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Crème fraîche panna cotta and Pomegranate jelly

This silky, versatile dessert set with gelatine pairs beautiful with pomegranate jelly, caramel sauce, dark chocolate shavings or with fresh or cooked fruit. Try combining this with poached pear or stewed apples in the Autumnal months or fresh berries, peaches or cherries in the summer.

The addition of crème fraîche helps to balance the sweetness of this dish. Set cream desserts are a long standing favourite in our family; the ingredients are quick to throw together yet it yields extremely impressive and satisfying results. It’s also the perfect treat if you are struggling with swallowing issues or have a sore mouth.

Crème fraîche panna cotta from Nourish by Jane Clarke

Recipe created by Nourish cook and Dietitian, Clare Gray

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration time: at least 4 hours

Serves: 4-8 individual servings depending on the size of the mould used

Ingredients
300ml fresh double cream
150ml milk
150ml crème fraîche
50g golden caster sugar
3 x 2g leaves of gelatine or 3 teaspoons (3g) of agar flakes for vegetarians (see vegetarian alternative below)

Method

  • Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for several minutes and allow to soften completely.
  • In a medium saucepan over a low heat, add the double cream, crème fraîche, milk and sugar. 
  • Stir occasionally, make sure all the sugar is dissolved. 
  • Bring up to a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat.
  • Remove the now softened gelatine from the bowl of water and squeeze with your hands to remove any excess water.
  • Add the gelatine to the warm, cream mixture and stir until completely dissolved. 
  • Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
  • Distribute the mixture between Dariole moulds, ramekins or espresso cups. If a small appetite or early satiety (feeling full very quickly) is an issue, make a reduced portion in a smaller container such as an espresso cup to avoid overwhelming.
  • Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
  • To remove from the moulds, briefly place each container in very hot water and then turn them out onto serving plates.

Vegetarian alternative

As it is set with gelatine, which is derived from animal collagen, traditional panna cotta is not suitable for vegetarians. However, agar can be used as a substitute for setting creams and jellies. Unlike gelatine, agar is not a protein but a natural vegetable gum that is obtained from red seaweed. Agar gels set more firmly than those with gelatine and will also set at room temperature, although refrigerating will accelerate the gelling process. It is available in flakes or powder, however they are not interchangeable in recipes as the powder is about 5 times as concentrated as the flakes and flakes need to be soaked before use in a similar way to leaf gelatine.

As it is a natural product the potency of agar can be inconsistent and its concentration can vary between different batches and brands. Despite slight differences in texture and flavour, pleasing results can still be achieved to produce a delicious vegetarian panna cotta.

Method

  • Combine the double cream, crème fraîche and milk in a medium sized saucepan. 
  • Evenly sprinkle the agar flakes on top of the cream mixture. 
  • Do not stir or put on the heat but set aside for 15 minutes to allow the agar to soften.
  • Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring up to a gentle simmer. 
  • Stir regularly to help the agar dissolve for 5-10 minutes. Check a spoonful of liquid for remnants of agar flakes. If they are still present, cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. At this point, test the texture of the panna cotta. Spoon a small tablespoon of the mixture into a ramekin or cup and refrigerate for 10 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, keep the saucepan covered and whisk the panna cotta mixture occasionally.
  • If the cooled panna cotta feels too firm, add a small amount of milk to the mixture and stir. As little as a tablespoon may be sufficient. Repeat the test until you are happy with the texture.
  • Pour through a sieve into a clean bowl.
  • Distribute the mixture between Dariole moulds, ramekins or espresso cups for a smaller appetite. 
  • Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
  • To unmould, briefly place the each container in very hot water and then turn them out onto serving plates.

Tips
If you are short of time, pour the panna cotta mixture into wine glasses or glass tumblers, so they can be served without unmoulding.

Panna cotta is amenable to many different flavour combinations. Try adding citrus zest, the seeds from a vanilla pod, fresh mint leaves or lemon verbena and allow to infuse for several minutes in the saucepan. Strain before adding the gelatine. Another flavouring option is to add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or rosewater after adding the gelatine and straining.

I love to combine set cream with a fruit jelly, try this with pomegranate jelly. Halve both of the recipes. Make the jelly first, half fill the moulds or serving dishes with the mixture and set in the refrigerator. This may take several hours. Make the panna cotta mixture as instructed and cool quickly by placing over a larger bowl full of ice and stirring. Fill the remaining space in the moulds or serving dishes with the panna cotta cream and place in the refrigerator again to set. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. 

Pomegranate jelly

A light, palate cleansing dessert, this jelly is the perfect antidote to the cloying, stodgy puddings associated with the winter months. Jelly is intertwined with childhood nostalgia. For many of us it was a birthday party staple, rainbow-coloured and tooth-achingly sweet served with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream. My version is still fun and vibrant but a little more grown up, with a lot less sugar.

Pomegranates are at a premium during the winter months. The seeds are delicately perfumed and look like tiny jewels. Their colours can vary from a creamy yellow or rose to the more recognisable vivid scarlet. From a nutritional perspective, pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, in particular vitamins A, C, E and polyphenols. These molecules are known to help protect the cells in our body and some scientific studies have indicated possible anti-inflammatory and protective benefits from consuming pomegranates.

It’s worth using whole pomegranates to make this dessert as the flavour of the fruit when they are fresh is particularly beautiful. However, if time is of the essence, feel free to take a shortcut and buy the juice instead.



Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration time: at least 4 hours
Serves: 4-8 individual servings depending on the size of the mould used

Ingredients
2-3 large pomegranates (or 600ml pomegranate juice)
75g golden caster sugar
3 x 2g leaves of gelatine (or 3 teaspoons of agar flakes for vegetarians)

Method

  • Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water and allow to soften for several minutes.
  • Cut your pomegranates into quarters. 
  • Holding the pomegranate over a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to vigorously tap the outside of the pomegranate to extract the seeds into the bowl. 
  • Repeat with all the remaining segments. Place the seeds into a food processor or blender. 
  • Pulse the seeds for a few seconds 2 or 3 times. This should break them apart and release their juice. Don’t blend them for a long period of time as this will cause the seeds to completely disintegrate producing a cloudy juice.
  • Pour the juice through a wire mesh strainer into a clean bowl.
  • Use a ladle or the back of a wooden spoon to firmly push against the pulp and extract any remaining juice.
  • Place 150ml of the pomegranate juice and the sugar into a saucepan. 
  • Place over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, ensuring it doesn’t boil.
  • When the sugar has completely dissolved and the juice is warm, remove from the heat. 
  • Remove the gelatine from the water and use your hands to squeeze out any excess water. 
  • Add to the warm juice and sugar mixture and stir until it is completely dissolved. 
  • Add the remaining juice and mix well.
  • At this point, test the texture of the jelly. Spoon a small tablespoon of the mixture into a ramekin or cup and refrigerate for 10 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, keep the saucepan covered and whisk the jelly mixture occasionally.
  • If the chilled jelly feels too firm, add a small amount of juice or water to the mixture and stir. As little as a tablespoon may be sufficient, then repeat the test until you are happy with the texture.
  • Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
  • Distribute the mixture between jelly moulds, Dariole moulds, ramekins or espresso cups. If a small appetite or early satiety (feeling full very quickly) is an issue, make a reduced portion in a smaller container such as an espresso cup to avoid overwhelming.
  • Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
  • To unmould, briefly place each container in very hot water and then turn them out onto serving plates.


Vegetarian alternative

  • Place 150ml of the pomegranate juice into a saucepan. 
  • Evenly sprinkle the agar flakes on top of the juice.
  • Do not stir or put on the heat but set aside for 15 minutes to allow the agar to soften.
  • Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring up to a simmer stirring regularly for 5- 10 minutes to help the agar dissolve. 
  • Check a spoonful of liquid for remnants of agar flakes. If they are still present cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • When the agar and sugar has completely dissolved and the juice is warm, remove from the heat and add the remaining juice.
  • Pour through a fine fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
  • Distribute the mixture between jelly moulds, Dariole moulds, ramekins or espresso cups for smaller appetites.
  • Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
  • To unmould, briefly place each container in very hot water and then turn them out onto serving plates.

Tips
Serve with a generous dollop of cream, crème fraîche or homemade custard and garnish with leftover pomegranate seeds.

This jelly works fantastically well layered with the Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta. Halve both of the recipes. Make the jelly first. Half fill the moulds or serving dishes with the mixture and set in the refrigerator, this may take several hours. Make the panna cotta mixture as instructed and cool quickly by placing over a larger bowl full of ice and stir. Fill the remaining space in the moulds or serving dishes with the panna cotta cream and place in the refrigerator again to set. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.


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