I indulged my youngest brother's desire for panna cotta on the occasion of his birthday a few days ago. I learned this recipe while living in the UK through a Korean friend who used to work for Marco Pierre White. He shared the recipe by MPW which you can find in his cookbook.
The first step is to actually allow your gelatine leaves to bloom in ice-cold water. There are three colors for gelatine leaves - gold, silver, and bronze - and I particularly like to use silver because it's more compliant and yielding, ensuring supple results.
Slice a vanilla pod in half, lengthwise, and using the back of a knife, scrape off all the goodness. I'm a purist when it comes to this dessert and insist on using vanilla pods, particularly the Madagascan variety. If you don't have any and want a more affordable alternative, you can use vanilla extract.
Then place the sliced pod and it's contents on a saucepan with cream, stir with a wire whisk. Allow for it to infuse under gentle heat (do not boil or it will curl) for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with sugar. It may be good to note that you must over-season dishes intended to be served cold.
Then remove the pod and turn off the heat. Add your gelatine leaves (by this time it's most likely to have bloomed) and stir using a wire whisk. By the way, sorry for the nail polished fingers -- I usually don't cook with any! Now back to the panna cotta...Place in a mold and allow to chill until it has set. The smaller the mold, the quicker it will set.
And oh, do not throw away the pods! They're so aromatic, it can infuse it's flavors into anything that's porous. Simply rinse in running water and place in your jar of sugar or beside the eggs in the chiller. This infused sugar will taste good on coffee and the eggs, well, it'll be good for baking!
I poured some over a champagne flute to demonstrate what a pretty sight vanilla seeds make! Once it's set, place fresh fruits on top. My brother likes them with blueberries and unfortunately, there wasn't any in the market so I had to make do with strawberries.
Happy birthday John Luis!