Our gooseberry bushes at the allotment have done really well this year so I earmarked this recipe to try and use them up and asked my daughter Elizabeth (aged 5) to pick the fruit.
I have vivid memories of being sent into my granny’s garden at a similar age to pick gooseberries. Now, if you have ever picked them yourself you will know that they are very thorny. It’s a painful pursuit but as a child I didn’t wear gloves and despite getting prickled and scratched I don’t remember making a fuss. Perhaps it was the thought of the gooseberry fool that we would make afterwards by mixing the stewed fruit with Bird’s instant custard that kept me going.
Now Elizabeth is pretty tough but she managed to pick just five gooseberries before moaning and giving up. I let her off and picked the rest myself (albeit with gloves) wondering whether I should be a tougher parent.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that I’m a fan of stodgy puddings but in warm weather it’s nice to have something lighter and more summery. This Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall dish from his ‘River Cottage everday’ book is just the ticket and it’s the best panna cotta recipe I have tried. I often find panna cotta too creamy but in Hugh’s version he adds yoghurt which gives a nice tang.
Elderflower panna cotta with gooseberry sauce
For the elderflower panna cotta
- 100ml whole milk
- 250ml double cream
- 30g caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons of elderflower cordial (homemade or shop bought)
- 2 gelatine leaves
- 150ml plain yoghurt
For the gooseberry sauce
- 500g gooseberries
- 75g caster sugar
First make the gooseberry sauce. Wash and top and tail the gooseberries, then put them in a saucepan with the sugar. Cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Hugh keeps his sauce lumpy which you can do if you like but I personally don’t like the texture of the pips so I whizz the mixture in a food processor then pass through a sieve so that you have a nice smooth sauce. Set aside.
For the panna cotta, first soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5-10 minutes until floppy.
While the leaves are soaking, in a saucepan combine the milk, cream, sugar and elderflower cordial and bring the liquid just to the boil (Hugh calls this scalding).
Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the hot creamy mixture and stir until they have dissolved.
Leave the mixture to cool at room temperature, stirring from time to time.
Once cool add the yoghurt and stir until well combined.
Pour the mixture into ramekins or small jelly moulds and chill in the fridge until set (about 4 hours).
When you are ready to serve, dip each mould in warm water for a couple of seconds and then turn out onto a serving plate (as you can see from the photograph above mine were left in the water just a little too long which is why some of the outer mixture has melted into the gooseberry sauce).
Serve with a spoonful of gooseberry sauce and if you want to be poncy (like me) some wild strawberries.
If you don’t like gooseberries then you can serve these panna cotta with any fruit sauce. Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, plum all work brilliantly. You can also leave out the elderflower and add a few drops of real vanilla essence instead (you will need to add an additional 10g of sugar to the milk at the start though).
I made elderflower cordial for the first time this year because it’s really expensive to buy in the shops and we have an elder tree overhanging our allotment. It was super easy and here’s how I did it. Measure out 900g of caster sugar in a bowl and pour over 1.7 litres of boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and leave to cool. Add about 30 elderflower heads and 50g of citric acid (which I bought in my local chemist for 99p). Leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring from time to time. Strain through some muslin and transfer to sterilised bottles. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. You can dilute it with tap water, sparkling water or champagne!