Summer is the season of the light dessert. It takes a bold or foolish soul to order a sticky toffee pudding when the mercury’s soaring. And there are few desserts lighter than panna cotta, the quiveringly creamy Italian confection claimed by Piedmont as a regional speciality. The beauty of panna cotta is that, like crème brulée, it is delicious in its essential form, but can also be readily adulterated with a kaleidoscope of other flavours – a blank canvas in cream.
This version comes courtesy of The Cookery School at Daylesford – specifically from its founder Carole Bamford, who features the recipe in her book Nurture: Notes and Recipes from Daylesford Farm. Given zing from rhubarb and blood orange, it’s the ideal end to a summer dinner (and, mixed with a little orange zest, the rhubarb makes a great breakfast, too).
For the panna cotta
- 400ml double cream
- Unsalted butter, for greasing
- 100ml full-fat milk
- 2 vanilla pods, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
- Zest of 2 oranges
- 100g caster sugar
- 3 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
For the rhubarb
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
- 6 rhubarb sticks, cut into 2cm pieces
- 3 blood oranges, peeled, pith removed and segmented
- 2 pieces of candied stem ginger, thinly sliced
Lightly grease six 150ml ramekins.
Put the cream into a heavy-based pan with the milk, vanilla seeds, orange zest and sugar. Slowly bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat.
Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatine leaves and then add them to the pan. Stir until the gelatine dissolves, then strain the mixture into a jug. Divide the liquid between the ramekins and chill until set – this will take several hours, so it’s best to do it overnight.
To poach the rhubarb, make a syrup by combining 500ml water with the sugar and vanilla pod in a large pan. Bring to the boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the prepared rhubarb and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.
To turn out the panna cotta, briefly dip the base of each ramekin in hot water and turn out onto serving plates. Arrange some poached rhubarb, blood oranges and the sliced stem ginger around each one and serve immediately.