I was given chef moulds as a Christmas gift last year and this is the first time I am getting to use them. I’d had trouble in the past using other moulds, as there was nothing to push the food through and onto the plate, leaving me to have to use a knife around the edges, which ruins the effect. These moulds, however, come with a metal plate that you use to push the food through. As it turned out, I didn’t need it for this recipe because the finished piece slid out all by itself. I dare say that won’t happen every time, so I’m happy that I have it on reserve.
This dessert uses both frozen and fresh blackberries. You can use the combination, as I have, or you can use all frozen or all fresh, depending on the season and how available fresh blackberries are. Thankfully, supermarkets stock the frozen kind all year round. This also features agar agar, which is our vegan gelatine replacement and the ingredient that holds the dessert together. Just like gelatine, you need to simmer the agar agar to activate it. It will then thicken as it cools. If you are using moulds, you will have to make sure that the Panna Cotta is cooled enough to be quite thick before you spoon it in, otherwise it will simply (and rather frustratingly) pour out from underneath the mould, leaving you with a sticky mess and no dessert. You don’t have to use moulds to make this, dessert dishes will serve you just as well. The mould just makes it look all fancy.
Prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time.
For the Panna Cotta:
450g (2 punnets) fresh blackberries, leave a few aside for garnish
50ml orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
400ml vegan cream
4 extra tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp agar agar powder
For the Blackberry Compote:
400g frozen blackberries
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To make the Panna Cotta, put the blackberries, sugar and orange juice into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until it has thickened.
Allow the mixture to cool a little and then pass it through a sift into another bowl to produce a fine, strained sauce. Use the back of a spoon to press against the berries to pass as much through the sift as possible.
Clean out your saucepan and pour the strained sauce back into it, then bring it back to a simmer. Add the rest of the Panna Cotta ingredients, bring them all to a simmer again and then cook for about 3-4 minutes, whisking continuously. This will activate the agar agar. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool. This should take about 30 minutes and you’ll need to keep coming back to whisk it as it thickens to prevent lumps from forming.
While it is cooling you can make your blackberry compote base. Put the frozen berries and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer rapidly for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until you have a thick, jam-like consistency. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
If you are using moulds, line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and then place 4 moulds on top. If you are using dishes, then just lay 4 out ready for use.
Spoon a little compote into the bottom of the moulds or dishes. Allow to set for 5 minutes or so and then spoon the Panna Cotta mixture on top. Fill to the top of the moulds or dishes, then allow to set fully in the fridge or freezer for at least 2 hours. You can freeze them entirely if you like, just give them 30 minutes or so to thaw before serving. Top with fresh or frozen blackberries to serve.