My friends are amazing people. They're always on the lookout for me, finding restaurants or eating experiences or story ideas as well as finding treasures to cook with. One of my longest standing friends is Queen Viv, a woman who terrified me at our first meeting 15 years ago such was her regal demeanor. Soon after I realised what a genuine, warm person she was, and still is. She, along with Miss America often accompany my husband and I on our eating adventures and they're always willing to give things a go. Queen Viv raised her son who happens to be about my age the same way. Indeed when we went to Uighur Cuisine, he and I were the ones eager to try the Lungs much to everyone else's horror.
I digress, the reason why I'm speaking of Queen Viv is because after our recent jaunt to a restaurant one evening, we retired to her house to partake of some gorgeous Coconut & Vanilla Pannacottas with Grilled fresh figs. It was deliciously voluptuous and creamy and my husband scoffed down 2 of them. The lighting was a touch dark so a photograph of these was not possible but I sought to recreate them myself at home and she shared her recipe for them. Then after I'd finished copying down the recipe in my Moleskine, she produced the most gorgeous pannacotta moulds from her cupboards. She bought them at a market and I was instantly in love. She let me borrow them for cooking and I was eager to make these.
They're fabulously simple, hardly requiring any cooking at all. The hardest bit is waiting for a couple of hours for them to set. They're also dairy free for those of you who desire something deliciously creamy and who often have to forsake the gorgeously wobbly Pannacotta because of dietary issues. If you want to, you could leave out the coconut if you like that easy smooth texture or if you want to use the coconut, choose the texture you prefer. Obviously shredded coconut is less fine than dessicated. The coconut cream will make it more a white grey and if you need a pure white colour simply replace the coconut cream with 2 cups of cream and 1 cup of milk. And because these are gorgeously, tremblingly wobbly, don't leave them out of the fridge too long in warm weather. Their delicate constitution will wither and melt and that would be something worth crying over.
Coconut & Vanilla Pannacotta with Grilled Fresh Fig Flowers
An original recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Makes 4 x 150ml or 6x100ml molds
565ml can of coconut cream
1/3 cup desicated or shredded coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
2.5 gelatine leaves
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthways, seeds scraped out
2 Figs per person
1 teaspoon raw or turbinado sugar per person
oil or oil spray for greasing the Pannacotta moulds
Removing the softened gelatine leaves from the cold water
Step 1 - Place gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Place vanilla, coconut cream, sugar and coconut into a sauce and heat gently until sugar has dissolved (do not boil). Remove from heat. Remove gelatine leaves from water squeezing out excess moisture and stir gelatine into creamy mixture throughly. Allow flavours to infuse for 15 minutes.
The Pannacotta mix
Step 2 - Meanwhile, oil some pannacotta moulds and clear space in your fridge for the pannacottas.
Step 3 - Pour creamy mixture into the moulds and refrigerate for 2 hours until set.
Set Pannacotta, after I've run a knife around the edge to loosen it
Step 4 - When set, run a thin knife around the edges and unmould onto your serving plate. If it proves stubborn, run the mould side under warm or hot water being careful not to wet the Pannacotta. This will definitely loosen it so be careful when inverting and press tightly against the plate and upturn.
Removing from the mould
Step 5 - Cut figs into a flower shape by cutting an X across the top and carefully opening up the "petals" and drizzle some of the raw sugar on top. Blowtorch or grill the figs under a hot grill for a few minutes until softened. Place next to the plated Pannacotta and drizzle over any of the delicious fig sugar juice that results from the blowtorching adventure.