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Panna cotta two ways for two special occasions

July 22, 2012
Making cardamon and rosewater panna cotta

Pictures taken by Reem for Noor TV Dubai

As a non-Muslim living in the United Arab Emirates, Ramadan has little direct effect on me.  The roads seem quieter (except just before sun down) it’s a little more difficult to get a coffee in the daytime, a picnic on the beach is not a good idea – but all these things are minor changes to everyday life. A tourist might visit Dubai during the Holy Month and not realise that anything is different. However, having lived here for over 12 years, I’ve grown to welcome the holy month of Ramadan, being in the midst of a nation immersed in an intense month of prayer, reflection and ritual. The city seems calmer, more contemplative, the call to prayer, a backdrop to my daily life, becomes more vivid and poignant and the diners sharing a communal Iftar seated in rows outside mosques after sunset is the public face of a great deal more private charitable generosity.  Through friends I’ve learned what Ramadan means to them, their own individual relationship with fasting and how they break it.  Having abstained from eating all day the first tastes of foods are savoured. A date is often the first thing that is eaten to restore sugar, along with a drink of water.  Family meals are savoured, it’s a time for sharing with friends, with special care being taken to choose intense flavours and textures.Cadamom panna cotta with rosewater syrup

I’m having a fantastic time in the UK with my family at the moment but it feels strange to be away for Ramadan. Some wonderful posts by  some of Fooderati Arabia connect me. Awesome chef Dima Sharif is creating an inspiring recipe a day. Holly shared a touching account of  suhoor through the years in her familyReminiscences of Ramadan past by Platetrotter gives another non-Muslim perspective. I also return to an account of breaking the fast in the United Arab Emirates written by one of my favourite writers about Middle Eastern cuisine, Anissa Helou.

My small contribution is to create a special dessert. I’ve made my favourite panna cotta and added flavours from the region, cardamom and rosewater. I’ve left out the cream to make a lighter texture – it should probably be called milk jelly – however you can replace some of all of the milk with cream if you want a richer taste.

Welcome, if you are visiting My Custard Pie for the first time via Noor Dubai TV or Dubai One. I spent a really enjoyable few hours with Reem as she filmed me making this dessert in my kitchen (her pics are above). The results of her filming are stunning – clever lady.

Cardamom panna cotta with rosewater syrup

At this time of reflection, I’m also thinking about Barbara Harris. Barbara was one of the first people I ‘met’ on Twitter and I was instantly drawn to her open, friendly communication and easy-going style of writing on her blog Winos and Foodies. I was aware that she was receiving on-going cancer treatment but there was never a hint of ‘poor me’ from Barbara. Her Livestrong with a touch of yellow event, where bloggers had to make a dish that was yellow in the shape of a heart, was something I joined in with and one of the first boards I made on Pinterest in its early days, was with everyone’s entries. When I read Barbara’s last post on her blog on the 1st June – an entry for In My Kitchen on Fig Jam and Lime Cordial – there was no hint that she would live for only a few weeks more. She died on 29th June. As a tribute to Barbara’s memory, Jeanne and Meeta have decided that this month’s Monthly Mingle event will be dedicated to Barbara’s memory, and that the theme will be A Taste of Yellow.  I made a saffron-based variation of my panna cotta recipe to honour this very special lady.

Panna cotta with saffron syrup

Cardamom panna cotta with rosewater syrup

Ingredients – panna cotta
1 ½ tablespoons powdered gelatine*
3 tablespoons water
350 ml milk and 350 ml cream or 700 ml milk**
10 cardamom pods
105g cardamom caster sugar (or plain caster sugar)
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Ingredients – syrup
175 ml water
110g caster sugar
1-2 teaspoons rosewater

*leaf gelatine gives a superior texture and ‘wobble’ but rarely available in the UAE (in the not for Muslims section)
**you can use all milk or up to 80% cream to 20% milk

Panna cotta with lemon saffron syrup

Put the gelatine and water in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the gelatine has dissolved. Add the milk, the cardamom pods and cardamom sugar and keep over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time until the sugar has dissolved and the flavours infused. Strain into a jug to remove the pods, stir in the vanilla extract and pour into 6 ramekin dishes or small glasses. Leave to cool then put in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
Heat the remaining water and sugar in a saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then raise the heat and simmer for about 3 – 4 minutes (do not let it brown).  Allow to cool slightly, add the rosewater (if it is not pink enough you can add a tiny drop of pink food colouring or rose cordial) and leave to cool.
When ready to serve, dip each dish into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds, run a small knife around the edge of the ramekins to loosen the panna cotta and turn out onto dessert plates or you can serve in the glasses garnished with a rose petal (ensure this is pesticide free). I used a frangipani from my garden. Drizzle with the rosewater syrup.

Vanilla panna cotta with lemon-saffron syrup

Make the panna cotta as above but replace the cardamom pods with a vanilla pod. Use a higher proportion of cream to milk (approx 575 ml cream).  For the syrup, use the juice of half a lemon and top up to 175ml with water. Add a generous pinch of saffron threads. Omit the rosewater.

You could poach some fruit such as slices of peaches, nectarines or apricots in the saffron syrup too. A delicious alternative would be lime and saffron syrup with slices of mango added at the end.

For more on panna cotta, there is an interesting article by Emily Angle on the BBC food blog

Panna cotta with lemon and saffron syrupDo you have special memories of Ramadan and what does it mean to you?

  1. July 22, 2012 4:59 am

    Divine panna cottas! I love the lemon and saffron one…

    Happy Ramadan.



    • July 22, 2012 5:32 pm

      Thanks as always Rosa. You are very kind.

  2. July 22, 2012 10:39 am

    How beautiful Sally! How can you eat such a beautiful creation – it’s a shame to eat it up. I have met Reem – she’s an incredible lady – more on her later perhaps in one of my posts but for now I can only say that I love reading your posts – each one is more beautiful than the previous one.

    Hope you are having a wonderful summer break!

    • July 22, 2012 5:31 pm

      I’m completely abashed by your generous comments Ishita. I’m having a wonderful time in Europe thanks.

      • July 22, 2012 9:19 pm

        Look forward to seeing this episode online… Enjoy your break:)

      • July 23, 2012 3:49 pm

        I’ll post the videos once they come online – looking forward to seeing yours too.

      • July 23, 2012 10:39 pm

        Thank you so much Sally – n I’ll never forget that one tweet which started it all – you’ll be special always:)

  3. July 22, 2012 11:14 am

    I like this tribute to your friend and inspiration, and to Ramadan – it is special indeed. So many memories from Old Trafford… an unexpected evening caller at the door…a neighbour bringing a plate full of Ramadan pastries – I agree with you about the atmosphere too…lots of people taking time to talk on the streets, plenty of handshakes, visiting…
    A couple of years ago I had my wisdom tooth extracted during Ramadan – as it was an evening appointment I was aware the dentist had probably not eaten or drank for about 12 hours, and I was impressed the way he wresteled with my tooth on an empty stomach!
    P.S. Love the recipies – will try…

    • July 22, 2012 5:30 pm

      Really appreciate your memories of Ramadan – it’s so interesting that there was such a sense of community in Manchester. It would be nice to sense more of that here in Dubai.

  4. July 22, 2012 12:26 pm

    Sorry to hear about your friend Sally, but a lovely way to commemorate her. Loving the pics too.

    • July 22, 2012 5:29 pm

      Thanks Drina – all pics done really quickly…some at the filming and some in Devon at my Mother-in-laws.

  5. July 22, 2012 12:44 pm

    Hi Sally,

    A lovely contemplative post with beautiful mouth-watering photos…do hope you are enjoying your holiday in the UK-at least the weather is set to improve now!

    • July 22, 2012 5:29 pm

      Glorious sunny day down here in Devon as I’m writing this – and that’s on Dartmoor too (unusual!) Thanks for lovely comment.

  6. July 22, 2012 2:44 pm

    What a nice post Sally. I am so sorry to hear about Barbara, may she rest in peace.
    I have been away and haven’t been properly online, have quite some reading to catch up on… have started with your post and happy I did, these cardamom panna cottas sound and look delicious 🙂
    Thanks for the mention you are a gem 🙂

    • July 22, 2012 5:28 pm

      Loving your series Dima and feeling very bad as I intended to schedule a few posts in advance and didn’t manage to. How you blog every day for a month is beyond me!

  7. July 22, 2012 3:14 pm

    Both so beautiful! Enjoy the rest of your time visiting with family in the UK.
    🙂 Mandy

    • July 22, 2012 5:27 pm

      Thank you Mandy – it’s been a whirlwind, hence the blogging dearth.

  8. July 22, 2012 3:28 pm

    What a beautifully written and photographed post. And one of my favourite desserts made with two of my favourite ingredients has to be a winner!

    • July 22, 2012 5:27 pm

      Thank you Euan – always delighted when I receive praise from you – ace baker.

  9. July 23, 2012 11:10 am

    Thank you so much for this post Sally. It’s a special mix of sentiments and you capture the essence of ramadan from an expats view wonderfully. Love saffron and cardamom together – I’ve made similar panna cottas a few times. Sending you loads of hugs Now off to read Dima’s series!!

    • July 23, 2012 3:49 pm

      Thanks Meeta – I’m so glad you held this Mingle in honour of Barbara.

  10. saralelayec permalink
    July 23, 2012 6:12 pm

    Hi Sally
    I really love your blog and recipes 🙂 thats why I wanted you to know I nominated you for the One lovely Blog and Versatile Blogger award! For further info please check my post : where I link you back 🙂
    Well deserved!

  11. July 26, 2012 2:00 am

    A very poignant post, Sally. Beautiful words and photos both in tribute to Barbara and to the Holy month of Ramadan. I used to work in an Arabic pharmacy in London and though my colleagues were always such fun and warm to be around, Ramadan had a special reverence and calmness. A past life, but nice to be reminded of it through your words and pictures 🙂 Did I miss you in Hertfordshire? Glad you are enjoying your stay and looking forward to seeing your Dubai TV stints!

    • July 28, 2012 5:40 pm

      Thanks Ren – really interesting to hear your Ramadan experiences. Haven’t got to Herts yet

  12. July 27, 2012 11:08 am

    The Panna Cotta looks so delicious and I think I would have to try each one… hard to choose because I love all the flavours!

    • July 28, 2012 5:38 pm

      Yes – have both! Let me know which you like best.

  13. July 30, 2012 10:19 am

    What lovely recipes and sentiments! I spent Ramadan in Dubai in 1999 – New Years Eve was quite something as it was in the middle of Ramadan and special allowance was made for fireworks 🙂

    • July 30, 2012 10:31 am

      Thanks Tandy. You made me think about where I was seeing in 1999….Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. You’d be surprised at our celebrations!

  14. July 30, 2012 4:22 pm

    I have goosebumbs by reading this post… what a brave woman…
    I hope she had a full life and that she was happy.
    Wish I had more time, or that I made more time to enter the monthly mingle for her.
    I hope you have a wonderful time in the UK with your family!

  15. August 1, 2012 12:10 am

    A lovely post, Sally, thank you. It was a gentle and comforting read for me this morning. xxx

  16. August 9, 2012 4:17 pm

    Oh – two of my favourite flavours in one panacotta – and frangipani are my runaway favourite flowers, both for their fragrance and their delicate shaded petals. I don’t seem to have received any e-mail from you submitting this to the Mingle, but I saw your pic on the Pinterest board. Hope you don’t mind if I include it in the roundup?

  17. August 10, 2012 5:13 am

    What a wonderful tribute!

  18. August 12, 2012 4:39 am

    love the saffron floating on the tops. so pretty.

  19. August 13, 2012 9:29 am

    Your very pretty & truly appetizing panna cootaa’s look awesome, so beautiful to look at & super delicious too, Sally! 🙂 Yum Yum yum!

  20. August 14, 2012 3:07 am

    Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful cardamom pannacotta recipe. It looks simply stunning. They both do but that one I am going to have a go at!

    • August 14, 2012 10:42 am

      Add more cream if you like a richer taste – the recipe is very light. Let me know how you like it Urvashi

  21. Anusha permalink
    August 14, 2012 9:22 pm

    i am a panna cotta addict and poor me.. i cant even make it at this hour cos i dont have the gelatin.. i must tell that s a fab recipe to share and RIP Barbara

  22. August 20, 2012 2:41 pm

    Hi Sally, I just discovered you and am glad that I did! Gorgeous panna cotta – I’ve never tried it! And a lovely tribute to your friend. Enjoy your family visit.

    • August 21, 2012 11:26 am

      Do try panna cotta – I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it.

  23. January 15, 2013 4:05 pm

    The panna cotta looks amazing! I have to try each one soon! Great pictures!


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