Spring milk ricotta with honey and kunzea pikelets
Even milk has seasonality. Developments in agriculture that have seen variation diminish can be seen in both a positive and negative light. However, the difference in a milk from a spring pasture should be celebrated. I have the good fortune of knowing hobby farmers with goats and I find this milk, in particular, to be richer and sweeter at this time of year.
Spring also brings so much more than milk. The bees are just starting to build up honey stores again after the lean winter so, once spring is well under way, some can be harvested. Honey, like milk, is almost a snapshot of the season. This time of year is so evocative, as new flowers awaken on plants that have lain dormant during the cold weather. White kunzea is a shrub endemic to Australasia but rarely used in our kitchens. I find it has similar applications to rosemary or thyme, so adding this to honey or marinating it into oil works well.
Ricotta is a very, very simple thing to make but there are tricks and much observation required in order to perfect the knack. Heating the milk too quickly, for instance, can result in the ricotta being too grainy and somewhat chalky, so be wary of falling into this trap.
- 2 litres milk
- 200ml cream
- 70ml lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 200ml milk
- 1 egg
- 160g self-raising flour
- 20ml good-quality honey
- butter to cook
- 200ml honey
- zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup of kunzea leaves and flower (or substitute with thyme)
- Combine everything into a heavy-based pot and place over a very low and even heat. The mixture needs to come up to 90ºC so use a trusty thermometer. If the temperature is too high, it will extract too much liquid; too low and it won’t set properly. Resist the overwhelming urge to stir the mixture. Don’t even shake it.
- Once the mixture has come up to temperature, turn off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes before gently ladling out the curds into either a ricotta basket or a colander lined with muslin. You can then retain the whey for other uses, such as for the base of a vinaigrette or for finishing the cooking of polenta or grains.
- Gently mix all ingredients with minimal agitation and then let the mixture rest for 20 minutes.
- Melt some butter in a mildly heated pan and spoon in the batter. Cook – as you would a pancake, only smaller – until lightly brown on each side.
Drizzle the pikelets with the honey, then sprinkle with the lemon zest kunzea leaves and flowers.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 15, 2018 as "Rites of spring".
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