Vegan Passionfruit Panna Cotta

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Gelatine is one of those ingredients where if I see it in a recipe – no matter how chill I am with cooking elaborate stuff – a voice in my head immediately goes “Nah, too hard.” (Which is a particular roadblock when you grew up poring over eighties cookbooks like I did, a cheerfully colloidal time where anything from salmon to tomato soup to chocolate mousse was pointless without a stiff wobble of gelatine.) Through much reading of Nigella Lawson’s reassuring cookbooks I more or less got to grips with leaf gelatine, but still regarded it with some wary caution and didn’t necessarily go out of my way to make recipes using it.

And as for agar agar, gelatine’s friendly vegetarian counterpart, well. What if it doesn’t set? What if it sets too much? What if this reflects upon my entire worth as a person and a food writer in that order? Etc? 

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But! Should you be burdened with similar trepidations as me, let this passionfruit panna cotta recipe put your fears at ease with its easiness. This recipe is just so easy and there’s nothing at all to the agar agar aspect of it – simply stir it in and let the mixture cook a little. I appreciate that it’s a relatively specialist ingredient, but I got a good-sized sachet of the Telephone Brand agar agar from an Asian supermarket for no more than a couple of dollars. And even though panna cotta has a slightly intimidating high-end-dessert vibe, these ones stay in their dinky little glasses, so you don’t have to stress about successfully un-moulding them onto a serving dish. This also means less washing up – will the blessings never cease!

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You could make this with something other than passionfruit, but its sherbety, twinkling sour-sweetness is my ideal pairing for the amicable backdrop of coconut cream. All that tartness captured and suspended in a light yet rich cream is astonishingly delicious – like a cloud made of citric acid – the perfect marriage of texture and flavour – and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d poured the entirety of the mixture into an imperial pint glass all for yourself instead of doling it out between several winsome and dainty goblets for your family to enjoy. (To that end, if you are wondering how I got these nice photos of our dessert it’s because I divided the mixture between six receptacles for the four of us and saved two to photograph the next day, thus depriving my family of a quarter of a fluid ounce each of panna cotta the night before, all for the sake of the blog. What a world we live in.)

I realise last week’s recipe for Vegan Jelly Tip ice cream also used agar agar and I didn’t make a gigantic fuss about it then, for which there are a few reasons: 1) I was planning to blog about this first but the ice cream was just too exciting, 2) I can only say so many things in one blog post, and 3) if I’m gonna coerce you into buying agar agar I at least want to give you plenty of things to do with it. The ice cream is a bit full-on, I grant you, but there’s truly nothing more delicious or simple than this passionfruit panna cotta recipe. Make this, and you’ll suddenly be looking at your tomato soup like damn, maybe those eighties chefs were onto something. 

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Vegan Passionfruit Panna Cotta

This easy vegan panna cotta is creamy, tangy, light and delicious and – I just need to reiterate again – so easy. The recipe is adapted slightly from this one at anisasabet.com.au.

  • 10 passionfruit + 2 to serve, extra
  • 1 x 400ml can full-fat coconut cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered agar agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: Halve the ten passionfruit and scoop the pulp into a small saucepan. Add the coconut cream and sugar and stir for a minute over a low heat.

2: Mix the agar agar powder with a little water in a small cup, which will make it easier to incorporate into the hot liquid. Add it to the saucepan and stir it briskly to prevent lumps from forming. You’ll be straining it though so don’t stress too much. Continue stirring this mixture over a low heat for another ten minutes without letting it bubble – this will allow it to both thicken slightly and to extract the flavour from the passionfruit.

3: Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and then strain the mixture through a sieve into a measuring jug – extra dishes, I’m afraid, but it’s easier to pour it into the serving dishes this way. Push down on the passionfruit pulp as you’re sieving it, to get the maximum flavour, and save the pulp for smoothies if you like (or at least, this was my plan, but I ended up just eating it all straight out of the sieve.)

4: Pour the coconut cream mixture into your waiting glasses or cups or dishes, and then chill them in the fridge for four to six hours, or overnight if you want to make this in advance.

5: Serve by cutting the remaining passionfruit and spooning the pulp over the panna cottas.

Makes 4 – 6 depending on the size of your receptacles.

Note: You can use a couple more or fewer passionfruit at the start and to serve depending on how many you have.

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music lately:

Cold Rock a Party by MC Lyte feat Missy Elliot. Ok sure, my enjoyment of this song is more vicarious in these unprecedented times but this song is so good and MC Lyte and Missy are so great that even those hypothetical thrills are pretty genuinely thrilling. I’m obsessed with the airy bounce of the Diana Ross sample; sampling is truly an art form.

Lowdown-down by Lea Delaria. She has several albums where she sings standards in a jazzy fashion, a genre I find incredibly soothing. This song, a pragmatically sorrowful number from LaChiusa’s 2000 Broadway show The Wild Party (based on the Joseph Moncure March poem, The Wild Party, which coincidentally inspired a completely separate off-Broadway musical that very same year) isn’t exactly a standard, but it should be.

Sunset Boulevard by Pocket Knife Morales. Obviously, the title caught my eye but it’s an enchanting song, with the sort of wistful vibe which makes you want to put on a large cardigan and wrap it close as you walk down the stone footpath to post a letter with hope in your heart, pausing to salute the horse in the paddock next door, the autumn breeze threatening to lift your cowboy hat, and so on and so forth.

Next time: I really feel like making brownies, but there’s also this incredible bread recipe from Nigella’s new book.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

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