If you are only starting out cooking and hosting for guests, panna cotta is a great dessert to start with. It is very simple to put together and easy to serve on the day. Try to use in-season berries for the compote.
4 gelatine leaves
500ml double cream
100ml coconut milk
100g caster sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
FOR THE BERRY COMPOTE
3 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons crème de cassis
50g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
100g mixed, in-season berries (such as black
berries, blueberries, raspberries and straw
6 sprigs of mint
To make the panna cotta, put the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Put the cream, coconut milk, sugar and vanilla seeds into a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Take the saucepan off the heat, gently squeeze the soaked gelatine leaves dry and add them to the pan, whisking continuously until they have dissolved. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a measuring jug, which makes it easy to pour. Allow to cool completely.
Once the panna cotta mixture is cool, give it a good stir to disperse the vanilla seeds so they don’t all float to the bottom of the moulds. Then divide the mixture equally between six 150ml (¼ pint) dariole moulds and leave them to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
Prepare the berry compote. Place the red wine, crème de cassis, sugar, cinnamon, star anise and vanilla seeds in a small saucepan with a lid.
Cook on a medium heat for 5–10 minutes until syrupy. Stir in the berries. Cover the pan with the lid, remove from the heat and allow the berries and syrup to cool completely. You’ll notice the berries will soften in the heat of the liquid.
To serve, unmould the panna cotta by dipping briefly into hot water, then place a plate face down on top of each mould and flip, allowing them to drop out on their own. Spoon some berry compote around the edge and decorate with a mint sprig.