August 26, 2014

lemon & thyme panna cotta with a lemon infused strawberry & mango salsa and honeyed walnut crumbs

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Guys can we just take a moment to appreciate these photos?  I’m not normally one to blow my own trumpet but I must say I am rather impressed with how well they turned out! *blush  I’m one of those people who spend more time than I care to admit ogling over the food photography in magazines, cookbooks and on the net and will admit to feeling more than a little intimidated at the high calibre set by other food bloggers but I gotta say, I think I may have brought my game…….finally, fingers crossed!

Anyway, moving right along.  This dessert came about from having a jar of coconut milk, a lone lemon that had seen better days and some wilting thyme that needing using up and the ever so slight obsession I have developed for lemon, honey and thyme in a sweet dish.  A few months ago I made Emm’s scrumptious ‘lemon, honey and thyme curd’ shortcakes (recipe in her cookbook) and was smitten with the sweet, earthy, zesty tang of these ingredients combined and have used every chance since to replicate the taste in various dishes.  I’ve tested them in cake and biscuit form, in drink form – tea and smoothies and now dessert.  The cake needs more work but I’ve been pretty happy with the other attempts. 
Panna cotta is a rather decadent dessert that looks complicated but is really very simple and forgiving in nature.  It’s a hard dessert to get wrong and the flavour combinations are only limited by your imagination.

Lemon & thyme panna cotta with lemon infused strawberry & mango salsa and honeyed walnut crumbs – serves 4

Ingredients: (panna cotta)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup cream
4 sprigs of thyme
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp gelatine
1/4 cup warm water

Ingredients: (lemon infused strawberry and mango salsa)
1/2 a small punnet of strawberries
1/2 medium mango
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp sugar

Ingredients: (honeyed walnut crumbs)
1/2 cup walnut pieces – roughly chopped
1 Tbsp honey

For the panna cotta, place the warm water into a small dish and sprinkle over the gelatine.  Mix gently then set aside for 5 minutes to absorb.  Place the coconut milk, cream, thyme, zest and honey into a medium pot over low to medium heat.  Stir while heating to dissolve the honey and then heat gently, about ten minutes just under a simmer, to allow the flavours of the lemon and thyme to infuse the milk/cream.  Add the gelatine and whisk well to combine.  Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl then divide between 4 x 1/2 cup ramekins/glasses.  Refrigerate until set, around 5 hours or overnight.
For the salsa, place the lemon juice and sugar into a small pot and heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.  Chop the strawberries and mango into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Pour over the sweetened lemon juice and mix well to combine.  Refrigerate until required but best prepared within an hour of eating.
For the walnut crumbs, place the walnuts and honey into a small fry pan and heat gently, stirring until the honey has dissolved and the walnuts are lightly toasted.  Beware, this mix can burn easily.  Once the walnuts are toasted place them onto a piece of baking paper or plate to cool.  Once cool they can be stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.
To serve, unmold the panna cotta by dipping the ramekins in hot water and inverting onto a serving plate.  If they are a little stuck simply run a knife around the edge.   Spoon over the salsa then sprinkle over the walnut crumbs.  Enjoy!

- this could easily be made dairy free by using all coconut milk and/or cream (I did both versions on this particular occasion)
- I find panna cotta best made a day ahead
- if you prefer a sweeter dessert add another Tbsp of honey
- I used coconut sugar for the lemon syrup but any sugar will suffice
- infuse with whatever flavours tickle your fancy

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