Rosemary Pannacotta with Rhubarb

Rosemary Pannacotta

No secret that I love a pannacotta – all that silky wobbliness makes them irresistible to me. They are also on of the easiest puds to whip up and the fact they need to be made ahead of time only adds to their appeal.  I love knowing that pudding is already made and sitting patiently in the fridge, a tick on the to do list.

So far I’ve given you Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants (July 2014), a Summer regular for sure and possibly my children’s favourite incarnation.  Some good vanilla along with the slight tang of the yogurt is heaven and amazing with heady blackcurrants.  You can of course use which ever soft fruits are at the best or indeed the rhubarb that follows with this recipe.  The Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples (June 2015) makes me think of Autumn, crunchy leaves, mulled cider and bonfires.

Time for a new kid on the block and this is it.  For ages I have been tinkering with the idea of a rosemary scented pudding.  I couldn’t help but feel that the woody, herbaceous note would work well with a creamy base and in fact a rosemary ice cream is definitely on the agenda come the Summer.  More than that though, whilst I use piles of herbs in savoury dishes I thought I might be overlooking them in a sweet context.

Here we are then.  The rosemary adds a delicate flavour, one of those you can’t immediately place, and works a proper treat with the rhubarb.  I love rhubarb, am always looking for different ways to use it and this is my current favourite.  Heady with orange (actually tangerine) zest and juice it brings a wallop of flavour to the gently, soft pannacotta.

Rosemary Pannacotta with Rhubarb

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

60g caster sugar

A sprig of rosemary around the same size as the one in the photograph above

2 gelatine leaves

250g rhubarb, chopped into pieces

25-35g caster sugar

Zest and juice of an orange (or tangerine)

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, sugar and rosemary until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool and infuse, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.   Meanwhile cook the rhubarb with the zest, juice and 25g sugar either in a pan or if the oven is on put it in there.  It doesn’t take very long but I wouldn’t put the oven on just for this.  When soft and juicy have a taste, you might need some or all of the extra 10g of sugar, then leave to cool.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serving with a spoonful of the rhubarb.  Serves 4.

Grissini with Rosemary

Grissini

When I lived in London there were several favourite Italian restaurants that I would frequent from time to time.  There is something particular about entering such an establishment, the clamour and enthusiasm, the noise and bustle, the smell of herbs and garlic cooking that fills the air.   Following the greeting and seating a proper treat awaits you.  The grissini – slender, crunchy breadsticks all the better for gouging through the butter.  Not as filling as the proffered focaccia but the perfect nibble with a glass of wine whilst perusing the menu.  I love them and so do my family so we make our own.

Now I can’t pretend that dining in my kitchen offers quite the same experience.  Different certainly but just as much fun I would hope.   These grissini however are definitely up to those of nostalgic, rose or should that be frascati touched memory.   Crispy, savoury and in this case taken to new heights with the addition of chopped rosemary.   I serve these before and alongside lunch or dinner, take them on picnics and they are much in demand for packed lunches.   Very delicious and moreish to eat and so easy to make.  The rolling out takes me back to the days of plasticine and playdoh and is repetitive and relaxing, in a black clad Italian Mama sort of way.  Think Sophia Loren….

Grissini with Rosemary

Children love making these which is always a help and last week, rather than making the traditional stick shapes, my daughter fashioned each dough snake into an initial to place in each diners place at the table.  It looked charming and went down a storm.

250g plain flour

250g strong white bread flour

7g sachet yeast

7g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

25ml olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put both the flours, yeast and fine salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, turn it on and then add the water and oil until it comes together in a ball (you may need a drop more water).  Leave it kneading away in the machine for 10 minutes, adding the chopped rosemary for the last minute so it is evenly mixed through the dough.  Pinch off pieces the size of a large cherry and roll these out until about a foot long and pencil thin on a non-floured table or surface.  Gently and with fingers splayed seems the best way to do this.  Put them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 15 minutes.   After this time they should be golden brown and crispy, leave to cool on a wire rack and then store in an air tight container.   Makes around 40 grissini but if you get bored whilst rolling these out the dough will sit happily in the fridge for a day until you feel like making some more.   I’d say they last for a week but I’ve never had any hang around for more than a day or two.

Finally, they make a fabulous present to take if you are going to friends for supper.

Grissini 2

 

Weekend Food

Marble Cake close 2

We had a houseful over the weekend with extras for lunch on Sunday and whilst I wanted everyone to be well fed of course, the last thing on the menu was for me to be stuck in the kitchen (hissing) all weekend.  With ages ranging from 18 months to grandparents and childrens’ teas to add to the mix I had much to do.  Nothing for it but a bit of organisation, a good list and setting Friday morning aside to get ahead.  I thought I’d let you know what we ate and what I was able to prepare beforehand in case any of these tips help.

Saturday lunch was a picnic with Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip (April 2015) with grissini (recipe coming soon) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) alongside a big plate of salami, a bowl of tomatoes and a good chunk of cheddar.  For pudding we had meringues with vanilla bean cream and chocolate sauce (recipe coming soon).  I made the grissini, focaccia, meringues and dip on Friday so putting lunch together on Saturday only took a few minutes.  Incidentally the dough for the focaccia will happily sit in the fridge overnight so it can be baked just before lunch.

Wild Garlic Focaccia

At tea the children had orzo with bacon and tomato sauce (June 2015).  Pudding, and for us to tuck into with a cup of tea, was a Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake (October 2013) which I made on Friday.  For supper we had Chicken with Harissa (October 2012) with Little Rosemary Roasties (March 2015) and my favourite Green Salad (January 2014) – couldn’t have been easier.

On Sunday we had Lamb which had been marinading in garlic, lemon and rosemary.  With this Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) but I used half mint and half parsley which made a funky full of flavour modern take on old fashioned mint sauce.  It went down an absolute treat.

Asparagus with parmesan

We didn’t need much for supper so I roasted several bunches of fabulous in season asparagus (June 2014) followed by Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) with poached rhubarb, both of which I made on Friday.

At each sitting I was delighted that the children scoffed everything except one who found the colour of the fresh herb sauce too alarmingly green.  Admittedly I gave myself quite I lot to do on Friday but I have to tell you it was worth it and it helped to know anything left to prepare was easy and also that so much was already in the fridge or cake tin.

Finally please don’t think there is even one iota of smuggery here,  I am rarely this organised but have proved to myself this weekend the virtue of planning and preparing ahead.  You may always be this organised but if not, I hope some of these tips and recipes might help you breeze through it next time you have a houseful.

One more thing, I finished off the leftover poached rhubarb and vanilla bean cream with a last meringue and it was fabulous.  It reminded me of a rhubarb pavlova that I made a couple of times last year and I will post that recipe soon.

 

Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt

Cheese Biscuits

I remember dinner parties when I was a child – those were the days of going the whole hog – long dresses, velvet jackets, hair up and that 1970’s phenomenon – a selection of puddings.  Now, what was that all about?  If it wasn’t enough that you would wade through a starter and main course, there would always be cheese served with biscuits, grapes, a jar of celery and whatever else but then a choice of puddings.  Perhaps oranges in caramel, a lemon soufflé – the chilled kind rather than oven baked – chocolate roulade or profiteroles.  Always three, always cold.

So different from how we entertain now.  When we have friends for supper, I might make a big stew, pie or paella which can be served at the table (no hostess trolley) with perhaps a salad to follow.  Then depending on our mood, the weather and many other vagaries, cheese (sometimes served with the salad) or a pud.  Rarely both as I am incapable of leaving one or other alone if presented with them both and will then feel like a beached whale at the end of supper.  What I would do with three puddings I don’t know….well I do.  I don’t often serve a starter but prefer to offer something with drinks beforehand.  I can’t quite bring myself to call these canapés as I am not dextrous enough to create those little masterpieces you see in smart restaurants.  No, spiced cherries in bacon, a little onion tart or these cheese biscuits with rosemary salt.

Can there be anything more fantastically savoury and moreish to have with a cocktail than a little cheese biscuit?  That tang and crunch just go perfectly.  These ones are crisp with a good bite from strong cheese and a kick from the cayenne.  Despite the feisty flavour my children adore them.  Make a load to stash away in your freezer ready to whip out when entertaining over Christmas.

As you can see from the photograph I served these with a Negroni and I thought they went together perfectly but naturally the choice of drink is up to you.  Admittedly, one of the friends I gave a Negroni to made a face like I’d give her soapy water to drink and gave me the glass straight back.  You can’t please everyone…..but at least she loved the cheese biscuits!

Cheese Biscuits 2

Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt

100g soft butter

100g self raising flour

100g strong cheese, grated (I use 50/50 parmesan and vintage cheddar)

A pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180.  Whizz the flour and butter together, add the cheese and cayenne. Mix to a dough and form into a roll, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up a little as this will make the cutting easier.  Cut into thin slices and put onto a parchment lined baking tray.  Pound the rosemary in a mortar with a pinch of sea salt and sprinkle a little of this onto each biscuit.  Cook for 13-15 minutes until golden on top.  Cool on a wire rack where they will crisp up.  Makes about 25.