Panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is a delightful Italian dessert made from cream, milk, and sugar, flavoured with vanilla, and then set with gelatine into a small jelly. Panna cotta originates from Piedmont, in Northern Italy, and this dish makes a classy dessert, and despite its heavy ingredients, it is light and refreshing, and works great with a simple fruit sauce.Vanilla pods can be quite expensive, so vanilla essence works well too – I tend to use a quality vanilla essence which includes some vanilla seeds in too, as it is still half the price of a vanilla pod and the flecks still make it look great.If you do not have blueberries to hand, you could use raspberries, strawberries, or my personal favourite – blackcurrants. The process is the same for whatever berry you use, just remember to add a little extra sugar to thicken it up and make it sweet enough – keep tasting until its just right, if you want to thin it, add a tiny bit of water or a little lemon juice.You will also need some small pudding tins, I used four anondised mini pudding tins, which are about 7.5cm/3in in diameter.Use a full-fat or a semi-skimmed milk, if you use fat-free it will be too thin – this isn't a dessert designed for those on a strict diet! Indulge yourself!
- 3 leaves gelatine
- 300 ml double/heavy cream
- 200 ml milk
- 1 whole vanilla pod (or 1 tsp. vanilla essence)
- 25 g sugar
For the sauce
- 75 g blueberries
- 25 g sugar
- Carefully measure out the ingredients, and soak three sheets of gelatine in a shallow dish of water.
- Add the double cream, sugar, milk, and vanilla to a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. This will take around ten minutes, try not to heat it in a hurry, or you will spoil the flavours and the cream, instead keep stirring as the temperature increases.
- When the mixture starts to foam, remove the pan from the heat.
- Whilst the mixture is still hot, lift out the gelatine sheets from the dish of water, gently squeeze the water from them with your hands, and add them to the pan.
- Stir the mixture, complete with gelatine as it cools, the gelatine will disperse, after stirring for a minute or two the gelatine should have dissolved completely.
- Pour the mixture into the four moulds, this recipe makes just enough to fill the four, with nothing left over.
- Let them cool for a few minutes, before putting them in a refrigerator for at least 2½ hours – ideally longer.
- After a few hours has passed they will have set, so to make the sauce, blend the berries and the sugar together into a smooth sauce – you can strain out the pips if you wish, but it tends to be quite messy!
- To remove the panna cotta from the mould I usually dip the outside of the dish in some warm water to melt the cream a little, then it just slides out. Be careful though as the cream melts very quickly, and very easily – it will not set like a typical jelly!
- Serve with a couple of spoonful's of your berry sauce on the side.
- Serve the panna cotta immediately after plating, as they melt quickly.