Finding something new to cook with is always exciting. I love prowling food markets and shops looking for that new ingredient or spice. My most recent discovery is fregola sarda (or fregula sarda), a toasted pasta from Sardinia, similar to cous cous but coarser, and because of the way it is toasted quite nutty. Like alot of Italian ingredients, it is exclusive to its area, and is relatively unknown outside of Sardinia. It is also still handmade, something I would like to try sometime in the future when I have time to spare.
I have been cooking with alot of grains recently: pearl barley, farro, wheat, rye. They’re perfect for light summer lunches or side dishes, and fregola is a welcome member of this summer arsenal. With no strong flavour of its own, It combines well with almost anything, and is traditionally served with the likes of clams. This sounds wonderful and is on my list to try, but today, I felt like giving it a London twist, using seasonal produce for a nice light lunch.
Accompanying the fregula in this dish is English asparagus, absolutely bursting with flavour at this time of year. The season is short so I am making the most of it. A punnet of heirloom tomatoes from the Isle of Wight tomato stall at Borough Market accompanied, these incredible tomatoes are juicy and succulent with thick meaty flesh, and absolutely wonderful for this purpose. The final main ingredient is goats curd, a fresh cream cheese made from goats milk that is really light and delicious. I saw this for the first time when I visited Australia (Sydney) some years ago. It’s a great place for food, fresh ricotta and other culinary gems are so easy to come by, it was here that I first had goats curd and have lamented that it’s not available here since. Earlier this year I spotted a large bowl of it in Neal’s Yard Dairy in Borough Market and I’ve been using it since. I use shallots as a base ingredient, I used half an eschalion shallot as they’re quite large. If you don’t have any shallots you can substitute red onion or spring onions (scallions).
100g fregola sarda
8 spears asparagus, woody ends discarded and chopped into 1 inch segments
1 large heirloom tomato (approx size of a beef tomato, substitute two plum tomatoes)
Half eschalion shallot or one normal shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons goats curd (substitute soft goats cheese if unavailable)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Dressing: 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cook the fregola for 10-12 minutes in boiling water until al dente. For the last two minutes add the asparagus, they will cook in this time. Drain and run under cold water to arrest the cooking process, put to the side.
Remove the tomato core and seeds and dice. Mix with the shallots, fregola, asparagus and parsley and dress. Season to taste.
Add the cheese, I pulled small chunks off with my fingers and dropped them onto the salad.