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Vanilla Bean and Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

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Contributed by: Chef Mark Godbeer

"A light and refreshing dish, this could even be used as a palate cleanser. It is a staple on every one to two week menu I plan, not because of the pure flavour and simplicity or the minimal prep time required to pull it off, but because of how it allows me to push the flavour boundaries for my starter, amuse and main meal with no concern that the last dish served - the Pièce de résistance - will tie everything together and set the balance” - Chef Mark

Ingredients:

1 envelope unflavoured gelatin (2 1/4 teaspoons)
4 tbsp cold water
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split

Directions:

Pour the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over, let this sit without mixing for five to ten minutes. The gelatin will absorb the water and bloom, becoming a solid sponge like texture.

Pour the Greek yogurt in a large bowl and whisk for 30 seconds (to smooth out the consistency and make incorporation easier later on in the recipe), set aside until needed.

Slice the vanilla bean lengthways from top to bottom and using the blade of your knife, scrape the seeds (flavour central!) off the stalk. Place the scraped beans, pod, cream and sugar in a small pot or saucepan and gradually bring to the boil. Keep an eye on the cream to avoid scalding and stir often as this also helps the vanilla flavour intensify.

Once the cream has come to a boil, turn off heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Whisk until the gelatin has completely dissolved.

Strain the cream mixture through a sieve into a measuring jug (or any heat resilient jug that is easy for pouring).

Slowly pour the strained cream mixture into the smooth yogurt whilst whisking. Continue whisking until all the cream has been poured and the mixture is smooth.

Spray eight to twelve (depending on desired panna cotta size, number of guests) silicone moulds with Pam (I use a three inch half dome silicone mould), if you don’t have silicone moulds, ramekins will work. The reason I prefer silicone, is so the removing process is easier, and the shape is awesome.

Pour the mixture into the moulds, allow to cool, then cover and put in the fridge for no less than three and a half hours, so they are firm to touch.

When you are ready to serve dessert, gently pull the silicone away from the panna cotta and apply pressure on the opposite end of the mould to remove with relative ease. If using a ramekin, separate the edge of the panna cotta from the ramekin by running a knife in between the two surfaces. Tap the panna cotta into the palm of your hand and place on plate.

Garnish:

I use multiple garnishes and accompaniments for this dessert, depending on the previous courses and how heavy I wish the dessert to be. However, this dessert battles to be heavy, and the simplicity of the vanilla and yogurt creates an almost endless list of flavour pairings.

Cactus pear coulis
To a blender add:
2 x cactus pear, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup agave honey.

Blend for two minutes and strain through a sieve. Funnel into a squeeze bottle and place in fridge until required.

Pansy coulis
To a blender add:
1 x cup pansies
2 x tbsp lemon juice
4 x tbsp light agave honey
4 x tbsp room temp. water
Blend for one minute and strain through a sieve. Funnel into a small squeeze bottle and can be kept at room temperature until use.

Chocolate Tuiles
250g x semi sweet chocolate nibs
75ml x chopped nuts (your preference, I used salted almonds)
In a double boiler (A pot half filled with water, with a bowl placed on top creating a bain marie) on medium heat place the chocolate nibs and gradually melt, stirring occasionally.

When three quarters melted, remove bowl from boiler and stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is completely smooth and melted. Add nuts and stir until evenly incorporated.

Wrap a rolling pin in parchment paper and evenly pour disk shapes (or any shape you desire) of chocolate “tuiles” onto the pin, set in fridge. Remove from pin when set, leave set “tuiles” in fridge and repeat if necessary.

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