Burrata is one of my favourite Italian cheeses. Originally from Puglia, it is made in a similar way to mozzarella, but with a soft creamy centre, a delightful white orb hiding a luscious inside. This dish is perfect for an autumnal lunch – there’s a slight smokiness to the roasted fennel and a delicate crunch and tang to the pickle, that works so wonderfully with the gentle flavour and delicate texture of the burrata.
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 small head of fennel, sliced finely lengthways on a mandolin
- 2 medium cloves garlic, gently bashed
- 1 medium head of fennel, cut into 6 wedges
- 4 small balls of burrata, sitting out at room temperature
- olive oil
- river salt and black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place the vinegar, water, sugar and salt together in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once the liquor reaches room temperature, pour it over the finely sliced fennel you have resting ready and waiting in a bowl. Set aside.
In a large frypan on a medium heat, pour in a good dash of oil and your garlic cloves, twirl them around in the pan and keep cooking them until they start to get very brown. Fish them out before they get too dark and bitter, and discard. This will lend a subtle garlic flavour to your oil.
At this stage, your oil should be quite hot. Gently place your wedges of fennel into the pan, so one of the cut sides is in contact with the heat, and season quite heavily. Turn the heat down and let the fennel slowly cook, until it starts to caramelise and become quite dark in colour (this will take a good 5 minutes). Turn to the other cut side and repeat.
Once you have a nice amount of colour, your fennel should be nicely cooked, at which stage, remove from the pan and place it on a board. Roughly chop it into small bite-sized pieces and transfer the fennel on to a serving platter.
Place the burrata on top of the still warm fennel, season heavily and pour over a nice amount of good extra virgin olive oil. Get your pickled fennel, remove it from the liquor giving it a good squeeze to remove any excess liquid, and place it in a nice pile on top of the burrata. Serve immediately with some chargrilled bread.
• The pickle is a very simple and quick to make and it will last for at least a week in the fridge. It’s a handy little condiment to have lying around and works well with any number of cheese and salumi. It is also a nice addition to a salad.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson.