This is one of my most popular supper club desserts. I developed it because I cook a lot of South East Asian menus. Desserts are not a huge part of South East Asian cuisine, many meals will just finish with a platter of fresh fruit. A fruit platter is of course delicious, and very suited to the hot South East Asian climate, but doesn’t really feel special enough for a supper club dessert. Mango and sticky rice is also a very popular South East Asian dessert, it can look and taste really fantastic with beautiful ripe mango, black glutinous rice and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. However, after cooking mango and sticky rice for a few supper club events I was looking for some other options.
We’d recently invested in a small makrut lime tree (pictured below) because purchasing fresh lime leaves was really expensive. You can buy frozen lime leaves from Asian supermarkets and these are quite good, but the fresh leaves are definitely more fragrant. The leaves grow in a very unusual way, growing in pairs with one leaf coming out of the tip of the other, forming a sort of figure of eight shape. They are a ubiquitous ingredient in South East Asian cuisine, so it is great to have a fresh supply on hand to add to curries, soups and curry pastes. The tree is not hardy so it lives outside in a sunny spot in the summer but needs to be kept inside or in a greenhouse over the winter. It is yet to produce an actual makrut lime.
It’s worth saying that Makrut Lime is more commonly referred to as ‘Kaffir Lime’, and that is what I called it until very recently. However, after doing a bit of research into the plant I learnt that Kaffir was a offensive word, particularly in South Africa, and there has been a campaign to try and remove casual use of the word to refer to lime leaves. I have reverted to using the South East Asian name of Makrut.
The flavour of the lime leaf is a great foil to the creamy richness of the panna cotta and gives this dessert a distinctly South East Asian feel. I sometimes serve this with a skewer of grilled pineapple instead of the mango and mint salsa, which is also delicious.
This recipe is made over a couple of days, but it isn’t a lot of work, it just requires a bit of time for infusing the cream and setting the panna cotta. It is definitely work the effort.
Makes six panna cotta
For the Panna Cotta:
600ml Double Cream
8 Makrut Lime Leaves (fresh or frozen)
50g Caster Sugar
A couple of drops of Vanilla Extract
2 leaves of Gelatine
A little Sunflower Oil (or another flavourless oil)
For the Salsa & Mint Sugar:
Juice of 1/2 Lime
A small bunch of Mint
1 tbsp Sugar (I like to use granulated but caster will do)
Some small biscuits to serve, I often make these Sweet Sesame Crisps
6 dariole moulds, teacups or small dessert dishes
First you need to infuse the cream with the lime leaf flavour. Pour the double cream into a saucepan and add the makrut lime leaves, roughly torn up. Heat up the cream mixture until it almost boils (the shivery stage), but make sure it doesn’t actually boil. Pour the cream into a cold bowl and allow to cool, then pop it into the fridge overnight.
The next day remove the cream from the fridge and strain out the lime leaves using a sieve.
Lightly oil the dariole moulds or teacups, you only need to do this if you plan on turning out the panna cotta. Alternatively you can serve the panna cotta in the teacups or other pretty presentation glasses.
Put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water to soften for approximately 10 minutes.
Next, put the strained cream in a saucepan with the caster sugar. Heat the cream and sugar mixture, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, until the cream almost boils (the shivery stage). Turn off the heat and add a couple of drops of vanilla extract and them immediately add the softened gelatine leaves (strain off the cold water first) to the warm cream. Stir to ensure the gelatine is completely dissolved.
Pour the cream mixture into the prepared moulds or cups. Allow to cool and cover tightly with clingfilm (to prevent the panna cotta picking up any ‘fridgey’ smells) and put into the fridge to set, for at least six hours but preferably overnight.
When you are almost ready to serve cut up the mango into small cubes (about 1cm). Finely slice about 12 mint leaves into long thin strips (often called a chiffonade). Combine mango and mint and season to taste with a few squeezes of lime juice. Cut the raspberries in half.
Make the mint sugar by adding a small handful of mint leaves and the tablespoon of granulated sugar to a mortar and pestle (or a small food processor) and crush together until the mint leaves are totally broken down and a green sugar is formed. Add more mint leaves or a little more sugar until you get a texture you like.
To serve, arrange a small pile of mango salsa on a dessert plate. Arrange a few of the half raspberries on top, I like them with the cut side facing up. If you are turning out the panna cotta gently loosen all round the edge of the dessert with a sharp knife, dip the base of the mould in a small bowl of hot water for a couple of seconds and then turn out onto the plate. If it doesn’t work first time don’t worry, just loosen and dip again. They will turn out eventually. Alternatively, just put the panna cotta in its presentation dish on the plate. Sprinkle the mint sugar on top of the panna cotta. Add a small biscuit or two if you like a bit of crunch, I often make these Sweet Sesame Crisps but a little piece of shortbread or a brandy snap would also be yummy.