It was lovely to have my daughter Nicola down for the weekend from Birmingham. It was just the two of us for supper on Saturday night and I cooked the wonderful chicken with clementines and fennel for her and also a new version of the yoghurt-based panna cotta I made last weekend. Although we all really loved the taste of the yoghurty panna cotta last Sunday, I felt it was too ‘set’ and had too much gelatine in the recipe so I wanted to remake it with less gelatine. I even discussed this in my best (if not actually very good) Italian with Fabio during my Italian lesson on Wednesday. Fabio is great and follows my blog so we often discuss what I’ve been cooking or restaurants and cafes I’ve eaten in, and I like having his genuine Italian input when I’ve made or eaten Italian. In my stumbling Italian I said that it’s quite tricky judging the right amount of gelatine for a panna cotta as you want it to set and hold its shape when you release it from the mould, but it’s nicer when it has a soft and almost melting-in-the-mouth texture (I can tell you I definitely didn’t manage that full description in Italian! But Fabio knew what I meant).
I’d had in mind that I’d like to serve my new version with some rhubarb as we’re coming into the season of forced rhubarb … but I’m a little ahead of it in my plans and couldn’t actually find any. So I opted for some nice ripe but firm plums instead and decided to bake them for a more intense flavour than stewing would give them.
I cut them in half and laid them, cut side up, in a baking dish. They were quite ripe and sweet so didn’t need much sugar and I sprinkled over just a couple of dessertspoons of soft brown sugar – soft brown for a more caramelised flavour.
I then drizzled over a couple of dessertspoons of cassis – but if you don’t have that, just use water. Then a little lemon juice squeezed over. And finally cover the dish with foil and put in a 200C/180Fan oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes. I just love plums and smell of them was wonderfully enticing as they came out of the oven.
They’d cooked to a silky soft consistency and the juices had thickened into a gorgeous syrup.
I’d made the panna cotta earlier. Please follow my previous recipe (click here) but with a couple of important differences. Instead of 4 gelatine leaves, use just 3. I also added only vanilla for flavouring and no lemon zest as I wanted the pure vanilla flavour to shine through. I also used smaller moulds as I thought the size of last week’s creams were a bit too big; I used 100ml moulds and that was perfect.
When ready to eat our desserts, I tipped out one panna cotta onto each plate and then carefully spooned on two of the soft, delicious baked plums with some of the syrup. I scattered some almond flakes over the top, which I’d toasted a little in a pan.
It was fabulous. Such gorgeous rich flavours: the vanilla of the set cream and the deep red-fruitiness of the plums. I was delighted by the way the panna cottas turned out so much softer and lighter in texture. This was a definite improvement on last week’s (although they’d seemed good at the time) and the plum and vanilla combination was perfect too.