Blue cheese panna cotta
No one really needs to turn an already creamy cheese into a panna cotta. Apparently, I can't stop.
I'm not a huge fan of cheese plates made up of little wedges of different cheeses, adorned with bits of fruit and vine leaves like a miniature cornucopia. But I do love the lazy tail-end of dinner when I can break out my latest obsession in liqueur or sticky wine, and when the moment calls for cheese-n-crackers, as it inevitably does, this is how I do it.
Transforming a tiny piece of already creamy cheese into a panna cotta is nothing more than an exercise in redundancy, and the first time I did it – 2002, according to a now-ancient notebook – it was as a whimsical end to a very trompe l'oeil dinner. But it was met with such delight back then, and every time since, that I'm abandoning my shame and sharing it with you.
The cheese I use is gorgonzola dolce, which melts instantly into the cream base. Alongside it, I plonk the most beautiful preserved pear: it's half a pear, poached in a saffron vanilla syrup and then semi-dried until it's sticky and tender. The crackers you see in the photo are an other-worldly grey because they're lavoche dusted with coconut charcoal powder. If you don't want to be bundled away to the asylum, which I think is obviously on the cards for me, just use a fresh pear and some nice crackers.
Cook's tip: I use leaf gelatine because I find it easier to work with than the powdered variety and know what to expect when I want to set things. It comes in different strengths - I use gold strength and have fine-tuned this recipe to use ¾ of a leaf to set it. If you're happier using powdered gelatine, use a scant half teaspoon.
Blue cheese panna cotta
125ml (½ cup) pouring (light whipping) cream
2 tablespoons milk
50g (2 oz) gorgonzola dolce
¾ leaf gold-strength gelatine
Lightly oil a diarole mould or small ramekin.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream and milk gently, stirring, until the first bubbles appear at the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat, crumble in the cheese and stir until it's melted in completely.
Leave the pan off the heat until the temperature comes down to closer to room temperature. This is important: gelatine won't set properly if it's too hot.
Soak the leaf gelatine in cold water for about five minutes. Once fully softened, squeeze out as much water as you can with your hand and add to the cream. Using a small balloon whisk, whisk the gelatine into the cream until dissolved.
Pour the mixture into your mould and leave to set for at least 6 hours; overnight is better.
To unmould – if you are unmoulding it – dip the bottom of the mould into hot water for a couple of seconds, run a sharp knife around the edge and cover with your serving plate. Invert, give a sharp tap on the base, reveal your wibbly, wobbly, creamy cheese treat and serve.