I wanted to cook the Roasted Chicken with Clementines & Fennel again tonight with Jonathan and Lyndsey coming for supper so I decided it was a good idea to look in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book for a dessert too. I ended up combining two recipes: a set yoghurt pudding – a kind of yogurt cotto instead of panna cotta – and serving it not with poached peaches, as Ottolenghi does in the book, but the Poached Pears in White Wine & Cardamom in the preceding recipe. Both need some advance preparation and a few hours to set the cream and cool the pears. But having things ready in advance when entertaining is always good and makes for a more relaxed meal.
I prepared the set yoghurt first as that needed some time in the fridge to set.
Put 4 sheets of gelatine leaves (* see note at end – add just 3) in a bowl and cover with water. Pour 200ml double cream and 200ml whole milk into a saucepan with 90g caster sugar, half a vanilla pod (split and scrape out seeds and add seeds and pod shell), and the zest of half a lemon (Ottolenghi uses an orange but as I was serving this with pears rather than peaches I decided lemon would be a nice flavouring). Bring to a simmer on a medium heat and take off the heat immediately a simmer is reached and you see little bubbles around the edge. Remove the vanilla pod.
Spoon 200ml Greek yoghurt into a bowl. Do use real Greek yoghurt, in other words, Total. Don’t use ‘Greek style’ yoghurt – it’s not the same. Slowly pour in the hot cream mixture, whisking all the time to mix with the yoghurt until smooth. Now squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and add to the cream and yoghurt. Whisk until the gelatine completely dissolves in the warm cream.
Very, very lightly grease 4 ramekins or small pudding moulds (150ml/6 fl.oz. size was perfect) with a light oil – I used light olive oil. This will help when you’re trying to get them out for serving. Now ladle the cream and yoghurt mixture into the moulds and put in the fridge for at least 5 hours.
Now prepare the pears:
Peel 4 pears – I used comice. You want them to be firm, not ripe and soft. In a pan a size that the pears will just fit into, pour 150ml dry white wine (I have at this point to admit I misread the recipe in my turning back and forth to the next page and as I type this I see I was supposed to add 500ml … but I didn’t, I added 150ml), 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 150g caster sugar, 15 cardamom seeds, crushed; 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and place pears into the liquid. If they’re not covered, add some water. Now cook gently for about 15-25 minutes until cooked through but not falling apart; still whole. Check with a sharp knife that they’re cooked through to the centre.
Remove the pears with a slotted spoon to a dish then boil the remaining syrup hard till it reduces by half to two-thirds. Pour over the pears and leave to cool, either at room temperature or in the fridge.
When ready to serve, lift one pear onto a plate. I cut it in half and slid the halves slightly apart. Run a sharp knife round the edge of the set creams, dip the mould in a bowl of boiling water very briefly, give it a shake and then turn over onto the plate. Now spoon some of the syrup over the pears and round the cream. Sprinkle over some roasted almond slivers.
We all loved it. Jonathan said he preferred the yoghurt-based panna cotta to the normal one; it’s not quite so rich. The cardamom gives the pears an aromatic sweetness that combines wonderfully with the slightly bitter, earthy saffron. Being in a syrup, the pears are quite sweet and so the set yoghurt makes a perfect accompaniment with its slightly sharper flavour than normal panna cotta cutting through the sweetness of the poached pears. It was definitely a hit!
Note: When I next made this set yogurt – panna cotta – I used just 3 sheets of gelatine and it worked much better, still holding together in a set but much softer and creamier. See Vanilla Panna Cotta with Baked Plums.