Buffalo Milk Cheeses

Now that the sun is shining, basil seedlings are ready for planting and tomatoes are starting to taste like they should, cravings start for fresh, milky buffalo mozzarella to pair with them –  torn into little pieces and dressed simply with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil.
The only acceptable buffalo mozzarella was imported from the Campania region of Italy – horrifically expensive and available according to the whims of Australian Customs and Quarantine…. until recently, with the opening of La Latteria Mozzarella Laboratory, Milk and Yoghurt, a joint venture between chef Kirsty Laird and Giorgio Linguanti of That’s Amore Cheese. How lucky we Carlton residents are to have access to the freshest of fresh cheeses, farm milk, cream and yoghurt.  La Latteria supplies some of the best Italian restaurants in Melbourne  with their delicious buffalo milk mozzarella which is paired with thinly sliced sweet prosciutto or served as a component in the traditional Insalata Caprese with tomatoes and basil.
I love the tanginess of their buffalo milk ricotta!  Perfect as a breakfast cheese with fresh bread and honey or incorporated into salads. Also irresistible is La Latteria’s burrata – balls of  cows’ milk mozzarella stretched and knotted around a filling of fresh cream.
Drop in to La Latteria for a visit and see what is available on the day!  You may even be lucky enough to get a little tasting…..Buon appetito!


Chocolate

 

Chocolate ecstasy

Have been having plenty of chocolate craving moments lately. The latest Lindt dark with sea salt is pretty special for an afternoon fix.  My great niece, pictured above, is already a connoisseur of fine chocolate and very fussy about the quality of the pastry and filling of her pains au chocolat.  We share a weakness for those baked by Babka Bakery and Cafe, 358 Brunswick St. Fitzroy. Just had to share this image of chocolate ecstasy!

Moroccan Sugar Cones

In Morocco,  sugar is traditionally sold in 2kg cones.  I often see cart loads of blue and white wrapped cones being distributed from a depot in the Mellah area of Marrakech.  In rural markets, people cannot always afford the whole cone and so pieces are broken off and sold by weight.  In the stunning Nejjarine woodworking museum in Fes, one can see antique wooden sugar moulds and beautifully decorated wooden  hammers used for breaking the sugar into pieces.
On a recent visit to a Berber home in the High Atlas mountains just outside Marrakech, I asked our hostess what she used to break down her sugar cones.  She produced a section of flat iron and told me she had been using it for over 20 years. It certainly works!
As an essential ingredient in Morocco’s famous mint tea, sugar is often presented in a decorative silver box forming part of the classic tea service – brazier, teapot, tray, container for green tea, container for sugar, container for mint and tea glasses… more about that in a coming post!

Orange Blossoms, Mint Tea and “White Coffee”

Spring has suddenly begun making itself felt strongly in Melbourne.  Our famous elms are sporting the pale green seed pods that are so pretty on the trees and such a nuisance once they start to fly about, sticking to car duco and clogging up gutters. Wisteria is bursting into bloom and ephemeral cherry, apple and prunus blossoms scent the air, so poignantly beautiful for their all-too-brief season.
Early spring in Morocco has baskets full of Bitter Orange blossoms in the markets and copper stills for hire prompting industrious women, particularly in Fes, to prepare their annual supply of orange blossom water. As the Bitter or Seville Orange (Citrus aurantium subsp. amara) is found in most Moroccan gardens and is a common street tree, planted  for its hardiness, evergreen beauty and heady perfume, there is a ready supply of blossoms to pick during the season.

Moroccan women will often add a few orange blossoms to the pot when making mint tea. Out of season, a few drops of orange blossom water can be substituted.

For those who eschew caffeine late in the afternoon and evening, a scant teaspoon of orange blossom water  in a glass of hot water makes for a delicious and digestive after-dinner drink and is known in Lebanon as “qahwa baida” or “white coffee” –  plain or sweetened to taste with a little sugar, it will ensure a restorative night’s sleep as well!

Figs

The promise of summer’s approach has me dreaming of figs.  This week, I have seen boxes of  perfect Turkey Browns from California on the fruit shop shelves but I resist the temptation. All in good time….  Whoever has sat under a fig tree in full leaf will never forget the exquisite scent it exudes.  The immature green figs that appear early in the season are wonderful prepared as spoon sweets, boiled several times until tender, stuffed with a blanched almond then simmered in heavy syrup perfumed with lemon peel.  Here in Melbourne, we have to wait till the end of summer to enjoy the succulent ripe figs that grow in so many of my friends’ gardens, that is if the birds don’t get them first! Then we’ll gorge on them straight from the tree or stuff them with spiced, minced chicken and cook them in a pomegranate molasses sauce to be enjoyed garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Until then, I will have to be satisfied with the scent of one of those divine French Dyptique “Figuier” candles or the matching room spray that tease the senses with visions of the delectable fruit to come.
My absolute favourite summer perfume is l’Artisan Parfumeur’s “Premier Figuier “, so delicious to wear in the warm weather and so sensuous.

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