While spring is definitely all about what's happening in the
garden, it's also when most dairy animals have their young.
Coinciding with the spring flush of growth, there is an
abundance of milk and we welcome the return of fresh seasonal
Fresh cheeses such as ricotta, goat's curd and buffalo
mozzarella have such a delicate flavour that it makes them
perfect to use with the fresh tastes brought to us by spring.
I never bother buying ricotta because it is so simple to
make; the process takes only a few minutes. Superbly
versatile, ricotta goes with just about anything, either
sweet or savoury, and making your own at home also allows you
to adjust the consistency to best suit your needs.
When choosing goat's curd, be guided by your own tastes.
I prefer curds that are not too strong, but others like a bit
more kick with a prominent goat's milk flavour coming
Most of the smaller producers do not milk their goats through
winter, so it is an exciting time for everyone concerned when
their animals start birthing and producing milk again.
Fresh New Zealand buffalo mozzarella is a revelation and a
beautiful way to treat yourself.
It is expensive and hard to find because buffalo milk is
costly to produce. Real buffalo mozzarella also has a very
short shelf life of about eight or nine days, so almost all
imported examples tend to be frozen, which changes the
texture and flavour quite dramatically.
Mozzarella is superb with strong decisive flavours such as
olives, anchovies, herbs and dry-cured meats such as
prosciutto. Ripe tomatoes and basil are also natural partners
but as they are still a little while off, we'd better stick
to using what's ready right now. All these cheeses combined
with produce from the garden make for great seasonal eating
so get cooking and enjoy fresh cheese combined with the taste
Roast baby beetroot with goat's
600g baby beetroot
80ml olive oil
salt and pepper
1 head garlic, cut in half crossways
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup water or chicken stock
100gm fresh goat's curd
30ml extra virgin olive oil
Heat oven to 180degC.
If beetroot are bigger than a golf ball, slice in half
lengthways through the stem, running down to the tip.
Place beetroot on a small oven tray lined with baking paper,
drizzle with 50ml olive oil and season with a little salt and
pepper. Scatter thyme and garlic over beetroot before adding
water or stock to the tray.
Cover and seal sides with aluminium foil and roast for 30 to
40 minutes or until tender.
To test beetroot, simply skewer with a small sharp knife.
When cooked, remove beetroot from oven and allow to cool
completely before removing aluminium foil.
Remove skin by rubbing with your fingers or using a sharp
When ready to serve, place beetroot on an oven tray lined
with baking paper and drizzle with remaining olive oil and a
little salt and pepper.
Place in oven for five minutes to reheat before transferring
to a serving bowl.
Crumble goat's curd over beetroot and finish with a drizzle
of extra virgin olive oil.
Veal and ricotta meatballs with tomato sauce
40g unsalted butter
80ml olive oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
½ tsp dried mild chilli flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
700g veal mince (or lean beef mince)
2 tsp sea salt
2 large free-range eggs, beaten
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
80g grated parmesan
½ cup mint, finely chopped
1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 recipe tomato sauce
300g capellini pasta, cooked
extra virgin olive oil to serve
60ml olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp sweet-smoked Spanish paprika
pinch of mild chilli flakes
3 400g tins Italian chopped tomatoes
1 tsp caster sugar
salt and pepper
Heat butter and 30ml of the olive oil in a large heavy base
saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook
without colour for 10 minutes or until soft and opaque. Add
spices and cook for a further 1 minute before removing from
heat and transferring to a large bowl. Allow to cool
completely before adding mince, salt, cream, eggs, ricotta,
breadcrumbs, 50g parmesan and half of the herbs. Mix well
together and form into golf ball-sized meatballs.
Place meatballs on a baking-paper lined tray and refrigerate
for at least two hours to allow them to firm up.
Heat oven to 200degC. Heat remaining olive oil in a large
heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and fry meatballs
in batches until nicely coloured, turning as required. Place
browned meatballs into a large oven-proof dish with
two-thirds of the tomato sauce. Cover the dish tightly with
tinfoil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until meatballs are
In a small saucepan heat remaining tomato sauce and keep
warm. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water
before draining well and dividing between four plates. Remove
meatballs from oven and serve on top of the pasta. Finish
with a little more tomato sauce, remaining Parmesan and fresh
herbs. Serve immediately.
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add
garlic and cook for 10 to 15 seconds without colour before
adding paprika and chilli. Cook for a further 10 seconds, add
tomatoes and sugar, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5
minutes. Place sauce into a blender and process until smooth.
Return to saucepan and bring back to the boil. Season to
taste with a little salt and pepper and reserve for later
Buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto, fennel
and salsa verde
120g ball fresh buffalo mozzarella
6 slices prosciutto
small fennel bulb, very finely sliced
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, picked
2 Tbsp fennel herb, picked
cup baby rocket leaves (optional)
Makes half a cup
½ clove garlic
2 tsp baby capers, rinsed and drained
2 good quality tinned anchovies, roughly chopped
½ tsp salt
1 cup mint
1 cup flat leaf parsley
60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tsp cabernet sauvignon vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Remove mozzarella from container and drain on an absorbent
Slice in half with a sharp knife and give a plate to each. In
a small bowl, toss fennel, parsley and rocket together and
divide between each plate. Gently finish with prosciutto and
a generous drizzle of salsa verde.
Place garlic, capers, anchovies and salt into a mortar and
pestle and grind to a paste. Add mint and flat-leaf parsley
and grind until smooth. Add olive oil and muddle with the
Mix in vinegar and mustard and reserve for later use.
• Bevan and Monique Smith own the multi-award-winning
Riverstone Kitchen restaurant on State Highway 1 in North
Otago, just south of the Waitaki bridge.