to a clean container, the fresh curd is now ready to use.
This quantity of milk makes approximately 750g of fresh buffalo curd cheese and will keep for 5 days in the fridge.
- 2 fresh new season courgettes
- 4 British asparagus
- 1 kohlrabi
- Summer baby or micro salad
- 120g shelled fresh peas
- 1 tsp wild sumac
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 sprigs of purple thyme
Peel the kohlrabi, use a mandolin to finely slice and then cut into 1cm wide strips, dunk the strips in ice water to crisp.
Wash the courgettes and use a vegetable peeler to slice into long ribbons.
To slice the asparagus, remove the stalk and use a vegetable peeler to slice into strips.
Blanch the shelled fresh peas, refresh and drain. Place the peas in a small bowl, add a teaspoon of the lemon oil and season to taste, lightly crush the peas.
Wash and drain the micro salad.
- 60ml lemon juice
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Measure the ingredients into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid, shake vigorously and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Place the strips of drained kohlrabi, courgette and asparagus on a large flat tray, season and drizzle with the lemon oil, leave for 5 minutes to marinade.
Serve a quenelle of the fresh buffalo curd on a spoon, season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, add a few drops of the lemon oil and some of the picked purple thyme leaves, position the spoon on the plate.
Arrange the marinated vegetables on the plate; garnish each plate with the micro salad, a few drops of the lemon oil and a dusting of the wild sumac.