At the moment, I have terrible hay-fever. My sinuses are blocked and aching. My face feels like it’s gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. I look in the mirror and expect to see two black eyes staring back at me. Everything is flowering for Spring, and in Australia that means that the wattles and paperbark trees are in full bloom. I feel disgusting, sound like a drag queen, and my used handkerchiefs are things of horror. I try hard to like Spring, but it doesn’t make it easy for me. No indeed.
What I want is something simple. Something that is sweet and cool, fragrant and tasty. Something that my anti-histamine addled brain can make without effort. Usually I like fruit and custard – it’s something I grew up with and ranks as comfort food for me. When I was sick and if it were hot, Mum would give me a bowl of chilled canned peaches or pears with some home-made custard made with good old Bingo! custard powder (now vanished) and a pile of eggs from our chickens.
But I don’t have eggs, the custard powder has vanished into the mists of time (Yes, I know that Foster Clarks still make custard powder. No, it’s not the same!) and The Husband has finished off the tin of pears I had in the fridge for snacks. I feel very down and cheer myself up by browsing through my recipe file until I find a recipe that I clipped out years ago for panna cotta.
Translated directly from the Italian, it means, simply, cooked cream. I have cream. I have gelatine. I have berries in the freezer. And, its so simple that even sleep-deprived me can make it without fear of self-immolation. Houston, we have a GO!
I used the silicone cupcake molds I bought at Big W about a thousand years ago and this made me think of the rose-water in the berries – a delicious, Turkish Delight-flavoured twist that I sometimes do with berries over ice-cream as an easy Summer dessert. Sometimes, last minute whims (and laziness – I couldn’t be bothered digging my ramekins out of the cupboard) really are the mother of invention.
You will need;
For the panna cotta;
- 375ml milk
- 375ml cream
- 115g caster sugar
- Vanilla to taste
- 2½ teaspoons of powdered gelatine
- 2 tablespoons of boiling water
Combine milk, cream and sugar in saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add your vanilla (either the scrapings from a bean or a splash of essence) and warm until steaming hot. Do not boil.
In a small bowl, mix the gelatine and the boiling water and stir until dissolved and smooth. Mix into the saucepan and stir until completely blended.
Oil your moulds (this amount will make 12 small or 6 good sized pots) and pour in the mix. Chill for at least 4 hours.
For the berries;
- 300g of berries – your choice (fresh or frozen – I used frozen mixed because that’s what was in the freezer)
- caster sugar to taste
- rose water (available at most supermakets or deli’s or cake-supply places)
Warm the berries in a saucepan until they start to give up some juice. Taste and add enough sugar to take off some of the tartness. Don’t make them too sweet – you need some tang against the panna cotta. Add a couple of splashes of rose water (start with a small amount – you can aways add more) and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Chill.
To serve, unmold your panna cotta onto a plate and surround with the berries. Alternatively, set the panna cotta into a large glass and top with the berries – less fussy and easy to make in advance for parties.
I’m going to make this again, but I might go mango and pistachio, or even saffron and almond. Perhaps coffee and hazelnut liqueur? Hmmm. And for a short moment, I am no longer thinking about my poor nose…