Challenge No. 37 – Panna Cotta and Fruit Coulis

This challenge was suggested by my lovely friend Gill.  I met Gill back in 2008 when I first visited Manchester to see Dave during our first summer away from University.  Gill went out of her way to make sure I felt welcome in Manchester and has since become one my closet friends.  Working shifts as a nurse means we don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like but we always have a great time when we do manage to get together.  Unfortunately, I didn’t even manage to get a date to make this challenge when Gill was free to come and try some of the result 😦  I have therefore promised to make this panna cotta again in the future and hopefully we’ll manage to get a date in the diary soon!

I spent a bit of time looking for recipes but eventually settled on the first one I’d look at by Simon Rimmer.  I didn’t immediately decide to use this recipe only because I don’t really like raspberries.  In fact, most of the recipes I found used raspberries!  Eventually, I decided I would just adapt Simon’s recipes to make a strawberry coulis instead.

So, for my version of this panna cotta recipe, you will need the following:-

  • For the panna cotta
    • 1.5 gelatine leaves
    • 125ml oz milk
    • 125ml double cream
    • 1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped out
    • 12.5g sugar
  • For the sauce
    • 90g sugar
    • 90ml water
    • 200g strawberries

Edited - ingredients

I began this recipe by separating my gelatine leaves and popping them into some cold water.  The recipes says to soak them until they are soft – I had no idea how long this would be! But the back of the pack suggested soaking them for 5 minutes so I used this as a guide. 

Edited - leaves

Whilst the gelatine leaves were soaking, I put the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds into a pan over a medium to low heat.  I kept stirring the mixture regularly until it came up to a simmer and then took it off the heat before removing the vanilla pod.

Edited - milk in pan

I then squeezed the water out of the gelatine leaves and added them to the vanilla mixture.  I gave it a good stir until it looked like the gelatine had fully dissolved. 

The recipe then says to divide the mixture between ramekins.  However, in my search for a recipe, I read a tip that said to get a really smooth panna cotta, try pushing it through a sieve first.  So I thought I would give this a go and poured the mixture through a sieve into a pouring jug.

Edited - sieve

I then split the mixture between two silicon mini loaf tins.  I don’t have ramekins and thought these would work just as well 🙂

Edited - moulds

I popped the filled loaf tins into the fridge.  The recipe says to leave them for at least an hour.  I actually made these in the middle of the afternoon and turned the first one out at about 9pm so they had plenty of time to set.

Once I’d had diner and was ready for dessert, I got started on the fruit coulis.  I put the sugar and water into a pan over a medium heat.  Whilst this was coming up to boil, I cut the tops off my strawberries and chopped them in half.  When the sugar had dissolved, I took the pan off the heat and added the strawberries.  I then used a hand blender to blitz it together.

Actually, I couldn’t do this in my pan as there wasn’t enough depth to the liquid to stop it splashing everywhere! So I poured the mixture into a jug and gave it a blitz.  The sauce was meant to thicken up but it was still really watery.  I therefore decided to pop it back over a low heat for around 5 minutes.  This seemed to do the trick.

I left the sauce to cool down and then turned out the panna cotta onto a plate.

Edited - set

Practical tip: dip the mould into hot water to release it slightly.

I drizzled over some of the strawberry coulis and added a chopped strawberry to the top.

Edited - served upThis was really tasty.  It was so creamy and the strawberry sauce, whilst not very red, was delicious!

Dave tried ONE mouthful and then said he didn’t want any more.  He’d gorged all day on sweets and crisps so I think (and hope) it wasn’t a reflection on the end product.  Anyway, I decided to leave the second panna cotta in the mould until the following night when I got to enjoy it for dessert again! And it was just as good having been left in the fridge for 24 hours.

I was actually really surprised at how easy this was to make and I love the fact it can be made so far in advance. 

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 38 – beef bourguignon.  

Challenge No. 36 – Eggs Benedict

Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner…I really don’t care what time of day it is, I will always happily devour a plate of eggs benedict.  I absolutely love it and I cannot get enough of hollandaise sauce.  This recipe was suggested by mum and whilst I was so happy to get to eat this dish as part of Challenge 52, I was actually pretty terrified about making it.  I’ve always cheated and used a egg poaching microwave gadget and packet hollandaise sauce.  But as Challenge52 is all about learning new kitchen skills and recipes, it is only right that I made the sauce and learn to poach eggs the proper way.

I’ve actually tried poaching an egg before.  I got a pan, half filled with water, I added a splash of vinegar, gave it a stir and added my egg.  It all sounded right but the results was anything but.  The egg just spread out in the water and made a right mess.  I ended up getting out my microwave cheat and I haven’t tried again since…until now.

I found this recipe by Jamie Oliver which looked absolutely delicious! The recipe serves 2 to 4 people, however, this is a dish Dave didn’t want to try (sometimes I really don’t understand him!!) so I adjusted the quantities.  I love hollandaise sauce so I left the quantities for this bit unamended meaning I could have lots of it! I also decided to leave out the lemon from my spinach, simply because I’m not a fan of food which has been covered in lemon.

So for my slightly adjusted recipe, you will need the following:-

  • 2 spring onions
  • olive oil
  • 200g baby spinach
  • 1/2 a whole nutmeg, for grating
  • Salt and pepper (missing from my photo!)
  • 1 English muffins
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 large slice of ham
  • For the hollandaise:
    • 100 g unsalted butter
    • 2 large free-range egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/3 tbsp lemon juice (this is also missing from my photo!)
    • white wine vinegar

Edited - ingredients

I started by making the spinach topping.  I finely chopped the spring onion and added it to a pan with some hot oil.  I gave it a stir and then added the spinach.  It was near enough spilling over the side of the pan so I decided to let this cook down slightly before I grated over half a nutmeg and seasoned it with some salt and pepper.  I then gave it another mix together and let it cook until all the moisture was cooked out.  This actually took quite a while and at one point I decided to squash the spinach to release some of the water and then tip this out of the pan.  Eventually I had a lovely smelling and dark spinach mixture which I transferred to an oven proof dish, covered with foil and popped it in the oven on a low heat to keep warm.

Edited - leaves Edited - spinach

Practical tip: my research told me that hollandaise sauce doesn’t reheat very well.  However, to make the sauce and poach eggs at the same time is not easy.  So I dug out a thermal mug, filled it with boiling water whilst I made my sauce.  When the sauce was done, I poured the water away, dried the mug and added my sauce.  I put on the lid and put it to one side whilst I poached my eggs.  It worked perfectly!   

With my thermal flask heating up, I got on with the hollandaise sauce.  I filled my small pan with some water and put it over a medium to low heat.  I then separated the egg yolks and put these into a heatproof glass bowl.  At the same time, I measured out the mustard and lemon juice ready to be added to the eggs. 

Edited - eggsWhilst the pan was coming up to heat, I melted my butter.  The recipe says to do this in a pan on the hob.  However, I don’t have enough pans for this so I decided to melt it in a jug in the microwave and it worked perfectly.

Edited - butter

Once the pan of water was just bubbling, I put the bowl with the eggs in on top (making sure the water didn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  I started whisking the eggs, poured in the mustard and lemon juice and whisked it together.  I then very slowly added the butter, being sure to continue whisking constantly.

Practical tip: keep an ice cube to hand and if the mix starts to split add it to your bowl.  I didn’t have to do this but apparently it helps.

When the sauce started to thicken up, I added a splash of white wine vinegar and gave it a taste.  It was delicious! So I emptied and dried the thermal flask before pouring in the hollandaise sauce to keep warm.

Edited - hollandaise sauce Edited - thermal flask

I sliced the muffin in half and popped it under the grill whilst I poached my eggs.  I half filed a large pan of water and bought this to a simmer. 

Practical tip: make sure the water isn’t too hot.  It should be just simmering, but definitely not boiling.

Edited - simmering water

I put a drop of white wine vinegar into a small jug and then broke in one of the eggs.  I whisked the simmering  water with a balloon whisk to create a vortex before carefully pouring the egg into the centre.  I did this very slowly, dipping the tip of the jug into the water to help with a smooth transition.  I then covered the pan and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.  I fished out the egg with a slotted spoon and put it on some kitchen roll to drain off.  I then repeated this with my other three eggs.

Edited - poached

Once these were done, it was time to assemble everything.  I topped each half of the toasted muffin with some ham, the spinach mixture, a poached egg and finally some of the lovely hollandaise sauce.  Time to tuck in 🙂

  Edited - served up Edited - served up4

Oh my gosh! This was absolutely amazing! I am so proud of myself for the poached eggs.  The first one was slightly over done but the other two were perfectly runny.  And the hollandaise sauce was so rich and quite frankly so much nicer than the packet stuff I usually use! I can’t believe I’ve never made this before.  If you are a fan of eggs benedict I would encourage you to give this recipe a go!  I’ll definitely be making it again and again.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 37 – panna cotta with fruit coulis

Challenge No. 35 – Mother of all Milkshakes

This challenge was suggested by my milkshake-a-holic brother.  Despite being nearly 30, Si regularly orders milkshakes when we go out for dinner.  Over the last few years, I think he has become a bit of an expert.  With this, Si didn’t just suggest any old milkshake for this challenge, he specified that it should be the mother of all milkshakes.  I started thinking about all the different flavours I could bring together but then spoke to Si about what the mother of all milkshakes means to him.  And do you know what he said?  Just a good, simple, chocolate milkshake.  So here it is, my attempt to make a simple chocolate milkshake be the mother of all milkshakes.

I started by having a little look at what makes a good milkshake.  It’s not rocket science and a few simple things help make a good milkshake great.  In particular:-

  • Freeze your serving glass beforehand
  • Use good quality ice cream
  • Use full fat milk
  • Use a nice thick straw to drink through

I did some quick searches online and found a recipe for a homemade chocolate syrup here.  So to make this chocolate syrup and my mother of all milkshakes, you’ll need the following ingredients:-

  • 120ml water
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder (plus a little extra for dusting)
  • 1 tsp grated dark chocolate (plus extra to put in the milkshake)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Milk (full fat is best!)
  • Double/Whipping cream

Edited - ingredients

With everything ready to go, I ran my glass under cold water and popped it in the freezer to chill.  I then got started on the chocolate syrup.  I put the water, sugars and cocoa powder into a small saucepan and mixed it all together. 

Edited - syrup pre

I put the saucepan over a medium to low heat to bring it to a simmer.  I then reduced the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes, being sure to stir the mix regularly. 

I took the saucepan off the heat and stirred in the grated chocolate.  Once it had sat for a minute, I added the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.  I poured the chocolate syrup into a pot and let it cool to room temperature whilst I had a yummy lunch with my family. 

Edited - chocolate syrup

Edited- Judy enjoying the bowl

Judy had the pleasure of licking the spoon clean 🙂

Once we were all well fed, I started to make the milkshake for us to enjoy as pudding.  I added the ice cream into my blender.  I actually used 500ml of ice cream as I was making enough milkshake for 7 of us. 

Edited - ice cream

Next up, I added the milk.  I started off with just a small amount and gave it a blitz.  I then checked the consistency and added a little more milk

Practical tip: if you add too much milk, you can just add more ice cream and vice versa.  It’s best to add a little at a time until you have it exactly as you want – plus you get to taste after each addition! 🙂

I then added about three table spoons of chocolate syrup and some chopped up chocolate before giving it another blitz.  Once the milkshake was at the right consistency and level of chocolate-goodness, I got my frozen glass out and poured in the milkshake.

I put some of the double cream into a bowl and whisked it with a balloon whisk until stiff.  I topped the milkshake, drizzled over some extra chocolate syrup and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

Edited - milkshake

So here it is, my mother of all milkshakes and I have to admit it was pretty amazing! Unfortunately, my brother wasn’t there to try this one, although the spare chocolate syrup has been saved for him to use.   However, as I’ve said above, there were 7 of us to enjoy this milkshake and it was a resounding success.  We all had great fun enjoying this together and even my 86 year old nan had some 🙂

Edited - me and judy Edited - me and champ Edited - Linda enjoying the creamimage1

This milkshake was so rich and creamy with a perfect texture and the bits of chocolate added a delicious bite.  The chocolate syrup was amazing and I’ll definitely be making this again to try in other drinks and recipes. 

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 36  – eggs benedict