Panna Cotta is one of those things that I’ve eaten many a time, but never tried to make. It always seems a bit intimidating, given the need to get the set absolutely right, so it holds together but still wobbles just the right amount. I’ve heard it should wobble like a silicone breast implant. Given my limited experience of silicone breast implants, I was aiming for a set that was, rather more childishly, like jelly.
Panna Cotta means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian, and is pretty easy to make. I chose to flavour the cream with elderflower. And before this conjures up a bucolic image of steeping fresh elderflowers to make homemade syrup, I’ll admit that I used bought elderflower cordial. The cordial sunk to the bottom, forming a layer on the top of the panna cotta when it was turned out – a happy accident. I served the panna cottas with some caramelised hazelnuts and strawberries, partly to give a bit of textural variation and partly to make the dish look more classy than a breast implant.
For the panna cotta:
230ml double cream
270ml full fat milk
1 tsp vanilla paste/vanilla extract
3 tbsp elderflower cordial (undiluted)
3 leaves gelatin (soaked in cold water until soft then squeezed dry) OR 1 sachet (10g) of powdered gelatin, dissolved in 50ml hot milk.
For the caramelised hazelnuts:
50g whole hazelnuts
80g caster sugar
A few strawberries
4 ramekins, or small dishes
For the panna cotta, place the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and elderflower cordial in a pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin. Pour the mixture into four ramekins, then leave in the fridge to set (takes about 4 hours, I left mine overnight).
For the caramelised hazelnuts, line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the caster sugar in a non-stick saucepan over a medium heat and leave to caramelize. Don’t stir it – just give it an occasional swirl to make sure it caramelises evenly. When the sugar has turned a golden brown colour, stir in the hazelnuts and quickly tip the mixture out onto the baking tray, spreading it out as much as possible. Leave to cool, then bash the hazelnuts up in a pestle and mortar.
When ready to serve, turn the panna cottas out onto plates -you can dip the bases in a bowl of hot water to make it easier to free them from the ramekins. Top with some of the hazelnuts, and a few sliced strawberries.