Vanilla and Lemon Panna Cotta with Roasted Rhubarb

I remember my first panna cotta. It was in Riva in Barnes and I must have been about 20 something. I was determined to try and recreate it but try as I might, I could never get close. A few years later whilst working at The River Café, I learnt how to make their version, which was different, but just as superb. I always thought though that it was so delicious due to the quantity of Grappa in the recipe. But in this recipe, I have omitted the Grappa, mainly because I did not have any, and now realize that it is the combination of vanilla, lemon and cream which actually results in its complete amazingness. Delicious alongside roasted rhubarb but also wonderful with poached figs or just some fresh raspberries.

Vanilla and Lemon Panna Cotta with Roasted Rhubarb

Serves 4

70 ml milk

2 vanilla pods, scored and seeds removed or 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

1 lemon, finely grated zest of

375 ml double cream

1½ leaves beef gelatine, soaked in cold water

70 g icing sugar

250g rhubarb

65g golden caster sugar

Put the milk, vanilla pods, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and half the cream into a small pan and slowly simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by a third. Remove from the heat and stir in the soaked gelatine leaves until dissolved. Stain through a sieve and then allow to cool a little, then place in the fridge, stirring occasionally until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Whip together the icing sugar with the remaining cream. Mix the two cream mixture together. Divide into four serving moulds. Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse the rhubarb and shake off the excess water. Trim the ends and cut the rhubarb into little finger-sized pieces. Put the rhubarb in a shallow dish or baking sheet with sides, tip the sugar over, toss together, then shuffle the rhubarb so it’s in a single layer.

Cover with foil and roast for 15 mins. Remove the foil. The sugar should have dissolved, so give everything a little shake and roast for another 5 mins or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Test with a sharp knife; the rhubarb should feel tender, not mushy, and still have kept its shape.

To serve, sometimes I’ll dip the mould or cup into some simmering water to loosen the pannacotta a little, then turn it out on to a plate next to some rhubarb with its juice Or you can just put the rhubarb on top of your cups or glasses of pannacotta and serve from there.

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