Tuesday 22 March 2011

Fresh Plum Jelly with a Lemon Panna Cotta Topping

A barely set, sharp-sweet jelly made with fresh plums, topped with a creamy panna cotta mixture. This is a grown-up version of that most beloved and comforting of childhood puds, red jelly and ice cream, and I came up with the recipe because I couldn't think of what else to do with the bulging bag of ripe plums I hauled home last week.

Plum jelly
Fresh Plum Jelly with a Lemon Panna Cotta Topping
Plums are reaching the end of their season in South Africa and are very good and sweet, not to mention cheap.

Every year I make the same mistake of falling into a swoon when I see plums piled in shining pyramids in my local shop, and I buy far more than my family is ever likely to eat. That's why there are plenty of recipes for plums on this blog (I've listed them at the end of this post, in case you too are faced with a mountain of plums that need to be eaten right away.)

The jelly had a lovely deep plummy taste, but my family felt that the vanilla seeds in the panna cotta overwhelmed the delicate jelly. I quite liked the combination, but because I've learned to listen to my family's (usually constructive) criticism of my recipes, I've left the vanilla pod out of the recipe below and instead added a strip of lemon zest to the panna cotta mixture. If you'd like to use vanilla anyway, omit the lemon strip and add a whole vanilla pod, halved lengthways, to the milk and cream mixture.

The plum pulp is not used in the jelly; I suggest you put it in the fridge to add to a smoothie, or whizz it up in a blender and pour it over ice cream. You can, if you like, add a few whole spices to the plums as they cook - a small stick of cinnamon, perhaps, and a clove and star anise - but what I wanted was a blast of pure plumminess with no interfering perfumes.

How much sugar you add to the plums depends on how sweet they are to begin with. I recommend that you start with three-quarters of a cup, then taste the syrup and add more if you think it needs it.  Measure the gelatine powder exactly, using level teaspoons.  For best results, start the jelly the day before.

This is pretty served in long-stemmed wine or martini glasses. Don't be tempted to put this in a jelly mould, as the recipe doesn't contain enough gelatine for the mixtures to hold their shapes when unmoulded. (You could add more gelatine, I suppose, but you'd run the risk of ending up with a nasty bouncy texture.)

Fresh Plum Jelly with a Lemon Panna Cotta Topping 

For the jelly:
12 ripe, juicy red plums
¾ cup (180 ml) water
¾ cup (180 ml) white sugar
a thumb-length strip of lemon zest, white pith removed
2 ¼ tsp (11.25 ml) gelatine powder
3 T (45 ml) tepid water

For the panna cotta topping:
300 ml whole milk
300 ml cream
5 T (75 ml) caster sugar
a thumb-length strip of lemon zest, white pith removed
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) gelatine powder
2 T (30 ml) tepid water

Rinse the plums, cut them in half and put them in a large saucepan (no need to remove the pips). Add the water, sugar and lemon zest. Bring gently to the boil, stirring now and again to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture boils, turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the plums are just starting to collapse. Lightly break up the plums, using the back of a spoon, but don't mash them. Turn off the heat and set aside  for a few hours, preferably overnight. This will allow time for the deep red pigment in the plum skins to colour the syrup.

Line a large sieve or colander with a piece of cheesecloth (or a clean dishcloth, or some thick kitchen paper) and place it over a bowl. Tip the plums and their juice into the sieve and allow the juice to drip through into the bowl below.  Don't press down on the pulp or it will become rather cloudy. Discard the pulp, pips and lemon zest.

Measure out a cup and half (375 ml) of the plum syrup. Put the tepid water into a teacup or ramekin, sprinkle the gelatine powder over the top and set aside to sponge for five minutes. Place in a pan of simmering water - the water should come half-way up the sides of the teacup - and leave until the gelatine has melted and the liquid is clear (about three minutes). Remove the teacup from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes. Stir the gelatine into the plum syrup. Divide the mixture between four wine glasses and refrigerate until set (about three hours).

In the meantime, make the topping. Put the milk, cream and caster sugar into a saucepan and add the strip of lemon zest. Turn on the heat and bring very gently up to just below boiling point, stirring now and then to help the sugar dissolve. When you see the mixture begin to seethe in a threatening way, remove from the heat and set aside for half an hour so that the flavour of the lemon can infuse (cover the surface of the mixture with a piece of clingfilm to prevent a skin forming).

Prepare the gelatine and water for the panna cotta as described above.

Stir the warm gelatine liquid into the the cream/milk mixture (discard the lemon zest). Strain the mixture through a sieve over the cold plum jelly. Refrigerate for another three hours, or until the topping has set to a lovely wobble.

I dusted a little pearl powder (similar to cake glitter, and available from baking shops) over the surface of the panna cotta, and I would have added a few little silver balls, if I'd had them.

Serves 4.

More of my recipes using fresh plums:

Fresh-Plum and Almond Cake

Glazed Roast Pork Neck with a Gingery Fresh-Prune Relish

Spiced Plums with Tamarind

Christmassy Plum and Tamarind Sauce

Festive Phyllo Crackers with a Spicy Plum and Almond Filling
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Linda Harding said...

I have never tried making my own jelly - in fact, I've never used real gelatine before! This is a challenge and, with such a beautiful result, it's one I gladly accept!

Marisa said...

"blast of pure plumminess"

What's not to love about that?

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you for the kind comment Michael. I will go and have a look at your blog.