SUGAR HIGH FRIDAY #28 Sweet Seduction

(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.

I don’t want to insinuate that Paul and I have a perfect relationship, but we make sure to enjoy every meal that we have together, whether the food is good or bad, so we don’t need to take one specific day in the year to celebrate our relationship. To that end, we don’t bother buying each other over-priced Valentines gifts that will probably get relegated to the bottom drawer in our spare room, eventually collecting decades of dust and long-distant memories:
“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.
The premise is straightforward enough: prepare a dessert that you have/would like to be/are hoping to seduce someone with.
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...
HONEY AND GOATS YOGHURT PANNA COTTA - Serves 4 (but keeps in the fridge for a couple of days if there's just the two of you - and that is the whole point)
280ml Double Cream
100ml Milk
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...


Patricia Scarpin said...

What a lovely post, Freya!

Joao and I always have a lovely time together, even when the food was not prepared with loads of time and effort. We enjoy eating together, it's nice!

Your recipe looks delicious - who said that food must be complicated to be good? ;)

Kathryn said...

It looks soooo good - and I don't think I like pannacotta (you may be noticing I'm a bit of a picky dessert eater. I am re-educating my palate). This looks divine, though.

Oh, and re St Valentines day, I agree about the stupid Valentines themed things... and I agree about valuing each other all year round... but I confess I welcome the chance to drink champagne and make heart-shaped food.

I think it allows me to embrace my inner kitsch...

Kathryn x

wheresmymind said...

I'm suspicious of those leaf gelatins as well...I go for the classy powdered stuff ;)

Shaun said...

Freya, love - I bet homemade panna cotta is better than the premade stuff sometimes served in restaurants. Yours looks absolutely divine, and I LOVE the use of goat's yoghurt. Being from a country reknowned for its honey lovers, I'm intrigued by the flavor of the "wild honey". And to top this glorious dish off, you served the panna cotta with figs. What a dream!

Freya said...

Hi Patricia, that's exactly how Paul and I are, we just enjoy the time together, especially as we're both really busy!

Kathryn, I think you might like the panna cotta because it's not custardy and tastes a lot like ice cream, just a bit tangier (if that's a word and not a place!)

Jeff, I know, you never know where those leaf gelatines have been...

Shaun, I have a suspicion that Wild Honey is a generic term!

Freya x

Saffron said...

I've never tried Panna Cotta with goat cheese!! Great tip!

Anonymous said...

Suspicious or not...that is so pretty!

Brilynn said...

I'm not good at working with gelatin, but maybe I should give it another go. That looks delicious!

Helene said...

Freya, this looks really tempting. B. and I have the same relatioships towards V-Day, we don't need a special day to say "I love u" but it is always nice to have a special gesture like a dessert such as yours. Paul is a lucky man!

Jennifer said...

That looks delicious! I have never had anything from a goat before, but this looks divine! Love the figs with it too!

Gemma said...

That looks lovely - I have never had goats milk yoghurt but it sounds good. I don't go too soppy for valentines either but am planning on making a chocolate mousse for tonight.

Gemma x

Kajal@aapplemint said...

I luv Figs...that looks so yummy !

Jeanne said...

How perfectly lovely! I adore fresh figs, both for their looks and taste. And I share your inexperience with and mistrust of gelatine... Yet another culinary fear I have to hurry up and deal with ;-)