A new season Coratina olive oil is my choice for this dish as it's light and buttery and possesses a slight nasturtium-like flavour and pepperiness. This is a great dish to share with friends who aren’t scared of embracing oily messiness.
- 2 heads of garlic
- splash of olive oil
- 140 ml Coratina extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large pieces orange peel
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 long red chilli, split in half
- 80 g pitted kalamata olives
- 3 large balls buffalo mozzarella, at room temperature
- a handful of nasturtium flowers to garnish (optional)
- river salt and black pepper
- 1 loaf fresh baguette
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 heads of garlic on a small tray, splash with a little oil, cover with foil and place in a preheated oven at 160ºC. Cook for between 30–40 minutes. When it’s ready it will feel giving and squishy yet not completely soft and will have a delightful gentle garlic aroma. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Once your heads have cooled you want to remove all the garlic cloves so they retain a little of their shape. The best way to do this is to place the head of garlic on it’s side on a board and use the point of a knife to gently flick or cut the bottom core of the head off. Once you’ve done this you should be able to gently squish or peel the individual cloves. For this dish it’s nice to have a mixture of whole cloves and some squishy bits. Set aside.
Place your Coratina oil into a pot along with all the aromatics, the olives, the cooked garlic and some seasoning. The pot will need to be the right size to eventually hold the mozzarella in a single layer. Place on a very low heat and slowly warm. Be careful, you want to get the oil hot enough to entice all the flavours out but not too hot to mess with the delicate flavours of the oil. A good measure is you should still be able to put your finger in the oil but only just. Keep it at this temperature for about 20 minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside to cool a little.
Once your oil has cooled until it’s just above room temperature, get your balls of mozzarella, gently place them in the pot and use a spoon to roll them around in the oil so they get coated and also so they warm a little. Remove them from the oil and place them on a shallow bowl for serving.
At this stage you will need a large utensil to spoon all the oil and aromatics over the mozzarella. Give everything a good amount of seasoning and then scatter with your flowers if you have them.
To serve, all you need is the bread, some small plates and friends who are happy to tear the bread, rip off bits of cheese and dip into the delicious oily goodness.
• New season oils are like wines and will vary according to season, where they are grown and their age. Keep this in mind when choosing your oil or a substitute and always let your own idea about flavour guide you.
• This dish works best with an oil that is not overly bitter, you want a more mild flavoured one.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Rachel Lane. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
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