When I went on the school Spanish exchange I was around 16 years old. It was quite a daring thing for me to do because I was only just beginning to come out of my shell: I could barely speak to anyone in my own country, let alone in another where I couldn't speak the language as well. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever made myself do.
Long story short, my exchange's mum and her friend gave me lots of amazing recipes that I've continued to make over 11 years on. One of those recipes was an infusion of sliced strawberries, orange juice and a dash of balsamic vinegar. It's sweet, a little zingy, refreshing, and perfect for serving on a hot day. Here I've made it salsa-style instead of like a chunky punch.
All three elements of this dessert are pretty easy: it's all about the waiting. You'll need at least four hours to set the panna cotta, if not overnight, and the strawberries are also best marinated overnight, too. As for the strawberry coulis, you'll also need time to boil reduce, strain and cool it down- and the crystallised mint leaves need time to dry too (so it's best to do these while you wait for the panna cotta to set, too).
The langues de chat (literally 'cat's tongues' in French) are essentially the same sort of batter as a sponge cake, but thicker and made with plain flour. The batter is piped onto a tray, and spreads into thin, crispy biscuits when baked. The trick is not to overdo them: they're supposed to be golden around the outside and pale in the middle. As they cool, they'll crisp up. As for the crystallied mint leaves... they were just for pure fun on my part. They taste pretty awesome, to boot, and have a surprising and fun crunchy texture.
-400ml double cream
-75g caster sugar
-1 1/4tsp gelatine, soaked in 2tbsp cold water
-1 vanilla bean
Langues de Chat:
-100g unsalted butter, softened
-100g caster sugar
-100g plain flour
-3 egg whites
-Pinch of salt
Balsamic Strawberry Salsa:
-400g strawberries, chopped
-Juice of half a large orange
-2tsp balsamic vinegar
-2tbsp caster sugar
-200g strawberries, chopped
-2tbs liquid from the balsamic strawberry salsa
-3tbsp caster sugar
Crystallised Mint Leaves:
-Clean, dry mint leaves
-A bit of egg white
-Enough caster sugar for sprinkling/ coating
1) Make the panna cotta first: place the cream and sugar in a saucepan, split the vanilla bean down the middle, scrape the seeds out and pop the seeds and the whole split bean into the cream. Bring to the boil, switch off the heat and dissolve the soaked gelatine in the vanilla cream. Pour into four moulds, let cool to room temperature, and set in the fridge for at least four hours more or overnight.
|Vanillary goodness <3|
2) Meanwhile make the strawberry salsa so it can marinate: simply stir all the ingredients together in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and pop in the fridge until you need it.
3) To make crystallised mint leaves, dip a leaf in egg white, dry it a little on some kitchen towel, sprinkle liberally with caster sugar and leave to dry overnight on a baking tray, or until crisp and crunchy.
4) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. To make the langues de chat, cream the butter and sugar together, stir in the flour so you have a thick paste, and gradually stir in the egg whites until you have a thick batter. Stir in the vanilla and salt, scrape into a piping bag with a round-holed nozzle and pipe long shapes onto lined baking sheets, trying to get them even and spacing them far apart enough to spread (about 3cm apart). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden around the edges and pale in the centre, and cool on a wire rack to crisp up.
|They should be a uniform size... oh well. Practice makes perfect.|
6) Unmould your set panna cottas, drizzle a little coulis over the top, and serve with your strawberry salsa and langues de chat biscuits.