I am something of a pannacotta afficionado, and often choose it for dessert when I eat at Italian restaurants. It is quite simple to make, but it takes a delicate touch to get the gelatine to liquid ratio just right, so that the pannacotta is set but quite wobbly when turned out from its mould, and the texture silky smooth and quite delicate. I make a pannacotta that uses a combination of cream and buttermilk, which makes it rich, but light and silky in texture and with faint citrus notes. It is perfecct to pair with finger lime, an Australian native citrus fruit that is becoming more readily available, due to its pretty colours and gorgeous flavour.
The finger lime is native to the rainforests of the border ranges of south east Queensland and northern New South Wales. The pulp of the fruit is made up of individual juice vesicles that look like caviar or tiny pearls. They are compressed inside the fruit and burst out when the fruit is opened. The pulp has an astringent citrus flavour and is almost effervescent on the tongue, a bit like sherbert. We have been growing a finger lime for several years now and it started to bear fruit a couple of years ago. Ours has a dark green fruit and the pearls are a pale green, but the ones I bought to make this recipe have an almost black skin and the pearls are translucent pink. If you can’t get finger limes then any tropical fruit works wonderfully in this recipe – finely diced mango, passionfruit pulp, or small chunks of caramelised pineapple. But if you can find finger limes please try them to top this pannacotta – you won’t be disappointed.
3 leaves of gold strength gelatine
1 2/3 cups pouring cream
150 g castor sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
juice of 1 lemon
2 medium sized finger limes (available from good fruit shops) sliced lengthwise and the pearl like fruit removed.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water to soften. Combine the cream and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat and bring it almost to the boil. Take off the heat and add it to the buttermilk in a medium sized bowl. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the gelatine and whisk into the buttermilk and cream mixture until completely dissolved. Stir through the lemon juice and let it cool a little. Pour into moulds and then set in the fridge for around 4 hours. When ready to serve carefully invert the pannacottas onto a serving plate. They should come out easily and be set but very wobbly. Carefully top with a teaspoon of finger lime pearls and serve right away.