I’m cooking for a mindfulness retreat organized by my friend Willemien van Egmond of RetreatYourself in lovely Friesland and am enjoying myself greatly. Willemien is a top organizer, has a fantastic taste in decoration and a sixth sense for finding the best hidden spots all over Europe. And on top of that she knows how to make people feel welcome, plus is a breeze to work with. I worked with her before in Ibiza where we cooked up a storm and we decided to put one of the “bestsellers” of that trip back on the menu this time. People just go crazy over this dish and I can’t blame them.
First off, it’s beautiful. Milky white ricotta with red chilli specks, the vibrant green of fresh herbs and a golden glow from the olive oil make it all look pretty amazing. But don’t just judge this book by it’s cover. Real good quality organic ricotta can be a joy as is. But scatter some crushed coriander seeds, fresh thyme leaves, garlic, chilli and star anise on top and bake in the oven and oh la la; magic happens.
I think I found this recipe years ago in an Australian magazine and it has become one of my go to recipes if I want to impress on a whim. You can hardly call this a recipe, that’s how simple it is. Leave it to the Ozzies to find the perfect marriage between an Italian classic and aromatic Asian spices. The coriander seeds add a lovely citrusy kick but the real mega star of the dish is without a doubt the star anise. Fragrant and exotic. This beauty really lifts the ricotta to the next level.
In Ayurveda cheese is generally considered heavy and quite hard to digest. Especially older cheeses. So the younger the cheese the better. Think of panir cheese that is often made daily and consumed on the same day in Indian households. So ricotta, being really fresh young cheese, fits the bill perfectly. If you can find goats ricotta even better as goats cheese is easier to digest for most people. To help the digestive process along the spices and chilli function as agni (digestive fire) boosters.
We served the baked ricotta with exceptionally delicious crusty bread from Vlaamsch Brood Huys and a lukewarm salad of blanched string beans and courgette with a garlicky hazelnut, chives and orange zest dressing. Another oldtime favourite from my food hero’s at Ottolenghi. Trust me when I say that if you happen to find yourself in a sunny meadow in Friesland after a mindful meditation, this is exactly what you want to be eating.
This recipe is best for Vata and Pitta. Kapha should not eat it too often as the sticky quality of the cheese often creates too much mucuos in their systems. Pitta can use less chilli or leave it out all together if it makes them too hot.
(enough for 4 people as part of a spread)
- 1 ricotta of 250 grams
- 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
- 1 clove of garlic thinly sliced
- 1 star anise
- 1/2 red chilli in slices
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- coarse sea salt
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the ricotta upside down in a heatproof baking dish. Sprinkle with all the other ingredients and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes untill it is crusty and golden.