This recipe caught my eye because my friend Sue had given me a bottle of her delicious – and beautifully bottled – home-made sloe gin. I rarely buy food magazines – on the grounds that the pile of recipes to try on my desk is already quite big enough – but succumbed to the Christmas edition of Delicious, and this was in their ‘Showstopper Puddings’ supplement. The combination of ruby jelly and snowy panna cotta seems special without being heavy, while the elegant presentation, though not essential, is striking and does make it look like you’ve made an effort.
Inevitably, I have tweaked the recipe (after following it faithfully the first time around) – I found their quantities made too much for my glasses, and instead of flavouring the jelly with a couple of rosemary sprigs I flavoured the panna cotta with geranium, inspired by Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking recipe for geranium cream. I have a sturdy lemon geranium plant which smells glorious, and so far has survived unscathed in a corner of my windy balcony. I also replaced some of the cream with yoghurt (as in this recipe for Yoghurt Panna Cotta), in a token nod to New Year resolutions, though I’m not sure this was an improvement. My caster sugar is effectively vanilla sugar as I store part-used vanilla pods in my sugar jar. This isn’t essential but if you don’t fancy or don’t have lemon geranium then flavour the cream with the seeds from a vanilla pod, as the original recipe did. My next experiment will be to try a different flavour of jelly – I think orange would taste great, and if you made it with blood oranges it would look spectacular too, so you can still make this dessert even if you aren’t lucky enough to have some sloe gin.
These quantities fit four 200ml glasses – I can’t serve it to more people as I only have four glasses that are the right size and shape! The quantities are easily multiplied if you are feeding more, and would of course taste just as good set in layers if you can’t be bothered with the (minor) faff of tilting the glasses – the main obstacle being making enough room in the fridge for four glasses plus their containers. You need to start this at least 6 hours before you want to eat it, so ideally in the morning or the night before – don’t skip the step of getting it out of the fridge for an hour before serving, particularly if it has been in the fridge all day, as this does improve the flavour and texture.
2 gelatine leaves (I use Costa Fine Leaf)
400ml double cream (or 300ml double cream + 100ml Greek yoghurt
35g caster sugar (or about 2 rounded tbsps)
2 scented geranium leaves (or seed from 1/2 vanilla pod)
Sloe Gin Jelly
3 gelatine leaves
50g caster sugar
125ml sloe gin
2 rosemary sprigs (optional)
Start with the panna cotta: put the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water. While they are soaking, gently heat the double cream, sugar and vanilla or geranium leaves in a large saucepan. Heat the cream until it is just steaming, not simmering, and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. (If you are using geranium and want a strong flavour leave the cream to stand for a while – though I found that it perfumed the cream without doing so. You will need to reheat the cream before before proceeding.) Remove the geranium leaves, then squeeze out the water from the gelatine leaves and stir them into the cream until dissolved. Add the yoghurt, if using, and leave to cool until it is just warm to the touch.
Now for the Blue Peter bit: find bowls in which you can support your glasses at an angle, using a nub of blue-tac to stop them shifting about. Once the panna cotta has cooled, pour or spoon it into the glasses to form a pristine ski slope of cream up to the rim of the glass. Carefully move to the fridge and leave to set – I left mine for a couple of hours.
When the panna cottas have almost set make the jelly. Put the gelatine leaves to soak in cold water, as before. Put 150ml of water and the caster sugar in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the sloe gin (and the sprigs of rosemary if you are using them), and cook over low heat for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, squeeze out the gelatine and stir into the mixture, stirring until it is dissolved. Allow to cool until it is just warm to the touch and then spoon or pour into the glasses. You can either stand the glasses straight at this point (as I did) or set them at the opposite angle to create a slope of jelly. Leave to set for at least 3 hours. Take out of the fridge for about an hour before serving to bring them back to near room temperature.