Yoghurt Panna Cotta, Rhubarb, Elderflower and Pistachio

We’ve all done it. Go on, admit it. As kids we’ve all pulled a stick of rhubarb from a forbidden garden and skipped along to somewhere quiet to secretly crunch on our stolen bounty, pulling off the pink stringy outer and wincing at their tartness. On a good day, we’d dip them in a bowl of sugar. And on the best days mum would make a rhubarb crumble.

It’s an odd looking thing, the rhubarb. A bit like a cross between rainbow chard and celery. The reason it doesn’t look like any other fruit, is because it is actually the vegetable stalk of a large perennial herb (rheum rhabarbarum and similar) pretending to be fruit in seasons when real fruit choices are few and far between.

England has two rhubarb seasons. The first from December through March is for forced rhubarb. This incredible technique is particularly used in what is lovingly known as “the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle” between Wakefield, Morely and Rothwell. It involves “forcing” bright pink stems to sprout on mature plants that are pulled from the ground late in the outside growing season. Forced rhubarb is grown indoors and these tender young stems are perfect for subtle recipes. No need for a heavy crumb on these beauties.

The second growing season runs from April to December. Now the plants are grown outdoors and yield a much greater harvest.

I decided to make use of the last of the forced rhubarb season. Sure, you can make this delightful dessert  with outdoor rhubarb as well. But forced rhubarb delivers these pastel pinks with particular gusto.

Staying with the gentle colours of spring, I teamed the rhubarb with the soft green of pistachio. It makes an appearance in the yoghurt panna cotta as a paste, and it’s sprinkled over the delicate tuiles. The pistachio nuts and the tuiles make for a fabulous textural contrast and crunch against the velvety panna cotta and the slippery jelly.

yoghurt panna cotta with rhubarb and pistachio tuile

Elderflower cordial makes an appearance too, both in the rhubarb puree and  in the rhubarb jelly. You could make your own, but they are not in season yet over here, so I used a good farm shop one. If you can’t get hold of cordial, you can use a little grenadine, which will brighten the colour to new vibrant heights as a bonus.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to make all these components. Even the pistachio and the jelly are optional.

The smooth panna cotta works great on its own with or without the tuile. Omit the pistachio paste and serve with a generous drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of walnuts, or with glorious summer fruit for a fresh summer dessert.

Serve the tuiles with ice cream, a fruit salad or as a biscuit with a cuppa for afternoon tea.

If you can’t be bothered with the puree and jelly, just make the rhubarb compote and serve atop the panna cotta as is. It will taste equally gorgeous.

Lots of serving options too.

Serve the panna cotta in neat layers in a nice glass (they call anything served in a glass a “Verrine” in France and Belgium). If you’re of a nervous disposition and don’t trust your own cooking skills, it’s the safest bet, just in case things haven’t quite set. But they will. Trust me.

Else lightly oil some ramekins or small bowls before adding the layers and turn them out onto plates once set.

Or you can go completely creative and plate the separate components on a large fancy plate in true messy cheffy style. Works a treat for leftovers too.

THE RECIPES

Yoghurt and Pistachio Panna Cotta, Rhubarb Jelly and  Rhubarb Puree (serves 4  GF LC RSF)

I yoghurt panna cotta rhubarb pistachio

 

In this recipe I describe how to serve this in a glass or small bowl. If you want to plate this artistically, make and set all the components separately and have a look at my plating suggestion further down.

Feel free to use agar-agar as per the packet instructions to make this vegetarian-friendly.

For the Rhubarb:

Ingredients

400 gr rhubarb, cut into 2 cm pieces

2 tbsp elderflower cordial or other cordial of choice

3 tbsp water

80 gr Erythritol or unrefined caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

Soak the gelatine in water according to the packet instructions.

Method

Gently heat the rhubarb in a small saucepan with the sugar, 2 tbsp elderflower and 2 tbsp water. Once the juices start to release, simmer for 10 mins until the rhubarb is cooked and the sugar and juices have formed a light syrup. You may need to adjust the amouont of sugar depending on how tart your rhubarb is.

Strain the rhubarb, reserving the juices. Return the juices back to the pan and reduce for a couple of mins over medium heat. Turn of the heat.

Squeeze out the gelatine and add to the hot juices. Stir until dissolved. Once cool enough, divide over 4 glasses, small bowls or ramekins.

Set the glasses and the rhubarb puree in the fridge to chill.

For the Yoghurt and Pistachio Panna Cotta

Ingredients

400 gr full fat Greek Yoghurt

100 ml whipping cream

100 ml whole milk or another 100 ml whipping cream or 50/50 depending on how creamy versus yoghurty you’d like your panna cotta

1-2 tbsp pistachio paste, shop-bought or home-made (see below), optional

80 gr Erythritol or unrefined caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

yoghurt panna cotta with rhubarb and pistachio tuile

Method

Soak the gelatine in water according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile whisk together the milk, cream, yoghurt, pistachio paste (if using) and sugar. Add to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Adjust the sugar to taste if needed. Take the pan off the heat.

Squeeze out the gelatine and add it to the warm panna cotta mixture.  Allow to cool a little, then gently pour over the set rhubarb jelly in the glasses. Chill until set.

yoghurt panna cotta with rhubarb and pistachio tuile

To serve:

3-4 tbsp crushed pistachios, 4-8 tuiles (optional)

Remove the dessert from the fridge about 15 mins before serving. Top each panna cotta with rhubarb puree and sprinkle over some crushed pistachios. Serve the tuiles either stuck on top or alongside.

pistachio panna cotta with elderflower and rhubarb

If serving cheffy style,  drop a generous tbsp of rhubarb puree at the top of a nice big plate.  Drag it towards the other end of the plate with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon.

Sprinkle the puree with crushed pistachio nuts. Drop larger and smaller spoonfuls of the panna cotta onto the plate. Do the same with the rhubarb puree, or pipe the rhubarb puree here, there and everywhere. Garnish with jelly blobs or cut shapes and more pistachio crumb.

Finish with a flourish of tuile shards.

I actually plated this from a leftover panna cotta that was set in a glass with jelly at the bottom, together with some extra leftover jelly, rhubarb puree and a broken tuile.

Yoghurt panna cotta with elderflower pistachio and rhubarb

Pistachio paste

Blanch 150 gr shelled unsalted pistachios in simmering water for 3-4 min. Drain them in a sieve and transfer to a kitchen towel. Rub the nuts in the cloth to help slip off the skins. Discard the skins and put the naked pistachios in a mini food processor with 1-2 tbsp of water. Blend to a paste.

This is great to make ice creams, in cookies and cheesecakes.

Pistachio Tuiles (makes 12-14)

Pistachio tuiles

Ingredients

1 large egg white

50 gr unrefined caster sugar or vanilla sugar

20 gr plain flour, spelt or coconut flour (I used an organic brown flour)

15 gr unsalted butter plus a little for greasing if not using a baking mat

1/8 tsp vanilla paste or a few drops of  vanilla or almond extract if not using vanilla sugar

2-3 tbsp unsalted pistachios, roughly crushed

Method

Heat the oven to 190 C. Grease a non-stick tray with butter or line with a silicone baking mat.

Gently melt the butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Set aside.

Whisk the egg white with the sugar until smooth. Add the flour and whisk again until smooth and combined. Add the vanilla or almond extract (if using) and butter. Whisk again until smooth.

Pistachio tuiles

Drop a teaspoon of the batter onto the baking tray. Use the back of a teaspoon to spread to a circle of 10 cm or so. Sprinkle with some pistachio crumbs. Continue like this until your tray is full. They spread a tiny bit but not very much.

Bake for 4-5 minutes or until the edges are starting to go golden. Remove from the oven, and carefully remove them from the tray with a pallet knife, either to another tray for cooling, or drape them over a bottle or a rolling pin to shape them into the traditional tuile shape.

Pistachio tuiles

Continue making tuiles like this until you’ve finished all the batter.

Store the tuiles  in an airtight container. If they go soft, crisp them back up in the oven at 180 C and reshape as before.

Pistachio tuiles

 

Pistachio tuiles

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