vanilla panna cotta with tomato + passion fruit syrup
A couple of posts back I mentioned a vanilla panna cotta from Jason Atherton’s Gourmet food for a Fiver, which has the unusual addition of plum tomatoes. He reasons that as tomatoes are technically fruit, there’s no reason why they would not work in a dessert. Indeed the union of passion fruit and tomatoes here are a real success, with the resulting sweet and tangy syrup being a wonderful contrast to the smooth creamy panna cotta. The skins are not wasted either; dipped in sugar syrup then briefly crisped in the oven to make striking garnishes. As it can all be made ahead, this is a great pud to add to your entertaining repertoire, plus the inclusion of tomatoes inadvertently makes for a good talking point!
Despite a number of components, this dessert is actually incredibly simple to create and shouldn’t take you long at all. On my first attempt I found the syrup too sweet and thick so I have cut the amount of sugar down from the suggested 100g and added a touch more water. I also made it without the cherry brandy, but have left it in the recipe in case you’d like to include it in yours.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Tomato and Passion Fruit Syrup
2 large (or 3 1/2 small) sheets of leaf gelatine
260ml (8.8 fl oz) double cream
110ml (3.7 fl oz) whole milk
45g (1.6 oz) caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
4 passion fruit
3 plum tomatoes
125ml (1/2 cup) water
80g (2.8 oz) caster sugar
splash cherry brandy (optional)
Soak the leaf gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes, or until softened. Set aside.
Place the cream, milk, sugar (45g) in a medium sauce pan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds with the blunt edge of a knife into the pan. Pop in the empty pod as well, then heat on a medium high heat. Once the it comes to the boil remove from the heat and discard the vanilla pod.
Lightly squeeze the softened gelatine to remove excess water, then add to the hot mixture, stirring until dissolved. Carefully pour into 4 ramekins and allow to cool. Then refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.
Preheat the oven to 110°C (235°F).
In a small saucepan melt the sugar and water to make a simple syrup. Set aside.
Score a shallow cross at the bottom of each tomato. Place in a large bowl then pour over boiling water to cover. leave for a couple of minutes to blanch then drain and run under the cold tap. Carefully peel off the skins (they should be lifting off from the cut) in quarters and reserve.
Discard the seeds from the peeled tomatoes, then finely dice the flesh and place in a bowl.
Line a baking tray with a sheet of silpat or parchment paper. Dip the tomato skins in the sugar syrup then lay them on the liner. Place in the preheated oven to dry for 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the tomato and passion fruit syrup. Halve the passion fruits and scoop the pulp into the pan of syrup and add the diced tomato. Bring to the simmer and cook on a gentle heat for 15-20 minutes until reduced and thickened. Taste and add a little more water if too thick or sweet, also add the brandy if using and stir to combine.
When ready to serve briefly pop the ramekin in a bowl of hot water to loosen (you can also try running a thin knife around the sides) and flip over onto your serving bowl, shaking carefully to ease it out. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the syrup around the panna cotta, then arrange the tomato skins artistically on top to finish.