“Though Miranda almost never prepares a traditional desert on Thursday nights, sometimes, when she’s set ewe’s-milk ricotta in a sieve to drain overnight, she’ll place a lush, creamy pat of it on a yellow plate, a big hunk of honeycomb and a pepper mill beside it, and everyone will take a tablespoon or so in a teacup, break a piece of the comb over the ricotta, and grind on pepper with a heavy hand.”Marlena de Blasi, The Umbria Thursday Night Supper Club
Recently I was on a jaunt to Berlin. What an amazing city! Vibrant, entrepreneurial, creative…extraordinary melding of the old and the new. And all of those things from a culinary point of view too – for a good example of foodie entrepreneurial, see my post on Ilse Böge’s specialist liquorice shop, Kadó.
For an example of a melding of the old and the new I would choose this lovely combination of ricotta and honeycomb sampled at Mädchen Italiener (‘Italian Girls’) on the last day of the visit. It’s a classic traditional mix, but in this Berlin bistro they added blueberries, icing sugar, and figs. It was extraordinarily good.
This is a combination of ancient foods which relies on the excellence of the two stars of its show for its success.
The ricotta must be same-day fresh; or homemade (it’s easy to make your own, post to come). It works quite well if you whip the ricotta to transform it into a light and fluffy whiteness. This isn’t a dish for anyone concerned about their weight, health etc, so for heaven’s sake don’t use low-fat or fat-free ricotta which has no flavour in any case.
The honeycomb will be a marriage of opposites – gooey and a little bit crunchy at the same time. It’s widely available but try The London Honey Company.
It needs to be accompanied by super-fresh, spongy bread, otherwise the waxiness can be unpleasant. Alternatively, crispy toast, or crostini, provides a wonderful contrast of texture to the soft, snowy ricotta.
Variations on the ricotta and honeycomb theme
- With pepper – as observed by Marlena di Blasi in the quote at the top of this post
- With blueberries, icing sugar, and figs, as served at Mädchen Italiener
- One crostini with some thyme leaves
- As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall does, with toasted hazelnuts
- As suggested by Kayla Howey, on toast with caramelised apple and fried sage
- Or as Mark Hix suggests, with loganberries
However you serve it, it’s a treat to make, and a treat to eat!