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Le jour le plus froid du monde – Pop corn panna cotta

[The coldest day in history – Pop corn panna cotta]

corn panna cotta

Some people might tell you that all you need in a kitchen are a good knife, a pan, and a wooden spoon.

Although I do love the concept of minimalism – especially when applied to cooking – I must inform you, for the sake of your sanity, that those people are either a) liars, b) buying take-aways or c) psychiatrically disordered.

Today, I intended to make a corn panna cotta with some caramelised pop corn and a lovely salted caramel sauce.


Estimated time: half an hour. Estimated number of servings: three.
Actual time: one hour and a half. Actual number of servings: one.
Efficiency: nil.

Here is what happened. I put the cream, milk, sugar and corn into a pan, and gently simmered.
In the meantime, I popped some corn. Kept it warm. In another pan, I caramelised some sugar to coat the pop corn. So far everything seemed safe. And quiet.

corn panna cotta top detail

Until, I started pureeing the panna cotta mixture.

And there, I’m saying it: a good hand-blender is fundamental.

After having splashed half of my kitchen with something that seemed to be more of a runny scrambled egg than a silky panna cotta and not feeling my hand anymore due to the highly vibrant nature of the little bastard blender, I started considering a strainer as my ultimate dream.

I turn the cupboards upside-down only to realise I have probably lost my dream somewhere in between Notting Hill and Clapham.
At this point, I started considering a tea strainer as my new dream. Or perhaps nightmare would have been more accurate.

corn panna cotta spoon

So I started filtering, one teaspoon at a time. Halfway through, I stopped for a little yoga pose. While I’m at it, I find the tree posture extremely useful when I don’t have barbiturates on hands.

In case you want to laugh as hard as I screamed, here is a little picture to show you the mess.


But you know what. It was totally worth it. Especially since today is the coldest day in history.

corn panna cotta top

Pop corn panna cotta
Inspired by David Everitt-Matthias.

Don’t let all my rambling fool you. This was totally worth the time. And according to my estimations, it could be made really quickly if you the lucky owner of both a blender and a fine mesh sieve not the size of a dinette [play house].
The panna cotta is smooth and deeply flavoured with the nuttiness of fresh corn; altogether well complemented by the slight bitterness of the caramelised pop corn and the lovely saltiness of the sauce.

If you’ve never made caramel-coated nuts – or in this case corn – please be careful not to burn yourself during the separating action. In case you don’t feel confident enough, just spread it as thinly as you can with a wooden spoon, then later when it’s set, simply chop it with a good knife.

You will end up with more pop corn and sauce than you need. For the pop corn, I’m pretty sure you’ll make good use of it. But regarding the sauce, it will keep for one week in an airtight container in the fridge.

And just a short note on the eating: make sure you taste all three components at the same time. Because, well, the panna cotta does taste like corn, except sweet and delicious, but corn nonetheless. You might be surprised.

Pop corn panna cotta

serves two

for the panna cotta
one gelatine leaf
150g fresh corn kernels, from one fat cob
150g milk
100g double cream
25g caster sugar

Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water.
Place the remaining ingredients in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Mix in the soaked gelatine and blitz using a hand blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, then divide into two 6cm wide rings.
Allow to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

for the caramelise pop corn
one tbsp vegetable oil
a small handful of popping corn
200g caster sugar

Heat the oil in a pan and add the corn kernels. Cover with a lid and when the corn starts popping, give it a ood shake. Remove from the heat when you can’t hear any popping noise. And set aside while you make the caramel.

Place the sugar in a pan to slowly caramelise. It’s ok if it forms some lumps, as they will eventually melt as it gets hotter. When the caramel has a light amber colour, mix in the popped corn with a wooden spoon to coat them evenly. Transfer them to a silicon mat and wait for a minute before separating them (or if you don’t feel confident enough, read note above).
Allow to cool fully.

for the salted caramel sauce
200g caster sugar
100g double cream
100g butter
seeds from one vanilla bean
2g Maldon sea salt

Caramelise the sugar over medium heat, then deglaze with the butter, and then the cream, a tablespoon at a time. Mix in the vanilla seeds and salt, and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment. Allow to cool.

for the montage
Using a small blowtorch, heat the sides of the rings so to unmould the panna cotta. Place it in a plate.
With a teaspoon, drop a walnut-size ball of caramel, then starting from the centre give it a nice shape to follow the rim of your plate. Scatter with caramelised pop corn. And serve.

We’d share each other like an island – Homemade vanilla extract, day one

homemade vanilla extract day one

I hope I’m not wrong when I think that we all have this embarassing story.

Two people. You and me.
A few drinks at the pub.
A late night pizza eaten with our fingers, and a side made of beer – preferably still in its ice-cold bottle.

And then, the drama happens, no more booze in the fridge. After a long duel of rock-paper-scissors and many tickling fights, one of us (who is not me, the paper-hand move always saves me) runs to the closest store to grab a bottle of vodka.

Quite inevitably, this bottle never gets drank as we settle down watching a movie, or at least pretending to.

Not that all of this has ever happened to me. Right.

But in case you feel like you can relate to this whole story, I have the perfect solution to put this too-cheap-to-drink bottle to good use.

Vanilla extract!

homemade vanilla extract

I started mine yesterday, and although the very boozy would still make any hungover person – certainly not me – sick; I am hoping for the best. And obviously, I will report every week, so you can keep an eye on my little experiment.

Homemade vanilla extract
Adapted from Melissa.

This recipe starts with emptying a bottle of vodka. And it does feel as good as it sounds. Except, this time, it’s poured it into a glass jar. Then both fresh and used vanilla beans are thrown in there. To slowly extract their flavour.

As the jar is kept in a cool dark place, the aromas of the vanilla beans will migrate from the pods themselves to the boozy liquid.

As I type this, it’s still day one of the experiment, but I’m pretty eager to see the liquid turn from light amber to dark brown.
And mostly, I’m very looking forward to devouring a slice of fragrant and soft vanilla cake.

Homemade vanilla extract

one bottle of vodka
2 bourbon vanilla beans
1 tahitian vanilla bean
a couple of used and dried beans

In a clean and dry jar, empty the bottle of vodka. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans, and throw both used and just-scraped out pods in there.
Close and give it a good shake.
Keep in a cool dark place, shaking every week; and adding more used vanilla beans as you go.
It should be ready in eight weeks.

Love is to share, mine is for you – Moelleux au chocolat blanc et au miel, abricots fondants et glace à la pistache

[White chocolate and honey sponge with poached apricots and pistachio ice-cream]

apricots sunday lunch

In my world, nothing matches the happiness of being in love. As a matter of fact, I love being in love. The goosebumps, the thrill, the excitement.

Nothing. Except, perhaps, the development process of a new pâtisserie. It starts with an idea, jotted down in a small notebook. Always the same black leather bound. Always the same felt tip pen.

And then, I get dirty. Taste. And adjust.

Most of the times, it’s far from perfect. But despite being the entremet girl that I am, I still feel that rush whenever I manage to come up with something that doesn’t look like a stack of sponge, mousse and intérieur.

I like to call it minimalism. When in fact, it’s just the result of my inability to decompose and arrange on a plate.

The latest victim was a lovely white chocolate and honey sponge with poached apricots and a quenelle of pistachio ice-cream. And trust me, it tasted pretty damn fine.

So I plan to share the recipe. And rant about how I wish I was better at making desserts look pretty. As soon as I will have caught up with my bed. I miss it. So.

Dreams are made of this – A lobster thermidor

There are moments in my life when I couldn’t be happier. Many of them.

An endless beach, with crab hunting and kisses in the wind. An unplanned slumber party, with a bed sheet fort and a torch. A note found rolled under my bed, with ink smears. A sneak at my feet, with a flying kite. A sip of the most perfect bloody mary, with horseradish.

And today, as I paused during service to explore the surroundings, I wished I could have stopped the time and photographed every move of the kitchen.

Instead, I quickly shot the delicious Scottish lobster thermidor and went back to my dessert-plating action.