White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Strawberry & Basil Salsa
This was the edict of an Italian silver haired chef handed down when I dared to go discuss in the kitchen and ask for his recipe in a small hilltop town outside Rome. I did not argue nor press on detail (silicone? age specific wobbles?) because it was obvious that all things round and wobbly were a good thing in his book. Now if metaphors of the flesh are a bit too much for a humble milk jelly then just know that when pushed it should react like a jelly and it should feel like a delicate custard that melts in the mouth.
The turned out version:
One word of warning, while making panna cotta is simplicity itself turning them out can be nerve wracking – especially after a few drinks at a dinner party. The cheating solution is to serve in the glass you made them in but if you want to turn out then lower the mould you have used (a rounded cappucino cup with no angles/nooks and crannies for the panna cotta to adhere to when you are trying to turn it out is really still the best thing) into a deep tray or bowl of boiling water for 2 minutes. This melts the gelatine on the outside. Lift out very carefully. Skim around the edge with a small knife. Place a serving plate over the top and invert. Now decorate your masterpiece.
So now …back to the Panna Cotta…
Panna Cotta or “cooked cream” is another one of those oh so simple Italian dishes that relies on simple but good ingredients. Its essentially a cream jelly that is set with gelatine. It can be embellished and enriched by adding white chocolate which means that you need a little less gelatine. I like to do this because I think it has a greater “melt in your mouth” feel.
Ingredients – White Chocolate Panna Cotta – 6 servings
- 500ml smantana dulce 30%-32% (heavy cream or double cream)
- 150ml lapte 3.5% (milk)
- 100g ciocolata alba (white chocolate broken into pieces)
- 25g zahar (sugar)
- 10g gelatine + 100ml apa rece (gelatine powder plus 100ml cold water)
- 1 tsp vanilie (vanilla extract)
I’ve written the Romanian first because its quite tricky to get the right cream.
First dissolve your gelatine in the cold water – it will kind of go spongy and absorb the water. I like to wisk it so it kind of gets a little frothy and this way I know that its properly dissolved.
Heat the cream, sugar and milk on the stove until just boiling but be careful not to burn it and create brown bits of “stuff” floating in it.
Remove from the heat!
Throw in the white chocolate until it melts and is incorporated – dont stir until it has melted. Now add the vanilla.
Now give it a good whisk
Pour into cappuccino cups and place in the refrigerator (preferably overnight) (if you have other strong smelling food in the fridge then cover with cling film because dairy products absorb smells and odours like sponges)
Strawberry & Basil Salsa
The amount of fruit depends really if you want a fruit salsa dish with panna cotta or a panna cotta with a fruit salsa…I reckon 1 kg of strawberies makes a decent amount of salsa for 6. and what is left over blend into a smoothie.
Take half the fruit and cut into small cubes approx 1cm across.
The other half blend to a puree.
Shred basil leaves fairly finely as you dont actually want large leaves in this salsa but neither do you want the basil to be pureed because it would change the bright red colour into a dingy brown.
Add a little lemon juice if you like things tart.
Spoon the salsa on the panna cotta either in the glass or turned out and serve immediately.
The panna cotta can be made up to two days ahead. the salsa is best made fresh. If you are really in a rush skip the fiddly cube bits and just create a puree.