Sheep's milk curd and hay dressed with burnt fern leaves, pumpkin glazed with unsweetened syrup

Andoni Luis Aduriz

For 4 people

For the fern leaves
20 Pteridium aquilinum fern leaves
500 ml of water
14 g of fine salt

For the curd
1 l of sheep's milk
30 g of hay
15 drops of chemical rennet
1 g of fine salt

For the pumpkin
450 g of long orange pumpkin
300 g of water
75 g of lactose

For the sheep's milk cream
100 ml of sheep's milk
5.5 g of kuzu


For the burnt fern leaves
Collect only the female fern tops, because the male fern is poisonous. Female ferns are those that, starting from a plant, split into different branches and form various groups of leaves. Male ferns on the other hand poke up directly from the ground, creating single, flat shaped leaves.

Cut the fern leaves to a length of 4-5 cm in the tenderest part, where they join the main stem. Place these shoots in a container tall enough to cover them with brine.
Soak them for at least 24 hours.
Remove the dehydrated leaves from the brine and dry them with a cloth or kitchen paper. Place them in a very hot frying pan over a high heat. Turn them carefully, searing them evenly on all sides. Set these black leaves to one side in a hermetically sealed container with a sachet of silica gel or other anti-humidity agent.

For the curd
Heat the milk with the salt, almost to boiling point. Take off the heat and add the hay, cover with cling film and leave in infusion for about 10 minutes. Filter the milk through a coffee filter and heat it to about 40 °C. Now add the drops of chemical rennet and stir gently for 1 minute, always in the same direction. Then allow the mixture to rest at room temperature until it thickens. Using a fork or a knife, divide the curd into small segments between the size of a chestnut and a walnut. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. In this way you will obtain uneven strips of curd which will release most of their whey as they divide. Leave them in their whey in the same container on a grill at about 280 °C, in suspension inside metal rings for 15-20 minutes.

For the pumpkin
Cut out rounded but not necessarily perfectly circular pieces with a diameter of about 3 cm, weighing 12-14 g. Sprinkle lactose through a strainer onto a baking tray covered with silicone paper or baking paper of the same size as the tray. Place the baking tray in the oven at 200-210° C, the temperature at which lactose caramelises evenly. Take out of the oven and set the unsweetened caramel to one side inside hermetically sealed containers, containing silica gel or another anti-humidity agent.
Mix the water and caramelised lactose in a saucepan. When the caramel has thoroughly dissolved, add the pumpkin discs and cook them slowly for at least 3 hours on a very gentle heat, watching it doesn't boil.
Take the saucepan off the heat, drain the cooked pumpkin and place it in a dehydrating machine or something that can do the same job. Keep the pieces dry for 2 hours, until a coagulated layer of sugar forms on the outside, trapping all the juices inside. They will be an almost translucent dark caramel colour on the inside.

For the sheep's milk cream
Dissolve the kuzu thoroughly in the cold milk and pour into a saucepan. In a corner of the grill, where the heat is quite low, cook the milk until a glossy mixture is obtained, using a silicone spatula suited to the size of the saucepan. Cover the container in contact with Clingfilm and keep hot until it is time to serve, inside a Bain-Marie at a controlled temperature of about 65 °C.

Distribute two heaped spoonfuls of hay curd on a plate. Lay a spoonful of sheep's milk cream on top of the curd, letting it slide down the sides.
Arrange the pieces of glazed pumpkin in a casual and alternate, non-symmetrical shape. Complete with the carbonised female fern leaves.