Burrata – the Kinder Surprise of Puglian cheeses

If there’s one thing I love about travel, much more than crying babies on planes, lost luggage and hordes of tourists, it’s food. Food is culture, it’s tradition and it sure beats having to strap yourself to a giant rubber band and jump off a bridge to have a unique travel experience.

These days, thanks to the wonders of media stereotyping saturation, most countries have a food they are universally associated with; Switzerland has chocolate, America has burgers, Britain has fish and chips, Japan has sushi… hmm, why is Japan the only healthy one? Years ago if I was to play a country-by-food-association game with a bunch of people (my dinner party ice breakers are pretty rad, I know) and I said ‘Italy’, chances are there’d be a chorus of  ‘pizza’ echoing round the room in response. But fast forward to today and Italy is a place where so much of its food has become synonymous with the country, most people could probably rattle off food associations by regions; Tuscany -Chianti, Parma -Parma Ham, Bologna -Bolognese sauce, Milan -Risotto, Sicily -Cannoli, Almonds, Lemons, Oranges, Marsala, Gelato…

Oh crap, now I’m hungry.

But getting to my somewhat long winded point, I’m fairly certain as this southern region is increasingly discovered by the rest of the world, any sentence with ‘Puglia’ and ‘food’ in it is certain to now also contain the word ‘Burrata’. And I’m here to tell you now, it would be positively sacrilegious for any trip to Puglia not to include at least one taste of this divine little parcel of cheesy heaven.

Now if you were none the wiser, and someone served you up a plate of Burrata, you might think that they had just given you a chunk of Mozzarella to eat. And I wouldn’t blame you for that misconception, because, at its simplest, it looks like this…

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Well… minus the focaccia I mean. That’s my addition, not how it comes in the shop, plonked on a piece of bread like that.

But Burrata, even though made from Buffalo milk, is no run of the mill, ubiquitous Mozzarella, and you only have to cut into it to get a clue why. For an explanation of how it’s made I had to read an article from a cheese-monger chefy person in New York. But don’t worry about reading all that, I’ll summarize it for you. Burrata means ‘butter’ in Italian, and when you have a fork full of the smooth creaminesss of its innards our mouth, you’ll see that whoever was in charge of naming cheeses way back in ye olden times was no nincomooop. To make it, instead of forming a cheese ball as you do with Mozzarealla, you make a kind of sack. This is then filled with fresh cream and the stringy, left over curds from the cheese making process. When you cut into a Burrata, the creamy insides spill out and the you’re left with an incredibly soft and yes -buttery – cheesy surprise.

Burrata can be used in a salad, with pasta or even on a pizza, but I was told (thanks Caroline) the best way to eat it, and the most traditional, is simply atop some crusty bread, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh basil. So I did just that:

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It’s not exactly easy to make it look elegant once sliced open, but believe me, the taste is out of this world.

Whilst not as widely available outside of Puglia as its lookalike cousin, Burrata is fast increasing in popularity and you should be able to get it at good cheese shops. Don’t forget, because of the cream, you need to eat it within a day or two of it being made. Fresh is not just best, it’s a must.

Trust me, go grab yourself a fresh Burrata and you’ll soon see why when people say Puglia to me, I say “Mmm Burrata”. Even when I’m not playing dorky dinner party games.

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