Salted Caramel & Vanilla Panna Cotta “boiled eggs” for Easter

Easter panna cotta salted caramel egg-5

Happy Easter! I decided to try something a bit different this year that incorporated one of my all time favourite things: salted caramel. Panna cotta is one of the easiest desserts to make, the only tricky bit of this recipe is actually peeling the duck eggs.

I did a few different experiments ranging from the REALLY easy (simple moulded vanilla with salted caramel topping) to the slightly trickier panna cotta with hidden salted caramel  centre. We are very lucky here in Melton Mowbray to be able to get hold of fresh duck eggs very cheaply so I used those as the white shell looks fab. You can use any egg shell though, sadly my chicken doesn’t lay those very pretty pastel blue eggs otherwise I would have used those.

This recipe makes a nice big jar of salted caramel sauce that will keep nicely in your fridge for a couple of weeks, not that it will last that long as it’s highly addictive.

The easiest of the lot is to make a simple vanilla panna cotta:

vanilla and salted caramel panna cotta

Ingredients:

  • 350ml double cream
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, split and seeds removed
  • 3 1/2 sheets gelatine (if making the “boiled eggs” use 4 1/2)

Salted Caramel Sauce:

Method:

  1. Pop the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water to soak. Put the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and pods into a saucepan and heat gently until it simmers then remove from heat.
  2. Squeeze any excess water from the gelatine sheets then stir them into the cream mixture until completely dissolved, remove the vanilla pods, pour into ramekins and put them in the fridge to set for about 2 hours whilst you make the caramel sauce.
  3. Put the butter, sugar and water into a saucepan over a low heat. It’s important that you don’t stir it, simply swirl the pan to mix everything and agitate it every now and again, it will start to bubble and get darker. After about 3 -4  minutes of bubbling very quickly whisk in the double cream and add the salt. Taste and add more salt if needed (If you want a darker caramel let it bubble longer before adding the cream).
  4. Once the panna cottas have set simply turn out onto a plate, top with a dollop of caramel sauce and a few more flakes of vanilla sea salt. If you are having trouble getting the panna cotta out of the ramekin just pop it in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 seconds to loosen the sides and turn out.

Easter panna cotta salted caramel egg-6

Now, if you wanted to make the ‘boiled eggs”:

  1. First you need to remove the tops from your duck eggs, this recipe makes about 12 eggs.
  2. egg cutters

    I picked this little gadget up for 99p and have FINALLY found a use for the bloody thing. It neatly nips the top of a raw egg.

  3. Pour out the raw egg into a bowl and put in the fridge to use for something else (I made kickass duck egg pasta).
  4. Make the caramel sauce and panna cotta mix as above using the extra gelatine sheet.
  5. Pour the panna cotta mixture into each egg (stand them in the egg tray to keep them nice and upright). *If you want a hidden yolk see note below.
  6. Place in the fridge to set then scoop out a small bowl in the centre of the panna cotta and fill with caramel sauce, sprinkle with more vanilla sea salt so it looks like salt and pepper

*OR  if you want a hidden yolk like the egg on the right in the above pic, carefully peel the shell away from the egg turn upside down so you get the vanilla seeds on the top, carefully slice the top off then scoop out a little bowl in the centre, fill with sauce and replace lid.

This also gives me an excuse to pop a clip of a panna cotta wobble I filmed when I made my coconut panna cotta for Domestic Sluttery last year:

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French Bean and Yellow Courgette Salad

Finally my courgettes and french beans are ready to be picked! This quick salad really shows them off in all their glory. The lovely Bridget has just made a fresh batch of her incredible raspberry vinegar and it is absolutely perfect in for this dish. If you don’t have a lovely Bridget who makes awesome raspberry vinegar then you should definitely try Womersley’s Raspberry Vinegar which you can buy online.

Ingredients:

  • French beans topped and tailed
  • yellow courgettes thinly sliced to the same shape and size as the beans
  • mint leaves
  • fennel fronds
  • white poppy seeds
  • onion flowers

For the dressing:

  • Halen Môn salt flakes
  • heaped tablespoon English mustard
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds black pepper

Method:

Pop your french beans into a pan of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes then blanch in cold water and dry. Combine with your courgettes, herbs and poppy seeds. Put all your dressing ingredients into a jam jar and shake to mix then pour over your veg and mix well, sprinkle your onion flowers over the top.

Fragrant Roast Pork with Herb Couscous, Rose Infused Sheep’s Curd and Rhubarb and Apple Sauce

I was all set for a roast pork dinner: the oven was pre heating, the pork shoulder joint was coming to room temperature, the wine was open and The West Wing was playing on my laptop in the kitchen. Yes I was all ready to get cracking except for one small thing – I’d forgotten to buy potatoes from Bridget at this morning’s car boot, bugger. Be they mashed or roasted, the humble spud is an integral part of our Sunday Roast.

Veg wise I had just 1 carrot, some celery tops with leaves and a couple of onions, I also had a packet of couscous in the larder, that’s a good start I figured and after a bit of garden foraging this dish was born. This method of roasting pork ensures really crispy crackling and meat that oozes juice and is so tender it can be cut with a spoon, well except for the crackling which is perfectly crispy.

Ingredients:

For the pork:

  • pork shoulder joint
  • Halen Môn spiced salt
  • fennel seeds
  • sumac
  • cumin seeds
  • 1 packet Spicentice Moroccan Lamb Tagine mix (found at back of cupboard, went out of date 3 months ago!)
  • 1 large white onion finely sliced
  • 3 handfuls chopped rhubarb from the garden
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 600ml cloudy apple juice
  • 5 apricots (once dried but have been steeping in brandy in my cupboard for 8 months or so)
  • 1 tablespoon wildflower honey

For the couscous:

  • 1 packet couscous
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • tops and leaves of one head celery
  • chopped garden herbs: lots of various mints, fennel, parsley, chives (plus a few flowers from everything to garnish)
  • skin from 1 preserved lemon, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Essential Cuisine chicken stock powder
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • handful dried sliced garlic

For the rose infused sheep’s curd:

Just before it goes in the oven, after 30 minutes and after the full 90 minutes

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to hottest setting. Make sure pork is at room temp, rub the spiced salt and fennel seeds into the scored and scorched skin then sprinkle with sumac.
  2. Put your sliced onion, rhubarb, apple, cumin seeds, tagine mix and cinnamon into a roasting tray, pour over the apple juice, mix then put your pork on top. Roast at the highest setting until the crackling is lovely and crispy then cover with foil and cook for about an hour or until the centre of the pork is cooked. Remove meat and leave it to rest covered in foil.
  3. Finely chop all your couscous ingredients. Put your stock powder, dried garlic slivers and couscous in a big bowl, stir then add boiling water (as much as the packet says – I usually aim for the water to be 1 inch higher than the couscous). Stir, cover with foil and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Then remove foil, fluff with fork then stir in all the remaining veg and herbs.
  4. Mix your rose water into the sheeps curd.
  5. That’s it really, to assemble just put your herb couscous on a plate, place a slice of juicy pork on top, a bit of crackling, a couple of spoonfuls of the wonderful gravy, dot with the rose infused sheep’s curd and scatter a few of your herb flowers over.

BBC Radio Leicester and Melton Mess

Cooking on the radio you say? Well yes indeed! Last Friday morning I had the pleasure of the wonderful Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester being in my tiny kitchen at Wyldelight Cottage.  I had been practicing the art of not swearing for 2 days and was still a bit nervous until it dawned on me in the middle of the night before that yes, I could practice not swearing, but the art of “not sounding like a total twat when nervous” has always eluded me. I’ve always done it at the most inopportune moments too, normally when in the vicinity of really handsome men (throw a uniform in there and I go from sounding a bit like a twat to talking full blown nonsensical rubbish!

Luckily we had a good half hour before we started recording just catching up and talking food, that ALWAYS relaxes me and puts me at ease. I wanted to keep the recipe really simple and decided to do something in real time so listeners could see just how easy it all was.  I made my Melton Mess with Vanilla Sea Salted Caramel Sauce, it’s outrageously good too and the recipe will feature in this months Great Food Magazine which is out tomorrow. There is lots of cream, custard, strawberries, meringue and yes plenty of salted caramel sauce involved! There weren’t any disasters; I didn’t swear, I did get very excited about what I was making, I probably sounded like a bit of a twat but all in all it went really well and I will have a regular slot each month!

You can click here to listen, I start from 1 hr 41mins in, and you can tell I’m smiling the whole time as you can hear my lisp (lisps are all kinds of sexy you know!).

Melton Mess with salted caramel sauce

Ingredients:

  • About a dozen or more large strawberries
  • 2 tblsp caster sugar
  • 520ml double cream
  • 1 large meringue base or 8 meringue “nests”
  • 250ml good quality vanilla custard
  • salted caramel sauce

Method:

  1. Slice about two thirds of your strawberries and put them in a bowl, sprinkle over the caster sugar, give them a stir and leave to macerate whilst you get on with the rest of the dish. Keep the remaining strawberries to one side for now.
  2. Using an electric mixer whip the cream until it’s firm, be careful though as it’s very easy to over whip double cream and it will start to separate (and you could accidentally end up with butter!).
  3. Crush your meringues into pieces, don’t make them too small, as you want different textures to run through the dessert, then stir them into the cream.
  4. Pour your custard and macerated strawberries and their juice on top of the whipped cream and very gently fold in. You don’t want it to be all mixed in completely, just folded carefully so you have pools of strawberries and custard amongst the cream.
  5. Carefully tip the mixture onto a big serving platter, scatter the strawberries you had set to one side over the top then drizzle liberally with the salted caramel sauce. Have the pot of caramel on the table so people can help themselves to more, I warn you though: this sauce is highly addictive!

Vanilla Salted Caramel Sauce:

  •  120g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 260ml double cream
  • 2 tsp Halen Môn Vanilla sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Put the butter, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until bubbling it’s important that you don’t stir it though just swirl the pan to combine.
  2.  Once it’s all melted, let it bubble away for 3 minutes then whisk in your cream and remove from the heat. Add a teaspoon of salt flakes, taste to see if it needs any more (careful though it will be hot).  It will seem very runny but it thickens as it cools so make several hours before if you want a firmer sauce and pop it in the fridge.

I sent Ben off with a goodie bag of amazing local foods that are really overlooked in Melton.  There is such a big focus on the pork pies and stilton cheese that the other little known producers just get left behind.  This weeks goodie bag is a selection of my favourite things that I buy in Melton and not a pork pie or slice of stilton anywhere!

  • Blackberry vinegar from Bridget at Melton Sunday market
  • Smoked sausages – Grasmere farm (Tuesday market)
  • Smoked wild boar bacon – Paul aka The Roosterman (Melton Market Tues, Fri, Sun)
  • Homemade butter – Maria (Tuesday market)
  • Smoked middle bacon Derek Jones Butchers Melton (the BEST ever!) Plus a slice of their brawn
  • various jams/chilli sauce/chutney from my good self as I was spoiling him!

The next goodie bag will be equally as good and I have no idea what I’m going to cook yet but I’m really excited already!

Salted Caramel and Blueberry Pancakes

I really hadn’t intended to make any pancakes at all today but I needed to buy some milk so popped to the shop only to discover a pack of blueberries reduced to 99p.  Well I took that as a sign that actually yes, I should make pancakes, lots of pancakes to celebrate this little find and, as my love affair with salted caramel reigns strong, it seemed a natural pancake buddy. You can buy jars of salted caramel in the shops but they’re, quite frankly, way too tiny and you don’t get those lovely flakes of sea salt in them so its nice to make a big jug of your own, that way you can guzzle it whilst your pancakes are cooking and still have plenty left for drizzling.

Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • 120g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla Halen Môn sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Put the butter, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until bubbling it’s important that you don’t stir it though just swirl the pan to combine.
  2.  Once it’s all melted, let it bubble away for 3 minutes then whisk in your cream and remove from the heat. Add a teaspoon of salt flakes, taste to see if it needs any more (careful though it will be hot).  It will seem very runny but it thickens as it cools so make several hours before if you want a firmer sauce and pop it in the fridge.

Boris Cat gatecrashes the shot