It was audacious on my part to serve Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce to an Italian when he came for dinner. But it was the easiest dessert to make and I had all the ingredients at hand.
He obviously hadn't expected me to
dare to have made it myself. He asked me where I'd bought it and when told that it came out of the same kitchen he was standing in, looked suitably impressed. Guest was on diet (who isn't?), but offered me the compliment of helping himself three times to the panna. Said it was very good, better than the ones you find in many Italian restaurants! Coming from an Italian that was compliment indeed.
Panna cotta literally means cooked cream in Italian. I made it for the first time in Italy a few years ago and it took a few tries to get it right, from working out the right quantities of everything to getting the boiling point right and knowing when not to over stir it. I knew my panna skills were rusty when I made it a few weeks ago for the neighbours and you could taste lumps in the dessert at the bottom of the glass. That probably came from stirring the cream after it has started to cool. Itchy fingers.
But a few attempts later with very eager guinea pigs in the form of Hub and kids soon helped me recover the touch and I am relieved to say that my panna cotta is now a light, smooth cream that can once again be served to discerning guests. Thanks to Marks and Spencer here in Shanghai, I also have nice frozen (if expensive) raspberries to serve the panna cotta with. Remains for me to experiment with agar agar to try to make a vegetarian version because when you have Muslim friends over sometimes they worry that the gelatine may have come from pork. And if I offer it to my mum, she'd worry that it came from beef. On ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde!
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce :
1l whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
180ml full cream milk
10g gelatine powder
The Raspberry Sauce :
1 tbsp sugar
If using frozen raspberries, microwave on high for 90 seconds with the sugar.
Mix well and crush with a fork till you obtain a rough fruit sauce. Set aside.
Take note that I usually prepare the raspberry sauce a few minutes before serving while the panna cotta has to be prepared at least 5 hours before hand.
To make the panna cotta, mix the sugar, vanilla and cream in a pot and bring it to a very gentle boil on low-medium heat. Stir from time to time.
By gentle boil it means that bubbles appear on the surface of the cream and it starts to tremble - after you've stirred it from time to time, first to dissolve the sugar and second to help ensure that the heat is spread out evenly.
In a bowl add the gelatine powder to the cold milk and stir well.
When the cream has come to a gentle boil, turn off the heat and pour the milk with the gelatine into it. Stir well.
Pour into moulds or glasses and do not stir the cream any more as it starts to cool.
Leave to cool before covering with cling wrap and refrigerating for at least 5 hours before serving.
Serve the cooked cream with some fruit sauce.
One can of course also serve the panna cotta with other sauces like mango, caramel etc.