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« Lavender and Roses | Main | A Handful of Saffron »
Sunday
Apr242005

IMBB #14: Orange You Hungry?

pannacotta.jpg


My first entry for the monthly Is My Blog Burning?, and the category is orange. Hmm... now that's a challenge, not because there are no interesting orange foods, but because there are so many! Carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, oranges, mandarins, peaches, nectarines, mango, apricots... When I started thinking about fruits and vegetables that are naturally orange in color, I realized that they all have inherent sweetness in common. Some orange vegetables (like pumpkin and sweet potato) are used unashamedly in sweet desserts; others like carrots often have their natural sweetness subtly enhanced by glazing before being served as a savory side dish. The orange fruits, similarly, represent some of the most chin-drippingly juicy, sweet and succulent of all fruits. In fact three of them - mangoes, peaches and apricots - make it into my top-ten list of would-even-sell-my-mother-for-them favorite foods. There are of course other things that are orange, like Irn Bru, salmon eggs and Cheez-its, but somehow these don't seem to strike to the heart of the orange matter like fruits and vegetables do. So that part decided, I had the difficult task of choosing which orange-hued fruit or vegetable to showcase. I wanted to do something local and seasonal, but a quick trip to the supermarket confirmed that there is nothing local and seasonal here in Scotland, apart from a few stalks of rhubarb, which most definitely aren't orange. So that idea out the window, and spying a little packet of dried apricots florescently beckoning to me from the baking aisle, I decided to go for the anthithesis of local, and create escape food. So here it is, as exotic and as orange as I could make it:

Cardamom and Honey Stewed Apricots with Buttermilk-Rosewater Panna Cotta
Serves 6

1 lb dried apricots
10 cardamom pods
2 cups orange juice
1 cup water
1 cup mild floral honey, preferably orange-blossom
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 packet (2 1/2 teaspoons or 11.7 grams) powdered gelatine
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rosewater

Combine the apricots, cardamom, orange juice and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan instead of stirring, for 25-30 minutes, or until the apricots are swollen and plump and the liquid is greatly reduced. Add the honey and continue to cook until the liquid bubbles thickly, about 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, pour the cream into a pot and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow it to soften for about 10 minutes, then add the sugar and heat on medium until both the gelatin and the sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat, stir in the buttermilk and the rosewater, and pour into 6 oiled small bowls or ramekins. Put these in the fridge and allow to chill until completely set, about 3 hours.

To serve, unmold a panna cotta onto a plate, coaxing it with a spoon if it stubbornly refuses, and spoon some room-temperature apricots and honey over the top. You can either remove the cardamom pods or leave them in for visual appeal. Although this is very sweet and creamy, something about the tanginess of the buttermilk and fruit leaves you feeling quite refreshed, so it would be a good dessert to end a heavy meal. Me, of course, I've been eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Note: I think this would take very well to alterations. You could no doubt substitute another spice like ginger or cinnamon for the cardamom, apricot nectar for the orange juice, yogurt for the buttermilk, vanilla for the rosewater, splenda for the sugar... you get the picture.

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Reader Comments (10)

This sounds delicious and your photo really, really rocks!
April 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob
Melissa - I hope that tastes even half as good as it looks. This sounds like a truly delightful combination!
April 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNic
Hi Melissa!
Mouth watering indeed - I'd love to take spoon and take a bite! I definetly see how ginger could fit in, but with Cardamom...I find it hard to top. I could >sit in< Cardamom all day, have it in tea, dessert and a spicy indian dish. :) Very yummy looking.
April 25, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterOliver
I am so glad you chose the panna cotta. I almost did one for SHF but just completely ran out of time. The buttermilk & rosewater sounds so good! Then with the addition of the stewed apricots! Wow it is an irresistable dish!
April 25, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterchronicler
That looks incredible! I know I'm not really a vegetarian any more, but is there a good vegetarian alternative to gelatine?
Btw, I noticed that someone left a comment about elephant brand soft drinks after your irn bru post. If you ever go to Sri Lanka I recommend necto and nelly crush. I haven't had either for years but as a kid I would guzzle as much as possible whenever we were in Colombo.
April 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDharshi
Thanks, everyone, for your comments and kind words! It was so much fun to let my mind roam wildly over the terrain of edible orange - I can't wait for the theme of the next IMBB to be announced! Yeah, I know, I should be focusing my energy on pursuits of a more academic nature...

Dharshi, there are several vegetarian substitutes for gelatine. The most common is agar-agar, which is derived from some kind of sea vegetable. I've seen it around, and whole foods shops should definitely carry it. There's a list of some other gelatin-like substances on the UK Vegetarian Society's website: http://www.vegsoc.org/info/gelling.html. I've never actually used agar-agar, but it should be fine in a panna cotta because even if it didn't set properly, it would still taste as good out of the bowl! (and thanks for the soft drink tips - I'll file them away in the 'when I finally make it to Sri Lanka' part of my brain ;)
April 27, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
sure looking good... gonna give it a try after my french exam this week... (by the way, serendipity brought me to your blog and i'm loving it!)...

just a thought, not sure if agar-agar would work as well as gelatine as agar-agar is "softer" but worth a try i guess... agar-agar make amazing dessert jelly though... :)
May 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLil
Hi Lil, thanks for stopping by! I have heard that agar-agar gives a softer jell, but I haven't actually tried using it myself. Good luck with your French exam and I hope the pannacotta turns out well!
May 30, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
Now THIS is just glorious. I found you linked from the "Is My Blog Burning" July tea event page, and just love your photography. Oh, I wish more food blogs had photographs this good! I'm adding you to my links and I'll see you around.

I am going to have to try this recipe with tea instead of rosewater. How's that for inspired?

Thanks for the beautiful work.

Ciao for now,
Tana
July 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTana Butler
Hi Tana - Thanks so much for your kind words! I can't wait to see your tea creations this weekend... :)
July 28, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa

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