A short interlude for dessert: Coconut pannacotta

Occasionally, and this may come as a surprise to some of you, I do things unrelated to sewing…

Here’s one of them. For those not already in the know, I am a coeliac and a year ago discovered I’m also lactose intolerant. This makes desserts tricky. A person can only eat so much fruit salad whilst watching everyone else tuck into sticky date pudding, ice cream, death by chocolate, etc. So when I recently had a wedding anniversary dinner with the Husband at the lovely resort where we got married, I managed to wangle the recipe for my dessert from the chef by playing for sympathy and some shameless flattery. I have made a few tweaks to adjust the spice balance a little, and I’ve dressed it up differently, but it’s still luscious! Creamy, mild, delicate and exotic. A proper grown up dessert and such a nice change from bloody fruit salad.

Coconut pannacotta ingredients

This is your one picture. For the rest, It’s a white liquid being stirred with a few unattractive lumpy bits in it, then poured into white ramekins. Nothing I can do will make that look interesting… I could have shown squeezing the gelatine but that needs two hands, and besides, it looks a bit, well, gross…

Coconut pannacotta

1 x 400ml (14 oz) can of coconut cream, well shaken
250ml (8 oz) thick cream (I use treated lactose-free, but it doesn’t have to be)
3 ½ sheets of leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water till soft (about 3 mins)
1 tablespoon castor sugar or coconut sugar, which I prefer
1 shredded kaffir lime leaf OR thinly peeled zest of 1 small lime
2 lightly bruised cardamom pods
½ cinnamon quill
½ star anise pod
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence, or paste, which will colour the dessert and make it look unattractively grey)

Put everything except the soaking gelatine into a small heavy saucepan and bring very slowly to a simmer, stirring till the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Scoop the now rather slimy lump of soft gelatine out of the bowl of water and squeeze gently in both hands to remove as much water as possible without squidging bits of gelatine out between your fingers. Put into the pan of hot coconut mixture, and stir well until fully dissolved. Set aside again for 20-30 minutes to allow the aromatics to infuse into the mixture. Don’t leave it much longer than this or the gelatine will start to set. (You should be aware that leaf gelatine is an animal product, so if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll have to experiment with a vegetarian alternative such as agar agar, which will give a slightly grainier and softer set.)

Transfer the contents of the pan into a jug. Using a fine sieve, pour the mixture into small ramekins, or if you’re going to go all posh, oiled dariole moulds. There’s just over 600ml or 20 oz of mixture, so you can fill 4-6 small ramekins, and the dessert is very rich, so you don’t want to make the portions too large. Put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours. If you’re going to turn them out, run a knife very gently around the top edge of the mould, plunge the base of the mould into hot water for a second or two then turn out. I’d tend to serve in the ramekins, less chance of disaster…

Serve with a coulis or purée of something tart, like passionfruit, raspberry, etc. It’s rich and needs the contrast. A sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes or a couple of crushed macadamias on the top is nice too. I made it first with kaffir lime leaves, and found the flavour too strong, it made me think of Thai curry too much. I like it better with lime zest. I also used less sugar than in the original recipe and also prefer this as it lets the aromatics speak out more, especially using coconut sugar which seems to enhance the flavour. If you don’t want to use dairy at all, put an extra can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight, open carefully and spoon the thick ‘head’ of coconut cream from off the the coconut water underneath and use this instead of dairy cream. And if you don’t have any problem with dairy and don’t like coconut that much, do the whole thing instead with pure thick cream! Actually, that would be tasty with a bit of strong coffee instead of the lime zest.  Well, you see how versatile this thing is!

I’m currently working on a citrus version of this, without any fat. But it will not, of course, like so many commercial alternatives, be dull, boring, filled with chemicals and over-sweetened as a a result. Just a little bit less naughty. So you can eat it more often, duh!

See how hard I’ve been working on your behalf to test and perfect this recipe?  All those experiments and tastings…. Oh, the suffering and hardship… Go on now, give it a try. You’ll thank me.

 

Languid Lounging, part 3

The first one’s done!

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Look at that perky little pillow!

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Tidy zipper 🙂 If it hadn’t gone in well, I wouldn’t have shown it!

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Simple close quilting, but it looks good and gives the front much needed body

The shot cotton on the back looks gorgeous, I’m so happy to have an excuse to look at that every day. I’m also pleased with the way the quilted front makes it hold its shape better than just floppy fabric, and the quilting just adds an extra dimension of cushiness.

The lovely Nanette is also going to be making some nice new pillows for her sofa soon, and it was her excellent suggestion that we have a CushAlong.  It’s a great idea, and a good forum for swapping ideas, hints and tips and encouraging each other. And it’s a well known fact, of course, that one can never have too many cushions/pillows, whatever you call them. The cushions can be patchwork, wholecloth, crochet, knitting, embroidery or whatever takes your fancy. If you’d like to join in, let me know, grab the logo below for your post, and we’ll fix a date for Show and Tell to display the resulting Cushes… Otherwise she and I will contentedly crank out some much needed loveliness for our lounging spots by our own selves…

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You can show a previously made cushion/pillow, but it’ll be more fun if you start from scratch, so we can see how you got there.

Right, I’m off  to start the next one. This is fun!

The Gardens of Chiconia 11

Although I’m out there daily, watering, weeding, pruning and bugslaying, I haven’t shared progress with you for ages.

And there’s plenty to report!  Despite a plague of grasshoppers of all sizes from the length of my little fingernail to the length of my middle finger, almost everything is holding its own. This is supposed to be the Wet, and normally we wouldn’t see grasshoppers in such profusion, but they’re making a beeline for anything lush and tempting because it’s been a very dry summer.

Here we go, then.

All the usual suspects, but twice the size!

All the usual suspects, but twice the size!

A general view of the tropical garden. Things have shot up in the past month or so, most notably the banana tree and the Brugmansia. The former is now taller than I am by quite a margin, having been planted at knee height. The latter is now as tall as I am, having been planted at mid shin height. Unfortunately the grasshoppers love the Brugmansia despite its toxicity, so we’re fighting a rearguard action with a soapy water/pyrethrum spray which seems to slow them down and doesn’t hurt the plant. We’re very careful about where and what we spray, and so far the ladybird population is undeterred.

Dwarf Ducasse banana. Not so very dwarf, if you ask me...

Dwarf Ducasse banana. Not so very dwarf, if you ask me…

First, the banana tree. Just, wow…

The Brugmansia is also suddenly all grown up. It’s like getting used to small children, and then suddenly they’re teenagers, all legs, flamboyant clothes and attitude.

Out the back the lychee is flourishing but not showing any signs of reproducing yet. The little lemon tree is groaning under the weight of 5 large lemons, which are just beginning to turn colour. The mango is getting quite huge for a dwarf tree, but it’s grown well all along so it’s not so interesting to show.

Anyway, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. More soon.

Dwarf Meyer lemon, heavily in fruit

Dwarf Meyer lemon, heavily in fruit

The dwarf lychee, looking happy and bushy, but unfortunately, not fruity!

The dwarf lychee, looking happy and bushy, but unfortunately, not fruity!

Look, in the middle: Flowers coming out on the passionfruit

Look, in the middle: Flowers coming out on the passionfruit

Close up of more flower buds, like cute little spiky purses.  Lots of buds means lots of passionfruit.  I'll cope somehow....

Close up of more flower buds, like cute little spiky purses. Lots of buds means lots of passionfruit. I’ll cope somehow….

The basil and gotu kola, the former holding its own in the Bug Wars, and the latter staging a comeback after looking very sorry for itself.

The basil and gotu kola, the former holding its own in the Bug Wars, and the latter staging a comeback after looking very sorry for itself.

Brugmansia (the tall one!), which will one day have sweetly scented flowers if it survives the grasshoppers.

Brugmansia (the tall one!), which will one day have sweetly scented flowers if it survives the grasshoppers.