Vanilla Panna Cotta with Mixed Berry Compote and Belli e Brutti

Try this crowd-pleasing dessert for a dinner party.



Serves 4

1     Tbsp (15 ml) cold water
1½     tsp unflavoured powdered gelatin
3     cups (700 ml) whipping cream
7     Tbsp (105g) white sugar
2     inch (5 cm) piece vanilla pod, halved lengthways, pulp scraped

¼     cup (60 ml) water
½     cup (100 g) white sugar
1     vanilla pod, halved lengthways, pulp scraped
3     cups (450 g) fresh mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
½     cup (120ml) brandy
2     Tbsp (20g) cornflour/cornstarch

1     cup (90g) flaked/slivered almonds, toasted
1     cup (140g) hazelnuts, blanched, toasted
¼     tsp baking powder
½     tsp pure vanilla extract
¾     cup (180 ml) honey
¼     tsp orange flower water
1     (30 ml) egg white
¼     cup (50 g) white sugar
¼     cup kosher salt or sea salt flakes

Panna cotta
Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Leave the gelatin to soften for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium–high heat, warm the cream with sugar and vanilla and pulp, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and add softened gelatin. Stir until it dissolves. Strain mixture through a fine sieve/strainer into a measuring cup with a spout, then pour it into four 240-ml/8-fl oz ramekins. Chill until firm, about 3 hours.

In a large heavy-duty frying pan/skillet, stir together the water and sugar, add the scrapings and the vanilla pod. Over medium–high heat, bring the mixture to the boil without stirring. Using a pasty brush dipped in water, brush down the sides of the pan and remove any undissolved sugar granules. When the sugar begins to colour, after about 3–4 minutes, tilt and swirl the pan to cook evenly. When the sugar reaches an even medium caramel colour, remove from the heat.

Add the fruit, tossing in the pan to coat. Be careful as mixture may spatter and the caramel may seize and harden. Add brandy, and return pan to low heat, carefully cooking the fruit until the sugar melts, about a minute.

Place a large sieve/strainer over a bowl and pour in fruit compote, straining the liquid into the bowl.

Remove vanilla pod and transfer the fruit to a serving dish. Reserve the liquid.

Whisk cornflour/cornstarch into the reserved liquid. Return the liquid to the frying pan/skillet and over medium heat bring the liquid to the boil, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and pour the thickened juice over the cooked berries. Set aside to cool.

Belli e Brutti
Adjust the oven racks to the middle–lower positions and preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Add all the ingredients to a medium metal bowl and gently mix together with your hands, being careful not to break the almond pieces.

Drop teaspoonful-mounds of mixture onto lightly sprayed, lined baking trays/cookie sheets.

Bake for about 15–20 minutes, until nicely browned and chewy, rotating baking trays/cookie sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

To serve
Quickly dip each panna cotta mould in hot water to loosen sides, or alternatively run a small knife around the edges to loosen. Unmould on serving plates and spoon the compote mixture over the top. Serve immediately with pieces of Belli e Brutti.


Recipes reprinted with permission from Jacqui Small LLP, part of the Quarto Publishing Group, 2015. Photographs © Manja Wachsmuth, 2013. This recipe first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.