Best recipe: Panna cotta

pannacotta

Panna cotta is a traditional Italian dessert meaning “cooked cream”. I have attempted to make it before, but as I was trying to invent my own recipe with coconut cream – it didn’t turn out very well. I can reassure you that the below recipe does work and it’s dead easy. Vanilla panna cotta may be too bland for some people so think of it as a starting point and add other flavours or a berry sauce.

I didn’t have a vanilla bean, so instead I used vanilla concentrated extract and vanilla bean sugar from Herbie’s Spices. The sugar has black flecks which are the vanilla bean seeds. If you have vanilla essence use 2 tsp to 1 tsp of concentrated extract (or twice as much).

Vanilla panna cotta

2 Tbsp water
2 tsps gelatine powder
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped OR
1 tsp vanilla concentrated extract and 1 Tbsp vanilla bean sugar
1/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
500ml single (pouring) cream

  1. Place the water in a cup and sprinkle over the gelatine. Allow the water to be absorbed, which may take about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the cream, icing sugar, vanilla bean and seeds (or vanilla concentrated extract and vanilla bean sugar) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the gelatine and cook stiring for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the gelatine is dissolved.
  4. If used, pick out the vanilla bean pod.
  5. Pour the mixture into 4 x 1/2 cup capacity (125ml) lightly greased moulds.
  6. Refridgerate for 4 to 6 hours, or until firm.
  7. Remove the panna cotta from the fridge 5 minutes before serving. Remove from the moulds.

Serves 4

Cooked for the 100 recipes to cook in your lifetime challenge. 

Winning rum balls

rum-balls

Here is my top-secret recipe for winning work’s rum ball competition. There’s no coconut, condensed milk, weetbix or biscuits. It’s not something to eat all time, but an easy one for a work night.

I’ve used a store-bought cake to cut down on the preparation time and I’ve tried a number of different varieties – plain cake with jam works well, so does the chocolate version (see photo) for a double dose of chocolate. I did scrap the mock cream off though. If the mixture is a little damp leave it for 10 minutes or so for the chocolate to harden up a little. Roll in coconut at the end if you wish.

These are rich, decadent and moist.

500g swiss roll or Madeira cake
150g dark cooking chocolate
25ml rum

  1. Crumb the prepared cake in a large glass bowl.
  2. Melt chocolate as per instructions on packet.
  3. Mix the melting chocolate into the cake mix, then mix in the rum. Keep mixing until well combined.
  4. Scoop out and roll into balls. Place on a tray or container lined with baking paper.

Keep in the fridge, especially during summer.

Vanilla apples

Did you know that inorganic apples can be sprayed up to 16 times? One way to reduce your exposure to chemicals is to peel your fruit and vegetables, as the chemicals will be concentrated there. Unfortunately, you’ll also be removing many of the natural nutrients, which are also located in the skin.

I’m going to warn you these are very sweet, but oh so good. You could serve them with a cake or ice cream to balance out the flavour. The vanilla pod will sprinkle black flecks through the sauce, so you can use vanilla essence if you wish.

3 cm vanilla pod
2 Tbsp butter, organic
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp golden syrup

  1. Place the split open vanilla pod and butter in a frying pan over low heat and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the apples and sugar and cook for about 20 minutes or until caramelised, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the golden syrup and 1/4 cup of water. Cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Serves 2.