Friday, 3 July 2015

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce with Cardamom Panna Cotta

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce with Cardamom Panna Cotta

Hail broke down three stalks of my rhubarb, so of course I had to put them to the best possible use.  We tend to think of rhubarb going with strawberries, but I suddenly had one of those mystic moments, knowing that rose flavours would somehow be magnificent, and it was.

This sauce could go on anything, especially vanilla ice-cream, but I like it on cottage cheese and also on plain yogurt.  I suppose it would make a great topping for pancakes, crepes, or waffles, especially with a little ice-cream or whipping cream draped over.  But for this dessert, I made cardamom panna cotta, which suits the rose flavours very well.  Panna cotta seems exotic and challenging, but it’s a silly easy dessert.  It needs several hours of setting time, but preparation can be just a few minutes.  Mine took maybe twenty, but it can be done under ten.  This recipe serves eight.

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce

3 stalks of rhubarb (store-bought is pinker, but garden grown is fresher!)
Enough water to go halfway up the rhubarb in the pot
1 cup vanilla sugar, or plain if you don’t have it
½ teaspoon rose water

Slice the rhubarb into half inch pieces.  Put into a sauce pan and add enough water to reach half way up to the rhubarb.  Add sugar, and turn on heat to medium high.  Stay nearby and stir occasionally.  If you cook it too long the colour will shift unpleasantly.  I used largely green rhubarb, but after about five minutes of cooking the juice goes distinctly pink.  As soon as each piece of rhubarb is soft, (less than ten minutes) remove a piece and taste for sweetness.  Add more sugar if needed.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat, and squish the rhubarb down a bit with a masher, or even a fork.  Stir in the rose water. Inhale the heavenly fragrance.  Set aside then cover and refrigerate.

Cardamom Panna Cotta

1 cup jaggery powder (raw Indian sugar, found in Indian groceries)
2 cups simmering milk (whole tastes best, but don’t go for less than 2%)
2 envelopes gelatine powder (2 tablespoons)
½ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped out or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups cold milk
4 pods green cardamom, husked and ground to a powder

You can do this the fancy way, or the easy way.  First the fancy:

I went with the fancier method to get more flavour.
In a large saucepan, spread the jaggery powder.  Turn heat to medium high and let melt.  Scooch it along with a heat proof spatula, till it's melted and starting to darken.  Take it off the heat and add the first 2 cups of milk.  The jaggery will seize and get brittle, but don't worry.  Leave it alone for about ten minutes, then put the heat back on  to medium high and stir while the milk is blending with the jaggery and it's starting to simmer.

Or if you are in a hurry, just mix the first 2 cups of milk and sugar, put on medium high heat till the sugar is dissolved and the milk is starting to simmer.  Then sprinkle the gelatine powder over the milk and give it a minute or two to soften.  

Either way, carefully stir the gelatine in, turning to low heat to be sure the gelatine dissolves.  Stir in the cream.  Remove from heat when the sugar and gelatine is dissolved (less than five minutes).  Stir in the remaining cold milk, cardamom and vanilla.  Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed.  

Actual vanilla adds a lot!
I keep whole vanilla beans in a bottle of inexpensive vodka.  I plucked out one, sliced it down the middle, and scraped out the goo, and added that to the mixture.  I put the emptied bean back into the vodka, as the flavour is still good.  You can skip this step if you’d prefer to just add a teaspoon of extract.  Don’t use the fake stuff! 

Strain into individual serving glasses, to make sure no tiny clumps of gelatine make it into anyone’s mouth.  Refrigerate for at least three hours, till they have set and are well chilled.

Just before serving, plop some sauce over each serving.  This dessert is so easy to prepare, and it’s OMG good!  If you are wise, you will have made extra servings to gobble down in the privacy of your bedroom.  If you have left-over sauce, you are luckier still!

Enjoy the extra when you don't have an audience!  It's too good to share.

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