I picked up the most beautiful bunch of lemon balm at the Capital Region Farmers Market last week. I’ve been doing all sorts of things with it. I made loads of fresh tea and a mango and lemon balm salad with whipped yoghurt. We had friends coming for dinner on Friday, and I was thinking about making a pretty dessert that I could top with lemon balm jelly set with a beautiful little lemon balm leaf. The idea came together gradually. First I thought about passionfruit pannacotta with lemon balm jelly. But I realised it would be quite spectacular to have the lemon balm leaf with a dense background of passionfruit behind it. So I decided on a very thin layer of passionfruit and lemon jelly behind the lemon balm, and then a rich, luscious, but traditional vanilla pannacotta. The tartness of the passionfruit and lemon with the lovely, slightly herbal lemon balm jelly, provide a wonderfully fresh contrast and cut through the pannacotta to make a stunning, refreshing dessert to cleanse the palate after any meal. It is a dish that sings of springtime, and looks that way too.
I’ve never been sure about how to serve pannacotta. I always think it’s odd to serve it with cream or ice cream, since it’s made of cream, and thought the textural contrast of a biscuit would be lovely. I realised that a tuile scented with orange blossom water would be absolutely perfect. I have posted this recipe separately because the biscuits would also be lovely separately.
I was a bit worried about what to use as moulds for these. In the end I used my silicone Tupperware muffin pans. They worked a treat. They were the perfect shape, but it would have been helpful to have a firm mould, for when the time came to pull the pannacotta out. Feel free to use whatever you have around the house, but think tall and thin, rather than short and fat, because the pannacotta will sit flatter on the plate than the mould would indicate.
Lemon balm jelly
|6||small lemon balm leaves for decoration|
|1||tablespoon||fresh lemon balm leaves and stalks|
Passionfruit and lemon jelly
*this is a little extravagant, so feel free to only use one vanilla bean, but I think it was worth using two.
To make the lemon balm jelly, combine the water, sugar and gelatine in a small saucepan and simmer till the gelatine and sugar are dissolved. Turn off the heat. Pick six pretty little lemon balm leaves that will fit in the bottom of your moulds and reserve. Add the remaining lemon balm leaves and stalks to the pan and leave to fully infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the lemon balm and pour the jelly mixture between your moulds. Very gently arrange a lemon balm leaf topside down in your moulds, submerging it in the jelly. Place the jellies in the fridge to set.
To make the passionfruit and lemon jelly, combine the water, sugar and gelatine in small saucepan and simmer till dissolved. Stir through the passionfruit and lemon juice. Allow the mixture to cool a little before pouring it over the lemon balm jelly, being careful to evenly distribute the passionfruit seeds. Place the jellies in the fridge to set.
To make the pannacotta, place the cream, gelatine, and sugar in a small saucepan. Slice open the vanilla beans, scrape the seeds into the saucepan and add the bean itself. On a low heat, bring the mixture to just below boiling point, stirring well. When the sugar and gelatine are dissolved, turn off the heat and leave the mixture to cool for at least 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla beans from the mixture and gently pour over the passionfruit and lemon jelly. Place the pannacotta in the fridge to set.
To serve the pannacotta, remove the moulds from the fridge. Very gently, with your fingertips, pull the pannacotta away from the edges of the mould. When you are able to pull it away all around the mould, tip the mould upside over your serving plate. If it doesn’t pop out straight away, continue to pull it away from the sides until enough air gets between the mould and the pannacotta for it to fall onto the plate. If you have real trouble, VERY briefly run the mould under hot water and try again, but it is REALLY important that the pannacotta itself stays cold for all the layers to stick together, so don’t leave it out too long. Serve with a little passionfruit pulp and an orange blossom water tuile.