I was chatting with a friend recently and she mentioned that I haven’t been posting any recipes on the blog of late. And she’s right! I think the last recipe I posted was my hummus recipe and that was ages ago! Admittedly I’ve been a bit lazy in the kitchen lately, but temperatures hovering around 45 degrees Celsius sort of have that effect I guess :)
But the last few days I suddenly felt myself getting the urge to do some experimenting and I settled on Lemon Panna Cotta. In my opinion, nothing says summer more than lemons. Their yellow zest and tart, citrusy goodness scream Summer and the taste and smell of lemons are so refreshing when temperatures soar. And panna cotta is the perfect desert for summer. This simple dessert looks so very elegant, but requires minimum effort in the kitchen. What more could you ask for in a dessert?
Panna cotta means cooked cream and this dessert originated in Northern Italy. Panna cotta is a creamy, softly set dessert that should melt in your mouth. At its core a panna cotta is just cream and sugar set with just the right amount of gelatin that allows it to keep its form, while maintaining an irresistible wobble. And that is the most challenging part about making a panna cotta. There is nothing worse than a panna cotta that is rubbery because of too much gelatin.
What’s so awesome about a panna cotta you might ask? Well it’s so versatile!
- It sounds fancy even though it’s pretty uncomplicated to make
- It’s egg-less and gluten-free
- It can be made using gelatin substitute like agar agar (china grass)
- It’s a great dessert for vegans since the milk or cream can be substituted with almond milk or coconut milk
So I started with operation’ Lemon Panna cotta’. First attempt was a disaster... too little gelatin, attempt number two... too much, but I got lucky on the third try- perfect wobbly panna cottas with a lovely silky, creamy texture. Yay!
To serve a panna cotta you can either unmould it or serve it in what it was set. I set mine in a glass tumbler and a clear glass jar. The idea was to make a basic lemon panna cotta that could be served in a number of ways. Option one, was just the panna cotta garnished with a candied lemon peel. Option two was with a mango and mint salsa and it was so good- the perfect dessert for a summer lunch. And if you do want to put in a little extra effort, it would go really well with a dollop of lemon curd.
How to make lemon Panna Cotta
1/2 cup single cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup hung curd
1 level tbsp sugar
Zest of 3 lemons (I used Indian lemons which are about an 1.5” in diameter)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water
3/4 tbsp gelatin
Juice of 1 lemon
In a small bowl, mix water with lemon juice. Sprinkle the gelatin over this and leave for about 5 minutes, until the gelatin has absorbed the liquid and it looks a little like it’s forming.
In the meantime heat the milk, cream and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved and the milk mixture is hot but not boiling. Do Not let it boil. Remove from heat and cool for about a minute. Add the lemon zest and the honey.
Next add the gelatin to the warm milk mixture and stir with a spoon or silicon spatula until the gelatin has dissolved completely. Don’t use a whisk as this will cause the mixture to foam, which is not desirable.
Let the mixture cool down, but not set. Mix the hung curd with a little of the milk-gelatin mixture to smooth and thin it out. Then mix this into the remaining mixture. Strain and pour into moulds or a glass. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.
If you are unmoulding, dip moulds in warm water and loosen edges slightly with a sharp knife. Turn over onto a plate and serve.
If you are serving it with the mango and mint salsa simply chop up some fresh mango and a few mint leaves and add a little lemon juice to this. The fresh fruit is lovely with the creamy texture of the panna cotta.
[All images- Shalini Pereira]
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