One of the puddings my daughter best loves when we go out to restaurants is panna cotta, – a dessert which originates in Northern Italy and is as decadent as it is simple. She knows that it is gluten free and it always makes a delightful change to the usual and very predictable ‘option’ of ice cream (which as those of us who are gluten free know, is usually far from an ‘option’ as it is usually the only gluten free dessert available). There are a few restaurants we go to that my daughter knows serve panna cotta and thus, given a choice, she will specifically request dinner at one of these if we are going out. Ahhhhhh………. the nostalgia of being 8 and thinking only of pudding!
Just before we returned from our recent holiday in Greece, we asked our daughter what she wanted her first meals to be when we returned home. Her first savoury choice was gluten free sausages, mash and onion gravy (which was duly provided and eaten the evening we got back) and her pudding choice was panna cotta, which I decided to make myself.
There are a number of recipes for panna cotta, all with a base of milk, cream, sugar and gelatine, although the ratios seem to vary from one to another. I decided to make a vanilla panna cotta, but combined my own ratios as I wanted a really creamy base which was not overly sweet, but nice and vanillary.
This is a wonderfully easy dessert to make and can be prepared well ahead of time as it needs to be chilled to set. But whilst it is simple, it is also rich, creamy, smooth and delicious. It can be eaten ‘straight’, or dressed up with a sauce or fruit. Because it is creamy and sweet, I prefer it with a slightly sharp fruit. Raspberries are a perfect partner. Their vibrant colour contrasts with the simplicity of the smooth pale panna cotta and instantly excites the taste buds.
I love the oh so smooth, creamy texture of sweet vanilla panna cotta on my tongue, off-set by the knobbly, squidgy sharpness of firm, fresh raspberry, all mingled with a juicy fresh raspberry coulis. My taste buds feel both tingly and calmed at the same time. I always try to make the experience last as long as possible by taking very small spoonfuls, each with a corner of raspberry, slither of panna cotta and dribble of coulis……………. I close my eyes and savour every small mouthful, luxuriating in each before they melt away. But alas, although one portion should be enough, I am always disappointed when it ends…………….. Can I have another please?
Vanilla Panna Cotta (makes 6 servings)
10g gelatine leaves
200ml whole milk
400ml double cream
120g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (slit) or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Get ready 6 silicone moulds or individual non-stick cake tins (without removable bases) and place them in the freezer to chill whilst you prepare the panna cotta mix.
- Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes (as per packet instructions) ensuring each leaf has enough room for the water to circulate around it.
- Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat on a medium heat until the milk is just below simmering point (do not allow to boil), and then remove the pan from the heat.
- Drain the gelatine, squeeze out the excess water and add to the hot milk. Stir to dissolve and combine completely.
- Pour the cream into a larger saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla.
- Bring to the boil over a low to medium heat, stirring constantly, then immediately remove from the heat (do not allow to continue to boil). If using a vanilla pod, remove from the mix at this stage.
- Stir the milk-gelatine mixture into the cream until fully combined.
- Remove the moulds from the freezer and pour the panna cotta mix into them ensuring an even distribution of the liquid.
- Allow to cool as quickly as possible (you can speed the cooling process by placing the moulds in a container with ice around the base of the moulds) before chilling in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours to completely set.
- When set, turn the panna cotta portions out onto serving plates (you may need to carefully run a fine edged knife around the inside edge of the mould to loosen) and serve with fresh raspberries, raspberry coulis and a sprinkling of fresh pomegranate seeds.
300g fresh or frozen raspberries
To serve :
a handful fresh raspberries
1 ripe pomegranate (seeds removed) – optional
- Put the raspberries and icing sugar in a blender and pulse until you have a smooth puree.
- Sieve the puree into a small bowl to remove the seeds and chill in the fridge until ready to use.