There’s no denying that I have a strong affinity to Italian food (as does Nigella), so when Nigellissima (her book of Italian-inspired recipes) came out last year, I treated myself to a copy. Panna cotta was the first recipe I made from the book.
For some reason I always thought that panna cotta was difficult to make. I feel a bit foolish now that I know I was quite wrong, and should not have put myself off making this for so long. The only real challenge is using the correct amount of gelatine, so that the proper set texture can be achieved. I know that leaf gelatine costs more than powdered gelatine, but it is much easier to use, especially for this kind of recipe.
Nigella stipulates a precise amount of gelatine, but this is only helpful when one has the same gelatine source as her, which I could not be sure of. So, I just used a half portion of what was instructed on my gelatine packet, and hoped for the best. Turns out I had beginner’s luck.
This is what I did, based on Nigella’s recipe, with a few adjustments on proportions, including halving it to serve 2.
50 ml milk
200 ml cream
25 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
A half portion of the recommended amount of leaf gelatine for 250 ml of liquid
- Heat the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla over a low heat.
- Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water.
- When the cream mixture starts to bubble a little around the edge, remove from the heat.
- Squeeze out the water from the gelatine leaves, and add them to the cream mixture. Whisk to dissolve.
- Pour the cream mixture into moulds and refridgerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
- When unmoulding, dip the bottom of the mould into hot water for about 10 seconds, and turn out onto the serving dish.
I served the panna cotta with strawberries (an option suggested by Nigella). These were simply diced and macerated with 1 tsp each of balsamic vinegar and caster sugar, and left for at least 15 minutes, with the occasional stir. Boy am I ever glad I gave these a go (yes, the mixture of balsamic vinegar and strawberries is another of my completely unfounded hang-ups)! I hope you will, too.