Panna Cotta with Kumquats and Mint

Panna Cotta is one of my favourite desserts to make. It’s quick, easy, and incredibly versatile- panna cotta will go with practically anything. All of the work in making it is in preparation, so if you are making food for guests, all you have to do is get the finished dessert out of the fridge. The recipe calls for vanilla pods, which can be expensive, especially when vanilla extract is a much cheaper option, but I’d really recommend them here: you get a really pure vanilla flavour from the pods, and when that is the main flavour of the dish, it’s definitely worth it. Given then that panna cotta is just vanilla-y cream set with gelatin, I’ll often make panna cotta if I have something interesting and fruity I want to put with it, just as a normal fruit and cream combination, like with strawberries and cream, or a cheesecake.

The “interesting and fruity” thing here I want to put with it is kumquats. Recently I had that experience with kumquats that it seems everybody has- I saw some kumquats that had been put out for people to eat, thought “I’ve not tried one of those before”, then, unsure how to eat it, just bit into it, and immediately regretted it. They’re very bitter by themselves, quite unpleasant to eat, so I a look around online and in books, and the suggestions I found was to roast the kumquats, or to soften and puree them, adding sugar in both instances. So when I saw some kumquats at Borough Market in London, and hadn’t got a pudding sorted for that evening, it seemed like a good opportunity to try to get the most our of the dish.

Adding the mint though, is where it gets interesting. Mint and orange is hardly a classic combination (in fact I would recommend against it usually), but I thought that with the bitterness of the oranges, a slight hint of mint would add something fun- and it really did. I would be careful not to overdo the mint in the cooking- you only want a touch of it to contrast the orange flavour. But if you get it right, the flavours work with the vanilla cream very well, and make for a pretty nice dessert.

Panna Cotta with Kumquats and Mint

Whilst being all done beforehand, you will need quite a bit of time for the panna cotta to set, so if you are planning for an evening dinner, I’d suggest making them in the morning.

Ingredients (makes 4 ramekins):
For the panna cotta
400ml double cream
100ml milk
2 sheets leaf gelatin
1 vanilla pod
100g sugar
For the kumquat and mint syrup
150g kumquats (if you can’t find kumquats, you could use some pieces of orange instead)
100g sugar
1 bunch mint

Recipe:
1. Make the panna cotta. Place the gelatin in a bowl of cold water to soften (this will take ~10 minutes). Cut the vanilla pod in half length-ways, and scrape out the seeds into a pan. Pour the milk, cream, and sugar into the pan, aiming at the seeds, to prevent clumping of the vanilla. Heat until just boiling, squeeze out all of the water from the gelatin, and add to the pan. Pour into ramekins and leave to cool, before putting in the fridge.
2. Make the kumquat and mint syrup. Cut each kumquat in half and remove the seeds and stalk. Place in a pan with the sugar and about 200ml water, and bring to a boil. The kumquats will now soften in the pan over time. Keep an eye on the water levels- the water will boil off as you heat- and add more to retain a syrup consistency. Once the kumquats are nicely softened, add the mint to the pan, saving four leaves for presentation. It will only take a short while for the mint flavour to get into the sauce, so keep stirring and tasting the sauce to make sure the balance of flavours is good (be careful as it is hot). Once softened, put aside to cool. You may want to add more sugar to the syrup if you find it too bitter. This softening could take an hour or so.
3. Assemble.  Pour some of the syrup onto each plate. Take the panna cotta from the fridge and put onto the syrupy plate. Put a leaf of mint on top, and a handful of the roasted kumquats.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cooking Pigs’ Trotters « oxfood

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