Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream. It’s a light mixture of cream, milk and sugar (along with some honey in my version – I love the combination of milk and honey), set with gelatine and served cold. If you see panna cotta moulds for sale, buy a few – they make the job much easier. If you don’t have panna cotta moulds, ramekins work well too, but you will have to be a bit more patient when it comes to turning the set puddings out.
The vanilla is important here – I’ve used both vanilla sugar (sugar which has been stored with a vanilla pod buried in its jar) and the seeds from a vanilla pod in this recipe. Vanilla is expensive, but there’s nothing like the fragrance of the real stuff in this dessert. If, however, you can’t find any or prefer not to shell out for the real thing, a few drops of vanilla essence will work here too.
To serve six, you’ll need:
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine (from the cake-making shelves at the supermarket)
200 ml whole milk
600 ml double cream
Seeds from one vanilla pod
5 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
Raspberries or strawberries to garnish
Put the milk in your heaviest-bottomed saucepan and sprinkle the surface with the gelatine. Leave for ten minutes away from the heat for the gelatine to soften.
When the gelatine has softened, put the pan on a low heat and, stirring continually, warm until the milk is heated through and the gelatine dissolved. The milk should not boil at this stage. Add the cream, vanilla seeds (slit the pod down its length and use the handle end of a teaspoon to scrape all the seeds out – you can keep the pod and put it in another sugar jar), honey, vanilla sugar and salt to the pan and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Divide the mixture between six panna cotta moulds. Cover and put in the fridge until set (it’s best to leave the mixture at least overnight to make sure it’s completely firmed up). To turn out the moulds, dip their undersides in water from the kettle to loosen the mixture and pop a plate over them, then turn the whole assembly upside-down. Decorate with berries and serve chilled.