This is the first sweet on our new dessert menu and I am pleased to say that it has been selling quite well. There are a lot of influences for this dessert, firstly the Italian panna cotta. Literally meaning "cooked cream", panna cotta uses cream and milk as a vehicle for flavours, usually vanilla or honey, which is then set into delightful little shapes with gelatine. I tweaked this Italian classic with the Middle Eastern flavours of rosewater, lemon and pistachio.
Once combined, it displays a delightful melange of tastes and textures. The panna cotta is a wobbly and sweetly soft pillow of creamy rosewater, with the sticky citrus tang of the lemon confit. Scattered all around is the crunchy, nutty honeycomb, adding a textural counterpoint.
More good news is the fact that it is an extremely simple dessert to prepare in advance, say for a dinner party. All of the ingredients will last well for several days once made. The assembly and plating can be done in a matter of minutes, while your guests relax after their main meal.
375 ml (1 1/2) cups cream (35 % Butterfat)
125 ml (1/2) cup milk
1 tsp rosewater essence
60 gm (2 oz) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
1 piece of orange rind
1 1/2 gelatine sheets
1/2 cup pistachio honeycomb
8 slices of lemon confit
Combine the cream, milk, rosewater, sugar, vanilla bean and orange rind together in a heavy-based saucepan. Very, very gently bring to the simmer on the lowest heat setting. This can take over half an hour, but is an important step in extracting all the flavours to the cream. After the flavours have developed and the mix smells sweetly of a Middle Eastern spice bazaar, strain into a cooking bowl, discarding the flavourings.
Of course, these panna cotta can be served with other ingredients, such as fresh berries and almond wafers. If you cant find rosewater, try flavoring the panna cotta with other sweet goodies, such as honey, citrus rind, or simply vanilla. They can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Soak the gelatine sheets in a little cold water for 2 minutes to soften. Don't soak for too long or the gelatine will dissolve. Lift the sheets out of the water and squeeze out the excess moisture, then whisk into the cream mixture while still warm. Stir well to make sure the gelatine dissolves completely. Strain again into another bowl.
Have ready 4 small (100 - 120 ml) dariole moulds, or even use small teacups. Ladle the mixture into the darioles until it is all used. Set in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to serve, gently run a small knife around the inside of the moulds so the panna cotta comes away from the edge a little. Gently tap out onto serving plates. The will be very soft and wobbly. Lay 2 slices of lemon confit on the side of each, scatter over some crumbled pistachio honeycomb and drizzle over some syrup from the lemons. Yum.