Coconut Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit

The Mammy and I were having fun making exotic fresh fruit smoothies on Sunday. We had mango, blueberries, raspberries, banana and passion fruit. We also had papaya but I don’t like it: it doesn’t taste like anything – maybe the papaya fruits that grow under their own steam in South America are delish but for now, don’t put me down for anymore.

Passion fruit: now there’s a beauty. They’re ripe when the outer shell goes a bit wrinkly. I’d never prepared one before so when I got my hands on one and started to play, I thought to myself “these would make excellent cups for shots or for fruit mousses or something.” So when I decided to do a panna cotta there was no question that it would be accompanied by the tart, tangy fruit and no doubt at all that it would be served in an emptied passion fruit shell, complete with its own top hat.

This recipe makes absolutely loads of panna cotta. I used 3 passion fruit shells to experiment with this form of presentation. After that I filled 7 small bowls that hold 4 fl oz / 100ml, with a smidgen left over. I copied a technique from Rachel Allen in which she lightly greases the bowls with oil then lines them with clingfilm and pours in the liquid panna cotta mixture to set in the fridge. Once set, they can be up-ended and plated, the cling film peeled away. For presentation I thought this turned out a little weird. Apart from the fact that the panna cotta looks totally crazy (it’s delicious really, just very gelatinous and wobbly!), all my vanilla seeds settled at the bottom, which looked a bit crappy. I would say let them set in the bowls but don’t worry about turning them out onto plates. Or, once you’ve poured the mixture into the bowls, make sure you give it a good stir before they go in the fridge. Now, without further ado, the recipe!

Coconut Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit

2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
400ml whole milk
100g / 3½ oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
2 x 12g sachets of powdered gelatine
Roughly 2 passion fruits per person
For the passion fruit syrup (based on the pulp+seeds of 3 passion fruits, multiply your recipe accordingly)
Pulp+seeds of 3 passion fruits
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water

1. To prep the passion fruits: place a fruit on a flat surface to make sure it will stay in place. Slice the top of the fruit off so that there is enough space to scoop out the pulp inside. Scrape out as much pulp as possible using a small metal spoon. Pull out any leftover stringy bits with your fingers. Set the pulp and seeds to one side.

2. In a large saucepan, pour in the tins of coconut milk and whole milk; add the sugar. Cut the vanilla pod down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Add the seeds and vanilla pod to the milk mixture and stir. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat and infuse for 5mins with a lid on.

3. Ladle 200ml of the hot milk mixture into a large bowl or Pyrex jug. Sprinkle the gelatine in and whisk well to dissolve it. Pour back into the saucepan and, over a medium heat, whisk the milk and gelatine mix continuously for 2 minutes until the gelatine has completely dissolved.

4. Prep the bowls:

Method 1 – if you want a dome-shaped panna cotta that is served on a plate, pour a drop of vegetable oil into the bottom of the bowl and grease the sides and around the rim with a pastry brush. Take a square of clingfilm and press into the bowl, making it as smooth as possible. Pour the panna cotta mix in and stir gently with a spoon to evenly distribute the vanilla seeds.

Method 2 – if you wish to serve the panna cotta in a passion fruit shell, remove all pulp and seeds from the inside. Pour the liquid panna cotta mixture all the way to the top (it reduces as it sets).

Method 3 – just pour it into a bowl. Easy peasy.

5. Allow the mixture to set for at least 2 hours before serving.

6. For the passion fruit syrup: in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the passion fruit pulp + seeds, sugar and water. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously. Turn the heat to low and simmer for a further 15mins, stirring continuously until the mixture has thickened. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to separate the syrup from the seeds. Keep some seeds aside for authentic passion fruit presentation.


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