Ravishing ruminant from Laverstoke Park Farm

Listing all the types of cheese required for civilised existence would go on longer than Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch, but buffalo mozzarella would certainly be one of the first requirements. Organic farm Laverstoke Park make some cracking buffalo mozzarella and other goodies as well. Even better, Laverstoke are based in wonderful, wonderful Hampshire! How can they fail to be brilliant?

Now the ex-scientist in me knows there are studies that show organic food tastes indistinguishable from non-organic food. However, the part of me that is still a scientist and loves quality food and drink questions how those studies were performed. Most of my favourite food and drink producers adhere to organic principles, even if they don’t put it on their labels, and I think following this philosophy is part of the reason Laverstoke Park Farm make such good food.

Laverstoke Park Farm was founded in the 1970s by an ex-Formula One chap. He wanted to make good food for his family and, given his background, could afford to do so. Organic farming is more expensive, especially when it is performed with the intelligent, imaginative investigation that has been applied here. The labels of Laverstoke talk of 31 different types of grass and clover planted in their fields for animals to graze on. But that’s enough of that, it’s time to talk food! Hooray!

WP_20120927 2First up, the thing that got The Editor and I to buy from Laverstoke – their unpasteurised buffalo mozzarella. You eat this at room temperature as soon as you get it delivered. When it’s fresh it is firm, without much of a tough outer skin to it and it tastes totally fabby. I’ve had lots of buffalo mozzarella from the UK and this is probably the best of them all. The great texture and milky, rich, slightly piquant flavour make it really top stuff to eat. The traditional serving suggestion is drizzled with quality olive oil and pepper ground on it, but adding some super beezer Isle of Wight baby plum tomatoes, sliced and also at room temperature, is a top plan. I’ve got a bag of tomatoes next to me that I’m fighting not to scoff until my cheese is warm; they’re the most attractive things to come out of the Isle of Wight!

WP_20121001 1A variation on the mozzarella is Laverstoke’s buffalo burrata. I’ve never seen English burrata before, but we thought a Hampshire version definitely worth a try. It’s made from mozzarella crust and pieces assembled into a ball with a skin containing creamy cheese bits. It is definitely extremely tasty, as good as most Italian examples by the time they make it to the UK, but as it is double the price of the mozzarella and just a bit bonkers on the richness front I will choose the cheaper cheese in future.

Of course, if you are selling buffalo milk cheese you may as well just sell the milk as well, and Laverstoke offer this. We made ours into hot chocolate. Regular readers will know my tastes in hot chocolate, so given the lower fat content of buffalo milk this left me a bit disappointed. Moreover, the slightly sharp hint to the milk didn’t really work in chocolate. This sharp taste was also in the buffalo milk custard and ice cream we tried from them, and it wasn’t unpleasant but for someone loving richness in things milky it’s not ideal. Oh let me show you the ingredients for the ice cream, they’re brilliant!

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No weird or unnecessary stuff there, just pure goodness!

Now I’ve slagged off the milk, let me tell you why you might want to buy it. Buffalo milk is lactose free, so if you have a problem with that in cow’s milk you are laughing with Laverstoke liquids. Buffalo milk is vastly less horrible than vile goat filth so go for this in preference to that stinking rubbish you’ve thought has been the only choice to put in your tea all these years. Yeah, it’s not my favourite milk ever, but compared to goats’ milk it’s positively delicious. Think of it, you can have tasty tea and cracking custard once more!

WP_20121001 3We also tried some buffalo burgers. Buffalo is very lean meat with a delicate flavour, so you don’t want to over-cook it. Who wants well-done burgers anyway?! These had a meaty, rich flavour and a really satisfying coarse texture that wasn’t too minced and pasty. They are quite thick which makes them easier to keep rare in the middle; you’ll still want to get them up to room temperature before you cook them, though.

Even though it is not a buffalo product I’d be bonkers if I didn’t recommend the black pudding. I haven’t had a black pudding I’m as joyful to nosh in years! Wizard, I tell you!

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WP_20120927You can order Laverstoke Park Farm produce direct from their website. That’s not a bad thing to do because if you order over £40 worth you’ll get a couple of their excellent beers for free. It’s also the way to ensure you get their mozzarella at its freshest, and you want it extremely fresh. If you just what to get a few things with your usual shopping you can buy a selection from my favourite online supermarket Ocado. As I write this, Ocado have a sale on some Laverstoke goods so there is no reason not to try some. Even if you just buy the unpasteurised buffalo mozzarella you’ll be doing your taste buds a great favour – this is food that shows the value of organic farming with colourful intensity.