Panna cotta is your friend. It tastes great, looks impressive, is embarrasingly easy to make, can be made in advance, is dead cheap, and is extremely versatile in the flavours that you can use.
Panna cotta can be thought of as a neutral base, to which you can add your choice of flavours. Spices are particularly good for this. The name (and dish) is Italian, meaning cooked cream. They are essentially flavoured cream, gently set with gelatine, making a soft sweet, just holding its shape on the plate.

These are just a few suggestions. Use your imagination! Have fun. I'm getting loads of ideas just writing this. How about some honey in there? Or saffron. Or both! That ginger sounded nice too. Keep experimenting! They're cheap as chips to make, so it doesn't matter too much if you get a couple of duds. Once you've started playing with ideas, you're bound to invent some classics of your own.



Gently warm the milk and cream with the flavourings, allowing time to infuse. Check the strength of flavour. Meanwhile, soften the gelatine in cold water. Sweeten the cream to taste. Remember, it shouldn't be actually "sweet", just take the edge off the taste.
Dissolve the softened sheets of gelatine in the warmed milk/cream. Strain into a jug, and pour into dariole moulds. In the absence of these moulds, which are very useful for lots of individual puddings, use any other small moulds. Ramekins or even teacups would work, although the tall shape of a dariole looks great when the panna cotta is unmoulded, as it settles under its own weight, bulging slightly. This'll make about 6.
Chill for several hours or overnight, to set. When ready to serve, run a small knife around the inside edge of the mould. This is easier if you are using the straight-sided dariole. With a careful tap, turn the panna cotta out onto a plate. Watch it wobble! Add whatever accompaniments you are using and serve immediately.

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