Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

Vanilla pannacotta 2

I have been so lucky with piles of fabulous, fresh local fruit recently.  Blackcurrants, loganberries, strawberries, gooseberries and red currants.  We have had many of the classics such as gooseberry fool and some new ideas such as blackcurrant shortbread cake.  I made redcurrant jelly for the first time, pretty straightforward apart from my slightly Heath Robinson jelly bag of muslin suspended via a wooden spoon over a deep jug – it worked!  Blackcurrant jam and loganberry jam sit in my larder, a comforting site if ever I saw one.

After making the jam I had a few blackcurrants left over, maybe 100g, and this is what came to mind as a way of using them up.   They have such a huge and tangy flavour that only a little is required and I thought this gentle, creamy vanilla pannacotta the perfect way to show off the blackcurrant sauce.  Sweet and fruity, sharp and vanilla – these two flavours work so well together.

I have to admit to having avoided recipes containing gelatine for years.  I remember my mother once spilling a gelatine mixture on the floor and as she was in a rush, quickly put down some newspaper to soak it up.  The result was sheets of newspaper glued firmly to the flagstones which took some elaborate and extensive chipping away to remove.  To be fair this was powdered gelatine and I still rarely use that.  My preferred type is the clear almost glass like sheets which work a treat.   These little puddings are so easy and quick to prepare and always go down a storm.  I’ve finished the blackcurrants but we had the pannacottas again yesterday this time with chopped strawberries macerated in a little sugar until they were deep crimson and juicy – fabulous.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

100g blackcurrants

20-40g caster sugar

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool, 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 put the blackcurrants into a pan with a splash of water and 20g sugar.  Heat gently until just falling apart and forming a syrupy sauce.  Carefully taste, you may need more sugar, it depends very much on their sweetness.  When you are happy with the balance leave the sauce to cool.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the blackcurrants.  Serves 4.

Vanilla pannacotta



Giant Strawberry Mivvi

Stawberry Mivvi

Remember Lyons Maid ice lollies?  The Orange Maid, a belter of orange cordial flavoured ice, lasted ages, always good value.  The Cider Quench which made us giggle and pretend to be drunk.  The Zoom, the Fab and of course the Cornish Strawberry Mivvi.  Treats from childhood years along with those brick like blocks of ice cream the perfect shape to slice and put between oblong wafers or into those funny rectangular cones (is that a geometric impossibility?).

The Strawberry Mivvi in particular required a certain skill to pick off the strawberry ice outer shell leaving a heart of vanilla ice cream to be licked quickly before it melted.  I liked the strawberry layer and I liked the ice cream but it was the combination of the two that makes the Mivvi excel, that British classic Strawberries and Cream – on a stick.

Not content to leave this alone I decided a giant version was required, a Mivvi bombe surprise, a family size spectacular, a Mighty Mivvi if you will.  This strawberry sorbet is one I’ve made many times over the years, the pure fragrance of the berries sings and you can easily dispense with the rest of this recipe and eat it as it is.  I sometimes make vanilla ice cream but on this occasion have used 2 tubs of a good store bought one.

You need to make this a day or so before you want to eat which of course is only a bonus as it sits happily in the freezer until you are ready.  Before you start however, make sure you have a good amount of free space on a freezer shelf, I didn’t take this early precaution and had to do a ridiculous amount of moving and rearranging to accommodate the bowl.  Learn from my mistakes!

Giant Strawberry Mivvi

500g strawberries

150g caster sugar

500ml water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 x 500ml tubs good vanilla ice cream

Dissolve the sugar in a little of the 500ml of water over a low heat then cool.  Whizz the strawberries with the lemon juice and then mix with the sugar syrup and remaining water.  Sieve and then freeze in an ice cream maker or put in a tub in the freezer and mix regularly to break down the ice crystals.  Once you have sorbet by either route transfer it to a 2 litre bowl, then take a 1 litre bowl with a layer of cling film on the outside and push it gently into the larger bowl thus squishing the sorbet up the sides – this sounds more complicated than it is.  Put in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.  Half an hour before the time is up take your 2 tubs of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften.  Then remove the smaller bowl, and the cling film from the sorbet (you may need to put a little warm water inside the smaller bowl to encourage its release) and then fill up the cavity with the vanilla ice cream, easily done it its softened state.  Put it back into the freezer for at least an hour to firm up until you want it.  Then (conversely) you will need to leave the whole thing out of the freezer for 15-20 minutes before you want to cut it, this too may need sitting in warm water to encourage it to part company with the bowl.  Serves 8, with aplomb.

Stawberry Mivvi 2

Marble Cake

Marble cake slice 2

I have felt a little caked-out recently following my Macmillan coffee morning but it is a dreary rainy October day in Dorset so there is only one thing to do – bake.  I make no secret of my fondness for a well stocked cake tin (Lemon Cake and the 1970’s, May 2013),  perhaps because when I was young a slice of cake was a proper treat.  It still is actually and ideally a weekly one and not something just for high days and holidays.

I may be sporting my rose coloured specs, the ones I usually view the 70’s with (blazing hot summers and superb music, forgetting strikes and power cuts etc) but I’m sure cakes were always homemade and whipped out triumphantly for weekends tea.  The only bought ones I can remember were something called a Country Manor Cake, a sort of light fruit cake with a demerara sugar topping which I was strangely fond of and the fabulous fluorescent Battenburg which enthralled me with its colours and the marzipan which I would peel off.

A marble cake was often the star at these teas and it seemed somehow exciting and exotic, what with its different flavours and swirls.  Many (many) years on I decided to make a marble cake and was delighted that my children were just as excited by the pattern and having both chocolate and vanilla flavours in one cake.   So much so that my son requested a marble cake, and it absolutely had to be a marble cake, last week when he had a friend from school over for tea.

You will see from the photographs that my marbling and swirling isn’t brilliant, artistry in cakes not one of my strengths and I doubt I will be troubling Paul and Mary any time soon.  The pictures are also the best I can do on a grey overcast day but I hope they convey the lovely texture of this easy and delicious cake.  Please, please do make it.

Marble Cake close 2

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

I use both milk and plain chocolate for the icing, all milk I find too sweet and all plain my children find too dark.  The mix of the two seems just right but as ever, adjust to your own tastes.

200g caster sugar

200g butter, soft

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

25g cocoa

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons milk

For the icing

100g chocolate, milk or plain as you prefer, see introduction

20g butter

1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170 and grease a 20cm tin which is at least 6-8cm deep.  Whizz the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time each with a spoonful of flour.  Once these are incorporated sift in the reminder of the flour along with the baking powder and salt then add the milk and vanilla.  Put half the mixture into another bowl and sift the cocoa into one lot, mix well.  Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared tin alternating vanilla and chocolate.  Run a skewer through the blobs marbling as you go and then bake for 55 minutes.  Check after 45 in case it is browning too much on top in which case lay a piece of foil over it.  When a skewer comes out clean leave to cool and then remove from the tin.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then add the milk until you get the consistency you are after for the icing, I find one tablespoon is usually enough.  Pour over the cake and dig in.

Marble cake whole