On our recent holiday to the south of England, I tried basil panna cotta at the Gurnard’s head in Cornwall. I didn’t really have much room for a dessert, but when I saw it on the menu, I just had to try it. It was so good, I decided to make it myself. I searched online for good recipes but found nothing to my liking so I decided to adapt a Lorraine Pascale recipe. The result was a big hit with our guests, although I did keep most of it for myself!
Don’t be daunted: panna cotta is the easiest thing to make! Here’s how: put 4 leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water (they have to be fully covered) and set aside for 5 min. In the mean time, put 300 ml double cream or whipping cream (you need at least 30% fat contents) in a pan with 250 g mascarpone, 100 g caster sugar and the seeds of a vanilla pod (add the pod as well for extra taste) and stir to combine. Gently heat the mixture while stirring occasionally until it’s almost boiling. Take of the heat and add the leaves of two bunches of basil (you really need a lot of it) and stir for 2 min until the basil is wilted. Using a stick blender, mix until you get an even green mix. Add the gelatine leaves one by one (squeeze out all the water first) and stir well. Pour the mixture into dariole moulds and put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.
To serve, make a strawberry sauce by mixing a handful of strawberries with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Push through a sieve if you prefer. Cut some more strawberries for decoration. To unmould the panna cotta, dip the bottom of the moulds in hot water for a few seconds to loosen them, then turn them upside down on a serving plate. They may need a few sharp jerks of the hand for them to come out. If this fails, run a small knife around the side of the mould to loosen slightly. Or just don’t bother taking them out of the moulds at all. Enjoy while listening to Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles.
This recipe is really versatile, if basil is not to your taste, you can add anything you want. Bear in mind that when adding sweet elements, you may need to reduce the amount of sugar. Lorraine Pascale went for a white chocolate panna cotta: to do so, stick to the above recipe but don’t add any sugar at all. When taking the mixture of the heat, add 100 g of white chocolate, instead of the basil, and stir until melted. Serve with raspberry coulis and extra raspberries.