Hallelujah, the first signs of Spring are emerging in earnest.
The daffodils are here and I swear I could smell hyacinths the other day (this probably didn’t happen). What definitely has happened though is the bluebells tentatively emerging out in the garden. We are nearly there. Spring will be upon us before we know it and we will have turned our backs on another winter. In true style we will be all consumed with the newness it brings. Beautiful flowers and green shoots abound. Nothing like a bit of greenery to put a spring in your step.
The arrival of Spring can’t but inspire. Flowers lie unseen since last year deep under ground. You can’t see them. You have probably assumed they have died but no, they lie in wait. They know inherently that the temperatures will rise again, that winter’s grasp is brief and fleeting. Just when all around you seems perpetually bleak and dark, green shoots emerge. They faithfully herald the arrival of the most beautiful of seasons. Now I am not a religious person. I am only sporadically spiritual. Yet I feel this great sense of hope and resilience every Spring. Though times may get tough we will all have our Spring, we can grow ourselves out of the most darkest of places, out of the worst situations and if you don’t believe me, watch those delicate shoots who persist year after year emerging to a brighter world and blooming, it would seem, solely for our pleasure.
This post wasn’t intended to be about Spring. It is another recipe. A buttermilk panna cotta with burnt caramel blood oranges. I suppose the blood oranges made me think of changing seasons and their colour has lifted my spirits on this cold cold day. From now on in we can look forward to life growing again.
Whenever I am lucky enough to have blood oranges I make a burnt caramel to pour over slices of the oranges. It makes a delicious caramel syrup after sitting for a couple of hours. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I could happily eat a big bowl of them just like this. This time however I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that was intended for soda bread but I thought a creamy, slightly tart panna cotta would be perfect with my oranges. So that is exactly what I did.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Makes 6 x 4fl oz moulds
3 sheets of gelatine
50g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water.
In a saucepan bring 100ml of buttermilk and the sugar to the boil with the vanilla pod. Remove from the heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod, add to mix.
Drain the softened gelatine and add to the buttermilk and sugar mix. Stir to dissolve the gelatine.
Leave to cool before adding the remaining buttermilk and cream.
Pass mixture through a coarse sieve and pour into lightly oiled 4fl oz moulds.
Allow the panna cotta to set in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours.
A few hours before you want to serve the panna cotta make your blood orange and burnt caramel. Peel the oranges as above and cut into slices. Lay the slices out on a plate and make your caramel.
Use 4 blood oranges.
Place 100g of caster sugar into a heavy based stainless steel saucepan. You need stainless steel so you can see the colour of the caramel changing. Heat over a medium heat until sugar starts to caramelise. You can swirl the caramel around to dissolve any bits of sugar that aren’t catching but don’t stir. Wait until the caramel is good and dark and there is a slightly bitter smell. Pour the caramel over the slices of orange. Leave for a few hours so that caramel dissolves into a syrup.
Unmould the panna cotta by placing it in a bowl of hot water for 3 seconds. Run a flat knife around the inside of the panna cotta and flip onto a serving plate. Serve with the orange slices and some of the caramel syrup.