A clear blue Saturday morning of the May bank holiday weekend. We are finally teaching Noah to cycle and in the park among Victorian trees on flat ground, I walked and he wobbled past the tennis courts, scattering people and their dogs into the undergrowth as they dived for cover and I pretended he wasn’t my son.
A tennis ball, served viciously by a chap who clearly didn’t like his girlfriend shot past her and wedged itself in the chain-link fence. Half in and out, squeezed in the middle like a belt was trying to give it a waist. It reminded me of many panna cottas I’ve eaten in the past. Rubbery, chewy and solid lumps of sugary milk sickly with lavender or raspberry coulis as if it were still 1987.
And like Noah on his bicycle, a good panna cotta is very wobbly. It needs to be soft and silky and have a milky creaminess to it. So you have to be careful with the gelatine. 3 leaves is more than enough for this recipe if you’re using them. I used powdered, that’s all I had in the cupboard, and you need about 3/4 of one of the small individual packets. A whole packet is enough to set 600ml of liquid as firmly as a Beverly Hills backside, and that’s as unappealing there as this would be on your plate, so act carefully.
This has sharp and sweet grapefruit, caramelised orange and a little fennel to go with the gingery spicing of the panna cotta. A few thyme leaves and pistachio give a little tickle and crunch here and there. It’s perfect for when you have friends for supper as you make it well in advance and leave it to set in the fridge. Pudding is taken care of and you won’t need to disappear for half an hour during the meal. Unless you hate your guests and want a break.
Ingredients for four
260ml double cream
8g powdered gelatine or 3 sheets
2tbsp gingerbread spice mix (I used The Uncharted Spice Company‘s which is perfect)
1tbsp golden caster sugar
4 slices of orange (I use blood oranges when in season)
1/2 ruby grapefruit
1tbsp golden caster sugar
2tbsp pistachio nuts, chopped
1tsp fennel seeds
A blowtorch and a sprinkle of sugar for each orange slice
Dissolve the gelatine in a little hot water until well mixed and there are no lumps. If you’re using the sheets, follow the packet instructions.
Bring the milk, cream and sugar to the boil and stir in the spices then mix well.
Add the gelatine and stir until completely incorporated and smooth.
Remove from the heat and pour into four dariole or panna cotta moulds and leave to set in the fridge for an hour and a half minimum.
Make the sauce by putting the grapefruit in a pan with a tablespoon of sugar and a few tablespoons of water then bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer until soft and syrupy.
Leave to cool.
Release each panna cotta carefully from their moulds onto plates (you may need to warm the outside of the mould with your hands a little to help). Sprinkle the orange slices with sugar and some fennel seeds and caramelise the top of them with a blowtorch. Put one on top of each panna cotta, gently warm through the syrup to loosen it a little and pour over with a sprinkle of pistachio, a few more fennel seeds and a little thyme. Serve immediately.