Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Amaretto Cherries

Strangely, although I quite like the taste of chocolate, I rarely yearn for it the way that some people do. I also find that as I have gotten older my taste buds have changed and now I prefer to eat chocolate that is slightly bitter with a rich chocolate taste.
I fully appreciate that for some people nothing beats chocolate and that, if they see a dish containing it on a restaurant menu that will be the dish that they will go for! There’s no doubt it chocolate is extremely popular. My children would be quite happy if everything I cooked or baked included chocolate and they are at a loss to understand why I insist on making other dishes!
This dessert is definitely one that ticks all my boxes. The panna cotta, although rich and possessing an intense chocolate is not too bitter, so also appeals to younger diners. Nor is the panna cotta overly set but rather, it retains a pleasing wobble which makes it heavenly to eat. Coupled with the spiced cherries, this makes an elegant dessert which gets its inspiration from the flavours of a classic Black Forest Gateaux, the bastion of many a 1970’s dinner party!!! In fact this reinterpretation would make a lovely finish to any 21st Century dinner.
I’m really pleased with how the spiced cherries turned. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I am a big fan of the Italian almond flavoured liqueur and that I use it regularly in my cooking.
Both the cherries and the panna cotta are easy to make and can be prepared well in advance. You will probably have more cherries than you need but they keep well stored in the refrigerator and along with some toasted hazelnuts and a dollop of lightly whipped cream would also make a lovely topping for some French toast or as an accompaniment to some ice-cream.


Spiced Amaretto Cherries:
175ml water
75ml Amaretto
220g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
600g fresh cherries, destalked, pitted and halved
Chocolate Panna Cotta:
200g dark chocolate (I used Green & Black’s 70% cocoa solids)
2½ leaves of gelatine
200ml of whole milk
250ml double cream
100g caster sugar


Spiced Amaretto Cherries:
1. Place the water, Amaretto, sugar and spices in a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Stir gently until all the sugar has dissolved and then increase the heat and bring up to the boil. Allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes until the mixture has reduced slightly and become syrupy.
2. Tip in the cherries, and reduce the heat so that they are simmering gently. Cook for a further 3 minutes and then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate before serving.
Chocolate Panna Cotta:
3. Lightly grease 6 individual dariole moulds (about 150ml capacity) with a little vegetable oil and set aside.
4. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a medium-sized heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.  Once the chocolate has melted remove the bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
5. Place the gelatine in a small bowl of cold water for five minutes.
6. Place the milk, cream and caster sugar into a small saucepan and bring up to simmering point. Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved and then strain through a sieve onto the chocolate in a steady stream, stirring constantly so that everything is well combined.
7. Remove the gelatine from the bowl of water and squeeze out any excess moisture. Add to the chocolate mixture stirring until it has completely dissolved.
8. Divide the panna cotta mixture evenly between the 6 dariole moulds and set aside to cool completely before covering each mould with a little cling film and refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least four hours before unmoulding (or allow to chill overnight).
9. Unmould by dipping each dariole mould into a bowl of hot water for about 5 seconds before upturning onto individual serving plates. Serve with a couple of spoonfuls of the spiced cherries.

Serves 6.