As I was exploring theme and variation, the way I like to, this time on the subject of panna cotta (elderflower panna cotta, vanilla panna cotta, chocolate panna cotta…) I came across a great old kitchen tool belonging to my grandmother. Her old spice mill! A simple, practically unbreakable and good old fashioned solution to fresh spices. Many people wouldn’t accept anything less than grinding their own fresh coffee; I’m quite sure my grandmother felt the same about grinding spices.
The scent of cardamom that would’ve dominated this piece, through all my grandmother’s Finnish baking, is renewed by my experiment in coconut cardamom panna cotta. On an early spring cleanse, we couldn’t take any dairy, so I substituted with coconut milk. Did you see the original recipe?
This piece adjusts for a course or rough grind, like any good pepper mill worth its, well, salt. Not much to it, yet it will still be grinding long after I’m gone, no doubt. I’m inclined to purchase future spices to store whole, as they’ll keep their freshness far longer. Grinding spices is quite satisfying.
Gorgeous. Who needs cake? If you’d prefer this treat in chocolate form, you can still catch the recipe in appleturnover’s spring letter.
While I love to bake, occasionally an elegant dessert is called for at a particularly busy moment. I was delighted to find that panna cotta is not only absolutely gorgeous in flavour and style, it is extraordinarily simple to make. Translated from Italian as “cooked cream”, for this you’ll need 500ml each of cream and milk, six sheets of gelatine, a dozen drops of stevia (or sugar to taste) and either a splash of vanilla or a bean if you’ve got it.
My small child helped soak the gelatine in cold water for five minutes. She was fascinated with the stuff. I put the other ingredients in a pot to warm up, just to a low simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then my little one squeezed out the gelatine, I took the pot off the fire, and she stirred it in well.
I had our sundae glasses
waiting to be filled, though turning out the panna cotta from a mould is just beautiful too.
Put them to chill for a few hours til set. This is the most impatient part. I served these with a dusting of cocoa and berries cooked into a colourful compote on the side. Our long silver spoons reach nearly to the bottom of the glass. This recipe is perfect if you’re avoiding sugar and grains of any kind.
Ring the changes with elderflower cordial or almond essence, even substitute coconut milk for the dairy. I adore it darkly flavoured with cocoa and melted chocolate for a last-minute Valentine.
Early Spring turns my mind to chocolate and eggs, so a flourless chocolate torte fulfills some seasonal cravings. Oh I admit it, I drift away on thoughts of rich, dark chocolate, at any time of year. At least in spring I have an excuse for my fixation, and this cake is entirely justified.
For the torte that I mixed up in my quintessential mixing bowl, weigh 200 grams each of dark chocolate, sugar, butter; then separate four eggs.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, or a bowl over simmering water.
Stir half of the sugar into the separated yolks, then fold in the melted butter-chocolate.
Beat the eggwhites til frothy, then slowly add the remaining sugar until you’ve got lovely soft peaks. Fold this gently into the rest, and fill a two-piece cake tin, greased and lined with parchment. Bake til a toothpick comes out cleanly, about 35 minutes. Turn it out to cool.
At River Cottage we made a gorgeous chocolate torte using pear purée. I’m still waiting for that recipe! Until then this one suits us very well.