Sunday, 12 May 2013

Something new... (Chocolate Panna Cotta)

In celebration of my mother's birthday this year, we decided to hold another 'something new' dinner.
This meant that everyone was expected to bring a dish they'd NEVER made before; that dish they'd always wanted to make but never quite got around to.

We'd held such evenings in the past, during the course of which it had emerged that certain people had trialled their planned recipe before, or asked their other half to make it instead so they could still say they'd never made it before.

So, this year the invitation contained an added clause:
No cheating. No testing the dish beforehand, no testing it by another family member. We've heard it all before. We know your tricks.
I must admit, it was interesting listening to the recipes coming in, and the extreme problems some people were having getting their heads around this idea of 'something new.' I don't know if they had never flicked through a cookbook, stumbling upon recipes that intrigued them, jotting them down in the hopes of finally attempting them, or just so used to their own repertoire of creating dishes with what was available and what they felt like that the idea of following a recipe had come to feel incredibly foreign.

It all worked out for the best though as we had a medley of flavours and ingredients, with everyone providing something a little different and a little unusual but for the most part incredibly delicious.

From top to bottom, left to right (I missed half of the correct names):
Iranian Potato and Burghel, Plain Rice
Sesame Spiniach, smoked potatoes, chicken biryani
Mexican baked chicken dish, Smoked ribs, Sourdough
Stuffed Squid, beans, Moroccan Beef Stew

There were a few dishes that didn't work as well as was hoped, but with the selection on hand, this didn't matter, and didn't impact upon the exchange of requests for recipes.

With so many mains provided, Mum and I focussed instead upon making a sufficient number of desserts to feed the hoards, not a difficult task by any stretch, but one that actually required more preparation that usual.
The reason is that between us we have an amazing repertoire of desserts, and if we haven't tested a recipe yet it is usually an indication that it either isn't interesting or it doesn't contain enough chocolate.

Trifle fell into both categories, so to rectify that we substantially adapted the concept.

  • Instead of a sponge we used a home-made fluffy chocolate gateau, (well, when you have one stashed in the freezer it makes sense to drench it in alcohol and use it). 
  • Instead of packet jelly: berries in a home-made pomegranate jelly (the pomegranate tree in the garden has exploded with balls of colour and there are only so many you can eat).
  • Instead of custard: two types of pannacotta, one dark, the other white infused with orange (basically I couldn't be arsed making proper custard; been there done that, unexciting). 

I've never made a pannacotta before as I hate playing with gelatine, but Donna Hay's recipe (in her chocolate book but also available here) is not only incredibly easy, but was also very adaptable. It didn't seem to mind if you changed the strength of the chocolate used or add a good gurgle of liqueur to the cream. The cream scalded beautifully and it jelled perfectly without feeling rubbery or tasting gelatinous.

What was tasted was a flavoured smooth creaminess that went down like a dream. And I should know as an extra is always made, just to be sure...

It's definitely a recipe I need to make again. Not necessarily to share...

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