(Or how I learned to mistrust the cookbooks and go by my own intuition. To elaborate, every cookbook I have read (at least those published in the latter part of the 20th century and in the current millennium) have advocated the use of leaf gelatine. After having no more than two crashing failures with this product, I decided to use the more traditional powdered gelatine. And, as you will read in the forthcoming article, it works!)
I am not really a romantic person by nature, I don’t wear jewellery (I would much rather have 20 cookbooks than a pair of diamond rings), I don’t think much to red roses and perfume makes me sneeze. I will admit that I enjoy the odd chocolate truffle but I don’t wait until February 14th to indulge myself in those.
“What year did you buy me this pink fluffy rabbit clutching the red heart saying ‘I Wuv U’?”
“I have no idea, 2034? And when did you buy me this screwdriver dotted with flashing pink hearts?”
I am, however, a sucker for a themed food event, and whilst I refused to pull out my heart shaped tins for this particular one, I did throw myself into making a dessert suitable for the occasion. That occasion - held this month by the lovely Jasmine at Cardamom Addict - is Sugar High Friday, Sweet Seduction.
I instantly knew what I was going to make. And then I changed my mind. I was going to make an intricate orange cream and filo construction, thinking about how the crisp, splintery pastry, juicy citrus segments and whipped cream would be conducive to a romantic liaison. In the end, however, I went for something much simpler: Goats Yogurt and Honey Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta is Italian for cooked cream and anyone who has made the similarly simple Medieval dessert, Posset, will know that boiling cream with sugar causes it to set with the firmness of a long distance runners thighs. However, with a little help from gelatine, and a few other choice ingredients, a Panna Cotta should resemble the trembling bosom of Nell Gwynne instead.
Regardless of whether any conjugation would follow the Panna Cotta consumption, I am very proud of this recipe for two reasons:
a) It is my own concoction with only a little nudge from Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries and
b) It is the first time I have used Gelatine with success!
The original recipe, Yoghurt and Rosewater Panna Cotta sounded delicious but I have a small issue with Rosewater, finding it a bit ‘bath time at the nursing home’. I had thought about using Buttermilk instead of Yoghurt, flavouring it heavily with vanilla but then inspiration struck in the unlikely spot of the dairy aisle of Tescos: Organic Goats Yoghurt with Wild Honey!
As it turns out, goats yoghurt is the only yoghurt I can eat without aggravating my stomach problems and I adore the almost ice-creamy, tangy flavour that it has, much less harsh than the regular stuff.
The yoghurt was flavoured, almost imperceptibly with wild honey, and I thought it would be delicious if I replaced the rosewater element with some more honey. I also replaced the plain icing sugar with vanilla caster sugar because I find that Vanilla ties so many sweet dishes together, in the same way that onion ties together a savoury dish.
The final dish, when turned out carefully onto a small plate, drizzled with more honey and served with some fresh fruit (figs seemed particularly suitable in this instance, for obvious reasons) is delicate and light. I would recommend this as a dessert where some poached fish is the main, maybe even some oysters as an amuse bouche...
280ml Double Cream
1 Sachet Powdered Gelatine (use leaf if you can work out how on earth it works)
2 Tbsp Vanilla Caster Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoon Honey or to taste
150ml Goats Yoghurt or regular Plain Yoghurt of your choice
In a small saucepan, heat together the milk and cream, letting it simmer for 5-6 minutes.
Meanwhile, if you are using leaf gelatine, prepare it as per the packet. When you add it to the final mixture, make sure to squeeze out any excess water.
Remove the milk/cream mixture from the heat. If you are using powdered gelatine, stir into the milk/cream mixture and stir briskly until dissolved.
Stir in the Vanilla Sugar (or use a drop or two of Vanilla Extract), mixing until dissolved.
Fold in the yoghurt and then honey to taste.
Strain into a jug and pour into small, smooth moulds. I used tiny pudding moulds, Nigel Slater suggests shallow coffee cups.
Leave to cool, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until set, a couple of hours.
To turn out, gently work round the edge with a palate knife and plunge into hot water upto the brim for 3-4 seconds. You will hear a slight noise that indicates that it has started to come away from the mould. Turn out onto a plate and serve with figs or any other fresh fruit. Drizzle with more honey.
Serve with only one spoon...