Vanilla bean panna cotta
Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, here is another sexy little dessert to whip up from ‘Meals in heels.’ Panna cotta, a classic Italian dessert, is essentially thick cream and vanilla seeds set with a bit gelatine. It’s wondrous on its own or even better topped with a sweet/sour fruit like passion fruit, oranges, baked rhubarb or balsamic drizzled strawberries. Their acidity cuts through the rich cream for a lush combination. Although its a very quick dessert to throw together, getting the texture right isn’t always easy. If made with the right amount of gelatine, it’s texture is jiggly but firm enough to stay together. Likewise, if too much, it turns rubbery and looks a bit fake. Err, sort like the difference between a good and bad boob job. (Not that I would know.) Aim for a natural wobble. Lucky for you, I’ve done the experimenting, so just follow the recipe without the stress. Usually its turned out by dipping the mold in hot water. But why not just pour the mixture into pretty little glasses and leave it at that. Unless you’re dying to show off a bit more, what does it matter?
Vanilla bean panna cotta with oranges and honey
preparation time 20 minutes cooking time 10 minutes
3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) milk
700 ml (24 fl oz) cream
60 g (21/4 oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 blood or navel oranges
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons toasted and chopped pistachios
Combine the gelatine and 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) of the milk in a small bowl and leave to absorb for 10 minutes. Place the remaining milk, cream, sugar, zest and vanilla bean and seeds in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, mix in the gelatine mixture and whisk until completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature, then strain into a jug and pour into six 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) capacity glasses. Cover and refrigerate for 5 hours.
Cut the ends off both oranges and slice all the skin off including the white pith. Cut out the orange segments, drain on kitchen paper and refrigerate until required. Just before serving, top the panna cottas with a couple of orange segments, pistachios and drizzle of honey.