This delicate dessert from Milton chef Alex Delly combines subtle sweet flavours to create an unforgettable dish.
Serves: 6 people
Prep time: 30 minutes (plus 3 hours chilling time)
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Honey panna cotta
4 gelatine sheets
6 stalks of rhubarb
100g caster sugar
3 rose geranium leaves (or a few drops of rose water)
Handful of pistachios
200g caster sugar
- To make the panna cotta, warm milk, cream and honey in saucepan on medium heat until the honey has dissolved through the mixture.
- Soak gelatine sheets in cold water for 5 minutes until soft. Squeeze excess water and add to the milk and cream mixture. Stir through well and strain into a bowl sitting in an ice bath. Stir occasionally.
- When slightly thickened (not fully set), pour into a jug and then into lightly greased dariole moulds. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.
- To make the rhubarb syrup, strip the skin off the rhubarb but do not discard the skin. Combine the water and sugar, and add the rhubarb skin. Place on low heat to infuse as much colour from the skin as you can – this should take about 15 minutes.
- Strain the pink syrup into a wide-bottomed pan. Then discard the skin.
- Chop rhubarb into 1cm pieces and place into simmering syrup. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until just tender but not falling apart. Then throw in 3 leaves from the rose geranium. Stir in gently, then place in a bowl and into the fridge to cool.
- Chop a handful of pistachios into small pieces for a garnish.
- Move onto the toffee. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan, and place on a high heat.
- Meanwhile, place sheets of baking paper out on a benchtop and give it a light spray with oil. After a few minutes, the sugar mixture will caramelise into toffee. When a golden amber colour is reached, quickly remove from the heat and dip the base of the saucepan into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
- After a few minutes the toffee will have cooled enough to “whisk” off a spoon onto the baking paper. Move smoothly to obtain a thin stream. Start with a swirl then a criss-cross to help hold it together.
- If the toffee is “beading”, the mixture is still too hot. Making spun toffee takes practice, so make much more than you need and pick out your favourite arrangements. Allow to cool and place in an air-tight container.
- To serve, remove panna cotta from its moulds by carefully pulling away at the base with your finger and giving a gentle squeeze to form an air pocket. Keeping this air pocket, gently tip panna cotta onto the middle of a plate and remove its mould.
- Remove the rose geranium leaves from the rhubarb and spoon the rhubarb around the base of the panna cotta to form a ring. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios around the rhubarb. Garnish with a spun toffee swirl and, if possible, some edible flowers.
Top tip: An easier version is to pour the panna cotta mixture into small bowls to set, then top with rhubarb and toffee to serve.
Meet the chef – Alex Delly
For Alex Delly, head chef at St Isidore Restaurant in Milton, a dish is more than just a meal – it’s a story. And that story begins in his kitchen garden.
“What we don’t grow ourselves we source from the local community,” Alex says. “That way, you know the ingredients have been cared for properly and you’re creating a taste of the local area.”
Next comes colour and flavour, and don’t forget perfume. “The rhubarb adds a lovely red depth, as well as a lovely fruity, sour note. Add rose geranium leaves, and you’ll give the dish the scent of Turkish delight,” he says.
The fun part is the presentation, and it too adds to the story.
“The spun toffee in this recipe mimics the movement of a little bee buzzing around a flower or beehive, which is a perfect complement to the honey in the panna cotta.”
With such a thoughtful compilation of elements, you might be mistaken for thinking this is a tricky recipe. But Alex knows otherwise. “This dessert is a lot of bang for not much effort,” he advises. “Any home cook can try it.”