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Summertime, and the Cookin' is Easy

When days are long and patience is short, and dragging yourself damply into the kitchen is a chore in itself, the best thing you can do is simply to create an arrangement of truly ripe, delicious things. A sort-of salad, but much, much more than shredded lettuce with the same, sad, old dressing.

In a post-Ottolenghi world, we all know salads no longer need to be based around floppy lettuce, pointless cucumber, and sour, unseasonal cherry tomatoes. The definition of a salad has become wide and varied enough to accommodate meat, grains, nuts, seeds, cheese and fruit. A salad now implies simply a sort of tumbling arrangement of different edible elements: sometimes cold, sometimes warm, infinitely versatile.

Most of these arrangements require little effort and offer much reward. They are beautiful to look at, and to eat. This recipe (though it is hardly a recipe) is one of the nicest of them all.

One of the very best things to eat in high summer is Burrata, a cold white orb of mozzarella that has been injected with cream. Though this cheese originates from Puglia it is readily available all over Italy and fortunately now in England too.

To eat a Burrata is an undeniably sensual experience. You take your knife and pierce the orb's lily-white skin, which resists just a little, only to then puncture like a worn tyre and submit, flooding its creamy insides over the plate. These you scoop with a fork straight into your mouth, or onto a slice of toasted bread rubbed with salt. The smaller ones can be popped whole into your mouth, where, using your teeth to puncture the skin, you feel the full explosion of cream contained and then slowly swallowed.

Burrata is good enough to be eaten alone and unadorned. Its intense creaminess also lends itself to the contrast of salty, cured ham or sweet, ripe fruit. In this arrangement I have matched it with both. Basil, the herbs that screams of summer, adds a note of peppery fragrance.

I also peeled the peaches, which is much less faff than it sounds, because I didn’t want any fuzzy skin detracting from the creamy-smooth sweetness of this dish.

For Two

1 large ball of burrata, torn in two

4 slices of prosciutto

3 ripe peaches, yellow and white are good, peeled


extra virgin olive oil

a handful of basil leaves

Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Remove it from the heat and gently drop in the peaches. Leave them for ten seconds or so and then remove them with a spoon. Peel the skins away and discard. Slice them in half, then remove the stone.

Tear the burrata in two and place a half on each plate. Sprinkle it with salt.

Arrange the ham and the peaches around the burrata. Tear the basil leaves over and drizzle with oil.

Eat, with bread.


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