on picnics, balsamic strawberries + honey ricotta

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Let’s talk about picnics. They have long been one of my favourite types of gatherings – ever-lovely and ever-beautiful (but also ever-dependent on the weather!). As the days grow warmer in these early weeks of springtime and we, in Sydney, slowly emerge from a lengthy pandemic-induced lockdown, picnics have become a symbol of quiet freedom and the invitation to connect with others again, to be human again.

When it comes to curating a menu for a picnic, or any gathering for that matter, I’m a firm believer in making much of the season. Enter, strawberries. These ephemeral fruits are precious and once the season is over, they’re gone. No substitute ever seems quite right.

It seemed only fitting to celebrate these little crystalline fruits with a medley of other equally delightful things – balsamic, local raw honey, fresh ricotta, roasted pistachios and freshly baked sourdough. I’ve been thinking a lot about the magical alchemy that is a recipe – disparate ingredients coming together as more than the sum of their parts. I’m convinced that picnics, dinner parties and gatherings are much the same – an inspired recipe of people, place, time, florals, music, conversation and sustenance that come together to be so much more than the sum of their parts, with the power to make one’s heart sing.

Perhaps you’ll try my glazed balsamic strawberries and whipped honey ricotta on toasted sourdough at your next picnic or little fête (recipe below). Together with sunshine, rest and people to share them with, this picnic fare is the perfect companion for a whole lot of wonder and a whole lot of gratitude.

GLAZED BALSAMIC STRAWBERRIES & WHIPPED HONEY RICOTTA ON TOASTED SOURDOUGH

(Makes two servings, can easily be multiplied)

Ingredients:
- 250 grams fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2.5 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 150 grams smooth ricotta
- 1 tbsp local organic honey
- 1 tbsp pistachios, raw and shelled
- A loaf of your favourite sourdough (my recipe is here!)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 190C.
2. Mix together the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, coconut sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl. Add the strawberries and mix until all of the strawberries are generously coated.
3. Place the glazed strawberries on a lined baking tray and place the tray in the oven. Let roast for 25-30 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whip the ricotta and honey together until smooth, light and well-combined. You can do this with an electric mixer but I like to do it by hand to save the washing up!
5. Roughly chop the pistachios into small pieces. Place them on a new baking tray and place them in the oven to roast for around 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them so that they don't go too far.
6. Once the strawberries are done roasting, remove them from the oven to cool. Soak in the delicious smell filling your kitchen!
7. Toast two slices of sourdough. Once toasted, spread a thick layer of whipped honey ricotta on each slice. Add a layer of glazed balsamic strawberries, together with a few smaller pieces of fresh strawberry. Sprinkle some roasted pistachios on top, together with a generous drizzle of honey and a little sprinkle of coconut sugar. Enjoy, my loves! x

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