Panna cotta is an Italian dessert that is basically solidified cream. The cream is sweetened with sugar and flavoured with vanilla, simmered over gentle heat, then solidified through a combination of gelatine and refrigeration. On its own I find it plain and almost too rich, however the excitement that comes from eating panna cotta is in the endless possibilities of what it can be served with.
My basic method for learning any dish is to look it up on Wikipedia to first understand what it exactly is supposed to be. I will then research by reading recipes, watching YouTube clips and asking people who I know to make the dish quite well. If it’s a dish I’m not familiar with, I will then choose what appears to be the best possible recipe (determined by referring to ratings and common sense) and follow the recipe exactly. Otherwise I just wing it on my first attempt. I then make the dish a few more times, modifying it each time until it suits my tastes. Once I have perfected it I will write down the recipe for future reference.
For something like panna cotta, where there is more scope for creativity, my research will extend to how to serve and present the dish rather than just how to make it. I will look at menus at fine dining restaurants, Google images and do searches on Instagram. My way of serving panna cotta was inspired by the menu of Courgette in Canberra, Australia, a couple of years ago. I no longer remember the original serving description, however it involved elements that were beyond what I was capable of. This is therefore the homemade, simplified version – not as impressive, but just as delicious.
– 1 vanilla bean, cut down its length and scraped
– 40g caster sugar
– 500ml cream
– 1 sachet of gelatine
– 1 punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
– 100ml white wine
– caster sugar
1. Heat the vanilla, sugar and cream over low heat and bring to a simmer.
2. Remove from heat, and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
3. Mix the gelatine with 125 of hot water and stir to dissolve.
4. Stir the gelatine mixture into the cream.
5. Pour into ramekins.
6. Leave at room temperature until cooled, then cover and refrigerate.
1. Place the strawberries and the wine in a pot and cook over medium heat for about fifteen minutes.
2. As it cooks, taste and continue to add caster sugar until its sweetened to your liking.
3. Strain the whole lot into a bowl. I discard the strawberries, which I feel guilty about every time, however I’m sure there’s some creative use for cooked strawberries that have had all their juices pushed out of them – thoughts anyone?
4. Leave at room temperature until cooled, then cover and refrigerate.
Putting it all together:
1. To turn out the panna cotta, have a bowl of boiling water ready. Take a knife and run it around the edge of the ramekin, then dip very briefly into the bowl of boiling water. I must emphasize that this is to be the very briefest of dips – the edges will otherwise become a dribbly mess. This method should loosen the panna cotta enough for it to be tapped out onto a dish. (And I believe a shallow white bowl is the prettiest and most suitable thing to go for here.)
2. Surround with mixed berries. I suppose any berry will do, however I did use frozen raspberries once and found that they were far too tart. I have had luck with fresh blueberries and strawberries, and zero attempts at anything else.
3. Add to your dish a scoop of orange sorbet.
4. Pour over a few tablespoons of the chilled strawberry consomme.
I drink moscato with my panna cotta, which I normally turn my nose up at, however for such a girly dessert I can’t think of a more perfect combination.