Recipe: Panna cotta with boozy fruit

By , 3 December 2014

Panna cotta with boozy fruitFrance and Greece have both tried muscling in on Italy’s famous panna cotta, but with slim success. One of the great custards of the world, this ultra-smooth delectation is made with a simple mix of cream, sugar and vanilla, gently set with gelatine. Another blast from the past, the recipe has been dusted off and is currently trotted out on restaurant menus world-wide to the delight of a new generation of devotees.

Panna cotta is easy as, well, pie to make, and you’re welcome to serve it in a glass or turned out onto a plate. However, unlike other custards that are best not messed about with (crème brûlée boasts a crisp capping of caramel; cream caramel’s claim to fame is a puddle of caramel sauce as it’s up-ended on a plate), panna cotta just adores being tizzyied up a bit – think spice, fruit, chocolate, chopped roasted nuts, or a drizzle of syrup. The secret to success lies in the correct ratio of gelatine to cream, ensuring it’s not too stiff or too floppy. The professional choice is colourless, odourless gelatine sheets or leaves, though powdered gelatine makes a satisfactory substitute if leaves are hard to find.

Another key ingredient is vanilla, and pods, essence and extract are all on offer. Pods, the fruit of a climbing orchid that flourishes in hot countries, such as Mexico where it originated, are the choice of fussy cooks, who diligently split the beans and scrape out the seeds to add to their creations. Fresh pods are plump, glossy and brown, while dried pods look rather shriveled. The next best thing is vanilla extract, which is naturally flavoured. Vanilla essence is made from flavoured, synthetic vanillin.

If you’re not keen on the suggested fruit for the topping, use any that take your fancy, such as lychees, nectarines and berries.

Panna cotta with boozy fruit
Serves 6

3 gelatine leaves, or 7ml (1 teaspoons)

Powdered gelatine

750ml cream

100g sugar

2 vanilla pods or 2ml ( teaspoon) vanilla extract

30ml (2 tablespoons) Noble Late Harvest

Boozy fruit
1 kiwi fruit

1 banana


30ml (2 tablespoons) Noble Late Harvest

Soften the gelatine leaves by soaking in a basin of cold water for about five minutes. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan and add the sugar. Split the vanilla pods in half, scrape out the seeds and add to the pan. Warm the cream over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar and prevent the cream from sticking to the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.

Squeeze the water from the gelatine with your hands, add to the warm cream mixture and stir until the gelatine dissolves. If you’re using powdered gelatine, sprinkle it onto the cream, allow to “sponge” for several minutes, then stir in well to prevent it from setting in strings or lumps. Stir in the wine and vanilla extract (if you haven’t used vanilla pods) and allow to cool. Pour the mixture into six glasses, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours until set.

Shortly before serving, peel the fruit and cut into smallish chunks in a bowl. Pour over the wine and mix well. Pile the fruit (and wine) onto the panna cottas and serve with a flourish – and a glass of the good stuff on the side.

Noble Late Harvest will work well with this dessert, the wine matching both the fruit of the topping and the creaminess of the panna cotta in terms of texture.

  • This recipe was originally developed by the late Lannice Snyman, one of South Africa’s most experienced and well- respected food personalities.


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