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Cardamom panna cotta with roasted strawberries

I love a good panna cotta. I was introduced to this dish at Delphina's restaurant in San Francisco and have yet to find a better panna cotta than they make, including in my travels in Italy. Soft, melt-in-your-mouth, delicately flavoured and beautiful, a panna cotta is divine. However, most commercial panna cotta is usually bad, too much gelatin makes

it stiff and chewy, and sometimes creative cooks add too many things in an effort to spruce up the dessert and completely miss out on the texture of the dish.

Panna cotta means "cooked cream" as the milk or cream is boiled to dissolve the gelatin. It was first mentioned in the 1960s when a famous chef, Ettore Songia, offered panna cotta on the menu for his restaurant. There are similar variants across Europe that have originated from this style of dessert making.

A panna cotta has a simple ingredient list but is very hard to get right, it is the perfect ratio of gelatin to cream that is critical. Too little and it does not gel, and too much and it gets stiff. You can also use vegetarian agar agar instead of gelatin, but the ratios will need to be worked out.

This dessert is superb. I will admit that I am always a bit paranoid when i set out to make a panna cotta but this one turned out spectacular. The texture was just perfect, soft, silken and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The hint of cardamom is lovely and the roasted strawberries add a lovely gentle sweet-sourness to the dessert. the original recipe used roasted plums, but they were not in season so I substituted strawberries.

This cookbook has been on my shelf for some time now and I have finally dared to cook from it. Each recipe is detailed, complex and involves many steps. However, the recipes are superb. Gabriel Hamilton is a self-taught chef who opened the famed Prune restaurant (now closed) in New York, which became a success and was very highly rated. The book is a compilation of recipes from the restaurant. This is a messy cookbook, the chef has notes scribbled all over the pages, images of tape stuck with changes in the menu, and more, but it is an insight into the mind of a brilliant chef.

For more recipes from this amazing cookbook, click here.


For the panna cotta:

7 tablespoons sugar

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

1 3/4 cups whole milk

1/2-1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

2 teaspoons gelatin

2 tablespoons water

For the roasted strawberries:

2 packs strawberries, hulled and sliced thickly

1 tablespoon superfine sugar

Peel from 1 lime or lemon

Heat the oven to 375° F.

Toss the strawberries with the sugar and lime/lemon peel. Layer onto a lined baking sheet and roast for 15-18 minutes till they are soft and have given out a thick syrup. remove and cool. Collect the strawberries and syrup. Set aside.

Mix the gelatin with the water and allow it to bloom for 10 minutes.

Mix the sugar, cream, milk and ground cardamom well. Heat on a stove on low flame till just before boiling. Add the gelatin and mix it well. Continually stir the mix to dissolve the gelatin, but never let it boil.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the mix into individual ramekins and cover tightly with wrap. Chill in the fridge overnight.

To serve, heat a pot of water and pour into a Pyrex dish about 1 inch deep. Add the ramekin into the after and allow to sit for 30-45 seconds. Remove, top with a plate and invert quickly. Tap the top lightly with a spoon and remove the ramekin. Repeat with the rest of the ramekins. Top with the roasted strawberries, about a tablespoon a plate. Serve immediately.

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