Sunday, 22 February 2015

Almond Panna Cotta with Lychees, Mandarins and Honeydew

Almond Panna Cotta with Lychees, Mandarins and Honeydew

This exotic dessert is simple and easy to make.  We made it for our Tai Chi New Year’s banquet for 130 people, and luckily I got to take some leftovers home.  Beautiful Granddaughter gave it her stamp of approval, and she’ll take a little in her lunch tomorrow.  The flavours are floral, sweet and creamy.  Silly easy too!

If you like the texture of egg custard, you’ll like this.  The amounts are somewhat peculiar, as this recipe is adapted from banquet cooking, but I’ve been thinking of what to do with an extra ingredient, which I’ll explain at the bottom of this recipe.  The panna cotta can be made in a pretty serving bowl, or in a cake pan if you want to slice it into cubes and then serve it in small bowls.  This recipe serves ten people, and preparation time is about fifteen minutes with at least three hours of chilling and setting time.

2 ½ packets Knox gelatin
¾ cup boiling water
2 ½ more cups boiling water*
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk*
1 teaspoon pure almond extract (or to taste)

1 can lychees, quartered
1 ten ounce can mandarin orange segments
½ small honeydew lemon, finely sliced
½ teaspoon fresh lime zest
1 teaspoon dried rose petals (available in Indian groceries)

For the banquet, I made huge amounts of this in industrial pans, and we measured and sliced the dessert into cubes that were served in tureens, family style.  At home, I make this in one pretty serving bowl.

Put the first amount of boiling water into a serving bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  Let soften for a few minutes and stir.  Add the rest of the boiling water, stirring to make sure all of the gelatin is well dissolved.  (If you like, you can substitute some of the juice in the canned fruit for boiling water, but be sure you have enough hot liquid to dissolve that gel.)

Sweetened condensed milk is sticky stuff.  Use a spatula to get it into a measuring cup.  You could use the whole can, but be warned it might get overly sweet.  Taste the mixture as you go.

If you do use all the can, you can add an extra half cup of boiling water, and the entire third pack of gelatin, if like me, you can't bear waste.  Whatever you do, don’t throw the extra condensed milk out, more on that later*.  

Stir the sweet sticky milk into the hot gel mixture, being very careful to smoothly mix it in.  Once it’s well combined, stir in the almond extract.  A little almond extract goes a long way, so add it in small amounts, tasting it.  You can add a little extra, but be careful because you can’t make it go away if you’ve added too much.

 Let cool and cover with plastic wrap.  In the meantime, combine the fruit, juices, lime zest and rose petals in a separate container.  Cover the fruit mixture and then chill both the panna cotta and the fruit for at least three hours, till the gel has set in the middle.  When serving, pour the fruit mixture and juice over the panna cotta and enjoy.  So tasty and so pretty!

The next time I make this at home I'll have time to take pics of the process.

*Leftover sweetened condensed milk can be greedily licked out of the can, like Kip did in The English Patient, or you could put the opened nearly empty can into an oven while you’re cooking something else.  Peek at it from time to time, and when the milk turns golden, use oven gloves to take it out and put it somewhere safe to cool.  You will have made a few tablespoons of dulce de leche which you will appreciate later, I am sure. 

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