[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.