During our cooking classes in Italy, you learn to make several types of desserts, cakes as well a soft, delicate delights to be eaten with a spoon. The secret to a good panna cotta is achieving something that sets, but is still wonderfully creamy. Experiment with agar- agar quantities since they do vary! The alternatives (using gelatin or fish glue) are to our tastes just too jelly-like and not creamy enough.
For 6-8 small crème caramel-type moulds:
1 litre of cream (2 pints) or 3/4 litre cream and 1/4 of full cream milk
3 level teaspoons of sugar Half a fresh vanilla pod
Approx 5 g (1 teaspoon) agar-agar in powder, flakes or sticks
For the sauce: 300 g (10 oz) of ripe strawberries, kiwis or mango
Split open the vanilla pod and place in a saucepan with the sugar and cream (and milk if using). Bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
When the mixture has come to the boil, add the agar-agar, lower the heat and leave for a further two or three minuts.
Pour the mixture into the moulds, allow to cool and place in a refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
Wash and prepare the fruit, cutting it into small pieces.
Add just enough sugar to sweeten (approx 1-2 teaspoons, depending on the fruit).
Heat on a low flame for a few minutes, just enough for the fruit to soften.
Leave to cool. Serve spooned over the panna cotta once out of its mould.