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Food is mood

Being an adult means having a favourite hob on the cooker and ignoring the others.

You’ll need that hob this week, albeit only briefly, for our buffalo mozzarella, quince, farro and winter tomato salad.

Healthy, but hearty, this is an ideal winter dish in the run up to the excesses of Crimbo.

This week’s album: 
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest

A truly incredible album from a hugely influential group. The album offers a completely unique sound with incredible lyrics, flow and sampling. Considered pioneers of alternative hip-hop, the group and their music are known for addressing social and political issues with ease. Much like this newsletter.

Celebrating two underused ingredients

The first is farro, the second is quince. 

Farro refers to three types of wheat grains: einkorn, emmer and spelt. The one we’ll use is emmer which is actually sold as ‘farro’, or sometimes ‘Italian spelt’, in most delis and greengrocers. It's an ancient grain that has a wonderful nutty flavour and interesting chewy texture. The Italians use it a lot, often with soups and stews.

We’ll cook it very simply in water and add a little seasoning so it’s a really noticeable part of the salad. It's both a joy to eat and extremely nutritious - packed full of fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Re the quince, they look like something between a pear and a cooking apple. They have a very firm flesh, can’t be eaten raw, and are incredibly tart and slightly bitter. I’m really not selling them BUT once cooked, quinces are transformed into something delicious. 

Because of a quince’s high pectin levels (a type of starch) - and presumably because they need to be sweetened to be eaten - they’re often used for jams, marmalades and paste. However, they also work really well in savoury dishes, hence this salad.

We’re going to cook them with sugar and vinegar. The latter will provide some acidity to the dish, nicely complementing the mozzarella and farro.

Finally, we’ll add some tomatoes as they’re a classic partner for mozzarella. I use a winter variety called ‘Iberiko’ but any decent quality tomato would work well. 

Above are Iberiko tomatoes. If you know a good greengrocer then they may have some great Italian tomatoes which are grown very late into the year.
What you need

The below serves 2. It takes 15 mins to prep and 25 mins to cook.

1 quince (peeled, quartered & core removed)
50g sugar
1 tbsp water
7 tbsps Jerez vinegar
100g farro
2 good quality tomatoes
1 garlic clove
2 basil sprigs
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
¼ tbsp dried oregano
4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch of rocket
2 tbsps pine nuts
Sea salt & black pepper

Ready, steady, cook

1. Add the sugar and 1 tbsp of water to a small saucepan. Place over a medium heat and cook until you get a light caramel colour. Remove from the heat and carefully add the Jerez vinegar (it will get quite bubbly). 

Return to the heat and add the quince quarters. Simmer for 15-20 mins (or until a sharp knife easily pierces them) and flip halfway through. When cooked, remove from the heat and put to one side.

2. Add the farro to another pan and rinse well (like you would with rice). Top up with cold water until it covers the farro by about an inch. Season the water generously with salt and put on a high heat. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and let it cook for 15 mins. Once cooked, drain through a sieve and let it steam-dry for a few mins. Now season with freshly ground black pepper and 2 tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil.

3. Lightly crush the garlic clove and rub into the surface of a small baking tray. The tray should be coated completely with garlic ‘juice’. Leave the crushed cloves in the tray. Add 2 tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil, the white balsamic vinegar, and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, remove the core, then cut each piece in half. Add your tomatoes to the tray, along with as much of their juices as possible. To help release their aromas, rub the basil stalks and leaves gently between your hands. Add to the tray. Mix all ingredients and set aside.

4. Drain the mozzarella and cut into 8-10 pieces. Dab with some kitchen paper to remove excess liquid. Season with a little extra-virgin olive oil and pinch of salt, then sprinkle with the dried oregano.

5. Now we’ll assemble the salad… Remove the quince from the syrup and cut it into pieces that are a similar size to the tomatoes. Divide the farro between two plates and scatter around the mozzarella, tomatoes and quince. Add the rocket and drizzle with the juices left behind from the tomatoes. Finally, scatter with pine nuts.

Final thought

If kept in Tupperware in the fridge, the cooking liquor from the quinces will last for a week or so. You can reuse it for more quinces or, if you reduce the cooking time, for apples and pears.

Same time next week.


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Eat My Words · Kew Gardens · Kew, TW9 · United Kingdom

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