Sunday, 14 September 2008

I gotta gotta gotta stop making pannacotta

Spending the weekend with my mother and my two sisters led to me reminiscing about the food that I ate as a child. It was always delicious food and, given the number of wide angle photographs of me as a youngster, there was clearly always plenty of it. However, one thing it was not was varied. Each week the menu was more or less identical - my father knew what he liked and we all got it week in and week out. Saturday lunch, for example, was lamb's liver and mashed potatoes with onion gravy. I remember once suggesting that we have something different when I came home from university for summer holidays - but I think they thought it was just me getting above myself with my new fangled university ways and the liver made its weekly appearance as usual.

The reminiscing in turn led me to wonder whether this repetitive food issue was perhaps genetic. A few weeks ago I had about fifteen friends over for a summer party. Puddings are not my forte in the kitchen nor my favourite part of the meal. I made a panna cotta which, on this occasion, I had flavoured with coconut and I served it with a mango and pineapple coulis. When it was served, one of the party mentioned that, when they had last come for dinner, they had also had a panna cotta (on that occasion flavoured with lavender and served with a strawberry and rhubarb coulis). To be fair this comment was made with kindness as the person concerned was extolling the virtues of the aforementioned lavender panna cotta. However, no sooner was the comment made than almost everybody else in the party said something along the lines of "Ooh yes I have had that here too". Now, given that many of the fifteen guests had never met each other before the evening in question, it was clear to me that I had rolled out the old lavender panna cotta on at least five or six occasions.

Whilst my motives may have differed from my father's, I am in danger of becoming a serial server of panna cotta! I hope that this is a case of nurture rather than nature and in an attempt to break the habit I think a stint of panna cotta cold turkey is in order. It is however an (almost) failsafe pudding and can be prepared in advance so, whilst I will not be making it again in the near future, I commend it to you:

Lavender Pannacotta with Strawberry and Rhubarb Coulis

600ml Double Cream
150ml Full Cream Milk
2 or 3 sprigs of dried lavender
4 sheets of leaf gelatine
60g of caster sugar

3 or 4 stalks of rhubarb
1 small punnet of strawberries
20g caster sugar

Pour the cream and milk into a small saucepan and add the lavendar sprigs. Bring this mixture to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Whilst the milk/cream is simmering, soak the gelatine sheets in some cold water.

Strain the milk/cream mixture into a bowl and add the sugar. Take the gelatine out of the water and squeeze it to get rid of excess water then add to the hot milk/cream mixture and stir thoroughly until dissolved.

Pour the mixture into 6 individual moulds, allow to cool and then place in the fridge, covered in cling film, for at least 3 hours to set.

To make the coulis, chop the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and put into a small saucepan with a little of the sugar and a tablespoon or two of water. Cover the pan and put on a medium heat. When the rhubarb has started to soften add the strawberries (washed, hulled and halved). Cover the pan again and simmer further. When the fruit has softened and the juices are running add further sugar to taste (personally, I like the coulis quite sharp). Once the sugar is added empty the pan into a sieve and press the fuit through with a wooden spoon. Let the coulis cool and then refrigerate until needed.

When the panna cottas have set, loosen them by running a sharp kinfe, which you have run under hot water, around the edges of the mould, then briefly but carefully submerge about 2/3rds of each mould in a shallow bowl of hot water. When you upend the moulds onto a plate the panna cotta should easily slide out. Decorate the top of each panna cotta with a sprig of lavender and either pour the coulis around the base of each or into a jug to be served separately.


David Hall said...

Nice panacotta! Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to the world of food blogging!


TonyM said...

Thanks David. Good to hear from you.