Mini Caprese

We demonstrated these mini caprese at a recent class and everyone seemed to enjoy them. They look rather dramatic and are easy to make........ until you get to the balsamic pearls. Performing a bit of molecular gastronomy in your kitchen isn't for everyone, but it could bring out the wacky scientist in you. Watching the tiny balls of balsamic gel float slowly through the chilled oil gives an enormous sense of achievement. It really is fun. But if you don’t want to risk it and can think of better ways to have fun, the larger Waitrose stock Belazu Balsamic Pearls. They are great for adding a bit of a wow to any food presentation, not just canapés.

Ingredients

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry mozzarella (Galbani is vegetarian and gluten free)

Small basil leaves

Balsamic pearls

Method

Cut the tops off the cherry tomatoes (the growing end gives a more level base). Scoop out the insides and lightly salt. Leave turned upside down to drain for an hour or so if possible.

To fill: dry the tomatoes, cut the mozzarella cherries into halves or a size that will fit into the tomatoes. Pop a mozzarella half, a basil leaf and a small spoonful of balsamic into each tomato. Store in the fridge until required. Bring to room temperature. Season if necessary and serve.

Balsamic pearls

Ingredients

Vegetable oil (enough to fill your container)

200ml Balsamic vinegar (Balsamic vinegar of Modena is gluten free)

1.5 tbsp Agar agar (a vegetarian gelling agent, derived from red seaweed)

Tall container (I used a 500ml tall plastic oil bottle with the top cut off)

Pipette or syringe

Method

Fill the tall container with the oil and chill in the freezer for around 30 minutes or longer. It should be very cold, but not becoming too thick.

Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and sprinkle over the agar agar. Heat on a medium setting, without stirring, until it comes to a boil. Turn down so that the vinegar simmers, and stir from time to time. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes until the agar agar has dissolved.

Strain and cool for about 10 minutes (or to approximately 55°c)

Pour the balsamic mix into the pipette or syringe.

Take the oil out of the freezer and place it in an ice bath (a jug with ice and water will do). Stir the oil and then slowly drip the balsamic into it. The container should be tall enough and oil should be cold enough for the balsamic to set into droplets as it falls through the oil.

When you have enough set droplets, gently pour the oil through a sieve to catch the balsamic pearls. Rinse the pearls in cold water and store in a covered container until needed. This will keep several days in the fridge. The sieved oil can be reused.

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