I don't know the first thing about romance. However, I do believe that the easiest way to show you care about somebody is doing something kind. What's more kind than making sure they're well fed, right? For a while, I was researching how to make gelatine-free panna cotta for desset tables. My search came up with egg whites, agar (why is it so extortionate?) and vege-gel. I chose to make this panna cotta with vege-gel because trying to find agar powder on the high street is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If I had the option though, I would choose agar powder as it is made from a naturally occurring algae and you know exactly what you're putting into your body.
I modified this recipe from BBC Food to make my own slightly excessive version. When you make something as decadent as panna cotta, I don't think there is any point of holding back. Want to throw rosewater in the mix? Do it. Dried candied petals? Be my guest. Raspberry and honey syrup? I'm certainly not going to stop you!
Prep+cooking time: 1 hr 15 mins
Servings: Makes 500ml, enough for two short ball tumblers or a dozen shot glasses
Ingredients for the panna cotta
- 1 sachet of Dr. Oetker's vege-gel
- 250ml whole milk
- 250ml double cream
- 25g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp rosewater (optional)
- Coconut oil (to grease the tumblers)
Ingredients for the raspberry syrup
- 50g raspberries, washed
- 1 tbsp honey
- Extra toppings: pistachios, strawberries, candied petals
1) Grease your heatproof tumblers/shot glasses and have cling film ready to one side, as well as a whisk and sieve.
2) In a pan, pour the milk, cream, sugar and flavourings into a pan and bring to a gentle simmer for 3-5 minutes.
3) Pour in three quarters of the vege-gel powder (one sachet sets 750ml liquid), remove the mixture from heat and whisk continuously until the vege-gel dissolves. If it becomes lumpy, keep whisking until the liquid is smooth, it is not the milk curdling, it is the vege-gel not properly dissolving. If that doesn't work, keep a sieve nearby.
4) Pour your panna cotta into your tumblers, leaving 1 cm at the top. Allow to slightly cool for a minute or two before covering with cling film and placing them in the fridge for at least 1 hour to set.
5) To make the syrup, place raspberries and honey in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. You can use the sieve from earlier to remove pulp and seeds, but I decided to keep them in.
6) Once the panna cotta has set, remove the tumblers from the fridge and place under warm water. The coconut oil that had hardened in the fridge will become runny again and loosen the sides of the panna cotta from it's mould. Place upside down on a dessert plate, gently tap the base of the glass and it should drop out quite easily. Alternatively, you could just leave it in the tumbler as it is and proceed with toppings. It is best served on the day but can be left in the fridge overnight, covered with cling film, if you're preparing for a dinner.