But what about savoury panna cotta? ...with a bit on the side?

I thought nothing could be more polarizing than one country´s  referendum on leaving Europe and then someone mentioned panna cotta.I know I know… I am sure you are thinking that I must have lost the plot.
Savoury panna cottas are served in some restaurants, and therefore not entirely unknown but then again not widely known.
 What is panna cotta made of?  Basically, cream. To which we add flavours, vanilla, lemon geranium, mint, yoghurt (sometimes), gelatine and sugar.  If you take the sugar out of the equation, why not adapt the smooth texture and delicate flavour as a savoury dish instead of a sweet one?. Yes,  Panna Cotta is (usually) a dessert. But hear me out. Same silky consistency, same shine… different taste.I have made sweet panna cottas every which way but only added one savoury version to my repertoire
Panna cotta is known and loved all over the world as that most delicious of  Italian desserts. Silky smooth cream with just the right balance of gelatine to settle it  into a soft wobbly lady indicative shape. 
This may sound strange but imagine a savoury panna cotta made of basil leaves served with beautiful prawns and a salad fresh summer vine tomatoes, or a panna cotta made of horseradish and dijon mustard or perhaps a minty pea panna cotta served with with crispy fried serrano ham .There is a glut of tomatoes in the market place this summer so on the lines of the recent chilled roasted tomato soup  my thoughts turned to adapting this recipe into a slow roasted tomato and angostura panna cotta.
Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit: the berry of the Solanum lycopersicum.certain varieties can taste disappointing, but long, slow cooking concentrates their flavour.

The art of making a good panna cotta comes down to controlling the amount of gelatine. You need enough gelatine to settle the cream but you don’t want the cream to become a solid shape. When put in the mouth, and squished between the tongue and your palate, the panna cotta should dissolve quite easily. If you need to chew the panna cotta, you have used too much gelatine.
The amount of salt added to the panna cotta should emphasize the taste of cream and herb but never overpower it, so be really careful when tasting, but remember that chilled dishes often need a tiny bit more salt than warm dishes.

Slow roasted tomatoes and angostura panna cotta 
with a bit on the side

2kg tomatoes, halved and de-seeded
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for oiling the ramekins
2 teaspoons caster sugar, plus 1 teaspoon (if necessary)
150ml half-fat crème fraiche
3 generous dashes of Tabasco 
1 tablespoon Angostura bitters
5 sheets, about 8g, gelatine leaves
salad leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°/ mark 2. Place the tomato halves in 2 roasting tins and add half a garlic head to each one. Drizzle over the olive oil. Sprinkle over 2 teaspoons sugar and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in the oven for 2½ hours. Remove and leave to cool slightly. Pick out the softened garlic cloves, discarding the skin, and return to the tomatoes.
Brush 6 x 150ml ramekins with a little oil and place a disc of non-stick baking parchment in the base of each. Spoon the tomatoes and garlic into a food processor and process to a smooth purée. Pass the mixture through a sieve, squeezing out as much liquid as possible and discarding the remains. Measure into a jug - you should have about 800ml. Pour into a saucepan and stir in the crème fraiche and Tabasco. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and the extra teaspoon of caster sugar, if necessary.
In a shallow bowl, cover the gelatine leaves with cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Place the saucepan over a low heat and, stirring gently, heat the tomato cream until hot but not boiling. Take off the heat. Lift the softened gelatine out of the water and squeeze out any excess water. Add to the tomato cream and stir until it is dissolved. Then cool a little before pouring into the oiled moulds. Cool completely before refrigerating for at least 6-8 hours, or until set.

For the bit on the side: you can add different textures and flavours  to make a panna cotta more interesting. Since a panna cotta is really creamy, you need a lot of contrast, so try adding some crunch e.g. nuts,crispy bacon bits, biscuits ( savoury or sweet) and chippy type things or cheese straws,.
Some food historians trace a link of cheese straws to the British “biscuit.” Others cite the biscotti and hard breads of Italy and Spain. But wherever cheese straws originated, they’ve found a real home in Savannah. Making cheese straws was once a way of preserving cheese in the heat and humidity of the Deep South. But nothing enhanced their appeal like a good cocktail, and they became immensely popular in the canapé-crazed fifties and early sixties. 
 Inspired by today’s mixologists and artesan spirits revival, many cooks have adapted their grandmother’s recipe, adding  new elements to  create a “new-old” version of cheese straws. Rolling them in cheese and rosemary with cayenne pepper a la Mrs Beeton' s book of household management was a family standard I remember.
Today, cheese straws are usually served at cocktail parties or instead of crackers or bread with soups or salads. While early recipes are non-specific, simply stating, “cheese,” flavorful Cheddar evolved to be the cheese of choice. Few of the gourmet cheese straws are still in “straw” shape. One of our favorites, John Wm. Macy CheeseSticks, observes the traditional form with a twist—they are actually twisted, and made from puff pastry. They’re also available in a variety of cheese flavors, as is true with most straw producers. Cheese straws are easy to make from purchased puff pastry, if you want to serve them hot out of the oven. You can make cheese sticks from your favorite butter cookie dough, too. There are as many different shape and recipe combinations as there are creative bakers.

Read more at: http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/hors/biscuits/cheese-straws.asp
It´s not really surprising they’ve seen their share of recipe tinkering.Today cheese straws are a standard nibble for any reception or to accompany drinks but a few traditional hosts still serve them in the old fashioned way as a crisp accompaniment to a starter, soups or salads.I thought I would try the more traditional approach but being the tinker cook I am I put a twist on them, literally

Red pepper tapenade twists
320g sheet ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry

50g red pepper tapenade

1 egg, beaten

Lay the sheet of puff pastry on a board. Cut in half vertically and spread the tapenade over one piece. Lay the second piece over the first and brush the surface with the beaten egg. Cut the pastry into 12 vertical strips. Twist each piece to form a spiral and lay on a baking sheet. Chill for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/mark 6. Bake the tapenade twists for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
To serve, unmould the panna cottas on to serving plates - you may need to run a knife around the edges of the moulds to loosen the sides. Garnish with salad leaves and serve with the tapenade twists.


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