Is anyone here familiar with those voucher deals? The ones which give you massive discounts to various retailers, travels and hotels, health and beauty care services and dining, just to name a few. I signed up with Groupon and have been enjoying the benefits for quite some time now. Ridiculous discount to my last whale watching activity and a number of discounted meals at restaurants and cafes. At first I was a bit suspicious about the quality of service and food I would be getting because seriously, you get up to 70% off the original meal price! In fairness, the places I have tried were so far decent and enjoyable as far as the meal deals were concerned. Last Thursday night, my girlfriend and I booked for another deal at this Latin restaurant/pub in Darling Harbour. It was a three-course meal with a jug of Sangria or a bottle of house wine. Sangria was the choice, to my friend’s delight, and since I cannot have any alcoholic drink due to some health issues ( I will not bore you with the details), she got to enjoy the Sangria to herself. Three types of appetisers for each of us, a large seafood platter to share and panna cotta for desserts. Now, I have not had panna cotta before. I know what it is but for some reason, I have always ignored it when I see it on the dessert menu and I did not have any interest at all to make them for dessert to serve to the family. So, why panna cotta for dessert last Thursday, you may ask. Well, it was the only choice as part of the voucher deal. And boy was I glad that it was the case because I truly enjoyed it! I enjoyed it much that I decided to finally add it to my list of desserts-to-make. We were served each a vanilla panna cotta with raspberry coulis. At work the next day, my mind was on what flavour panna cotta I will make and what sauce to serve with it. I know. It may sound crazy but I tend to fantasize about food. Good food excites me and that panna cotta was good that I was dead set to give it a go. And so I did. I went for orange blossom flavour with burnt orange sauce then sprinkled with chopped pistachios.
So, why the flavour combinations? Orange blossom water is a traditional ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. I have used it before when I made baklava and know for a fact that it mixes well with syrupy flavours like honey. Just a note on the orange blossom water. It is quite strong in flavour so add a few drops and adjust taste to your liking. Pistachios are perfect with these two flavours as well and thought that the chopped nuts would add another dimension to the panna cotta, texture and flavour wise. Navel oranges are in season as well so, perfect!
This is one of the easiest desserts to make. Just a few minutes to simmer the cream, milk and sugar ( the basic ingredients). The burnt orange sauce sounds tricky but easy peasy to make. Ok, there is the chilling time ( about 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator to set) but really worth the wait. There was one thing that almost held me back from making it last Friday and that was I did not have dariole moulds. Thankfully, a workmate mentioned that disposable coffee cups work fine. So, off to one of the local cafes I went and the barista charged me 50 cents for four espresso disposable cups. Cheap but I am planning to buy proper dariole moulds since I do not think this will be the last time I will make panna cotta.
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups thickened cream
- 4 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon powdered gelatine
- 1-2 tablespoons orange blossom water (adjust according to taste)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup fresh orange juice ( about two large oranges)
- 60 g butter
- chopped pistachio nuts
- In a medium saucepan, stir over gentle heat the cream, milk and caster sugar until sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to the boil. Simmer for 3 minutes while gradually adding drops of orange blossom water.
- Sprinkle the gelatine powder evenly onto the hot cream mixture and the let it soak for a minute.
- Whisk the mixture until gelatine is dissolved.
- Pour the cream among 4 dariole moulds that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover each with a cling wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
- To make the sauce: place sugar in a small heavy-based saucepan and melt sugar over low heat. Do not stir the sugar but roll the saucepan over heat while sugar melts. Keep doing this until sugar has caramelised (like what you will do when making creme caramel).
- Gently add orange juice into the caramel. Do not worry if caramel hardens, it will dissolve again as the mixture simmers.
- Add butter and let sauce simmer until it is syrupy thick in texture and golden brown in colour. Let it cool before pouring it on panna cotta.
- Unmould the panna cotta by gently inserting a knife around the edges of the moulds. Tip them onto individual plates. If using paper coffee cups like I did, squeezing it gently makes it easier for panna cotta to slide out of moulds.
- Serve panna cotta with the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.