Casting Rose Pannacotta

It starts with buck­ets and spades on the beach — the com­pul­sion to fill a con­tainer, invert it, give it a smart tap and then tip a per­fect rep­lica out onto the sand. If you’re very good at it, you evolve into Auguste Rodin or Rachel Whiteread, who filled an East Lon­don house with con­crete to make a cast of its interior. But, don’t worry. For the rest of us, there’s always pannacotta.

I’ve just found a beau­ti­ful 1920s china jelly mould in a junk shop — per­fect for the would-be sculptor inside myself. It had been look­ing eleg­antly beau­ti­ful on a shelf in the kit­chen, until I was inspired to use it by Peter Hone. Peter has a job title to mar­vel at — he’s a Mas­ter Plaster Caster. I dis­covered his work at my favour­ite place for archi­tec­tural sal­vage, LASSCO Three Pigeons in Oxford­shire. A man with such an impress­ive title needs a stately home — in this case, a derel­ict Tele­phone Repeater Sta­tion ren­ov­ated by LASSCO espe­cially to house Peter’s creations.

The new Hone Exchange, a glor­i­ously eccent­ric build­ing, is now crammed with Peter’s mag­ni­fi­cent plaster casts of leaves, feet, animal skulls and heads.

After a happy half hour look­ing at the beau­ti­ful objects inside the Exchange, I was in the mood to cast my pannacotta.

ROSE PANNACOTTA

Makes 6 — 8 small pannacottas

  • 4 leaves gelatine
  • 600ml double cream
  • 170ml full cream milk
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 tea­spoon rose water
  • Strip of lemon peel

Place the gelat­ine in a bowl of cold water to soften for ten minutes. Heat the milk, cream, lemon peel and seeds scraped from the inside of the vanilla pod. When it is at sim­mer­ing point, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until it is com­pletely dis­solved. Wring out the gelat­ine leaves and stir into the cream, one at a time. When they have dis­solved, add the rose water.

Remove the lemon peel and pour the cream mix­ture into the moulds. When cool, put them in the fridge. They should be firm enough to turn out after a couple of hours. Dip the moulds into hot water for ten seconds and then turn them upside down onto plates. Wiggle them about a bit, if the pan­nacotta doesn’t flop out.

I served mine with a few sum­mer ber­ries and tiny basil leaves as well as with some rhu­barb that I poached in logan­berry syrup with a couple of cardamons.

The 1920s jelly mould turned out to be just too statuesque for a pan­nacotta. The fin­ished pud­ding looked more like a vast white whale on the hori­zon. The mould has been restored to its shelf, where it con­tin­ues to look coolly beau­ti­ful. Far bet­ter were the ancient moulds I was given when I was at university.

I’ll never qual­ify for the title of Mas­ter Plaster Caster, but am won­der­ing if my pan­nacotta could at least be A Pan­nacotta Cantata.

Pan­nacotta should be small, del­ic­ate and dis­ap­pear in a few mouth­fuls. Above all, what you must remem­ber is that the per­fect pan­nacotta should achieve the kind of wobble you pray your thighs will never have.