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.
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.
Classic! What a wonderful description of the pannacotta wobble. You made me laugh out loud. Enjoyed this virtual tour with the master plaster caster too.
I’m delighted the wobble made you laugh, Sally. It seemed the perfect way to describe it.
Genius, and ingenious too.
As is your comment, Jakey – thank you
Charlie, your blog posts always surprise me! You have a magical way of associating topics with your foods that is surprising, yes, but so romantic, whimsical and clever…which is why I adore coming here and reading your beautiful words. And you are definitely a master panna cotta sculptress! Perfect, simply gorgeous panna cotta – I have never ever been able to turn out such perfect panna cotta from molds and yours are beautiful. And what summery, romantic flavors, perfect for a delicate panna cotta and seasonal berries. Beautiful as always. (do I gush too much?)
Jamie, you are a wonderwoman. Thank you for such a thoughtful and exceptionally generous comment. Far too generous – and no, not too much gush for me!
You’ve inspired me to get my moulds out and make some of these beautiful creations – they look perfect.
I hope you enjoy them. If you’re not sure about the rose, you can simply leave that out. My daughter always asks me if she can have hers plain.
Charlie. This is my first visit to your blog and I wonder why I waited so long. Lovely to read and the pannacotta looked so simple! One fo my favourites but oh so hard to get right. I am going to try again….
It’s great that you’ve dropped by, Sally and welcome to Eggs On The Roof. I do hope you enjoy the pannacotta.
Your photographs make me think I want to eat Peter Hone’s plaster casts. The leaf in particular looks so divine. I will be setting out to make my first pannacotta inspired by your creativity.
Perhaps a little rasping on the throat, but beautiful all the same. Let me know how your first pannacotta turns out, won’t you.
I love the way you write. That line about the wobble made me laugh out loud at the screen. Incidentally, I love all wobbly food, panacottas, jelllies, baked custards, chawanmushi and chinese steamed eggs. Thanks also for sharing the beautiful pictures of your visit to LASSCO Three Pigeons, I’m jealous!
I’m so glad to hear that the wobble made you laugh! Just what it was supposed to do. Thank you so much for leaving a comment – it’s something I appreciate a huge amount. Chinese steamed eggs? I’ve never tried them, but in the interests of wobble research I feel that I really must!
Loved reading your blog …. First time here and love your narration . U shld write a book , perfect English, grammar in place and awesome narration style.
I could not help but laugh at you wobbly joke !! Love the virtual tour and loved the connection u made. U will c me often here :))
Welcome to Eggs On The Roof and thank you very much for your generous comment. I’m happy to have made you laugh!