Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cooking the Books: rose pannacotta for Garden Spells


This is our apple tree. It doesn't climb through the bedroom window or throw apples.

I'm seriously organised for the current Cook the Books round! It doesn't close until late July, so if you have been tempted to join our merry band of bloggers with a book in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, you have plenty of time!

We're reading Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, Garden Spells. It's a magic realist novel set in North Carolina, and I found it quite charming.

Claire Waverley has been living alone in the family home for some years since her sister ran away and her grandmother died. She has made her peace with the Waverley "gifts" and runs a successful catering business, centred on dishes made from the herbs in the magical family garden. She is much sought after for the way her dishes affect the eaters, but no one gets close to her. It's a quiet life of contentment, until her sister returns and an attractive man moves in next door.

I thought the magic realist style fit very well with the Southern setting. There is something about the slightly quaint, mannered English (which I can only assume is an authentic Southern voice) that you find in books set in Dixie that lends itself to this treatment: a sort of timeless quality that makes magic likely, more than possible.

On the other hand, I also deeply sympathised with Sydney's flight from the family Gifts. Even reading about a town where your fate is determined by your family name was stifling enough to choke me.

What I wanted to cook to celebrate this book was decided pretty much as soon as I looked out my kitchen window. Our apple tree is very well-mannered. It provides shelter for many birds (and Urchin when she pursues birds) but it never tries to intrude, and under it one of my rose bushes was just coming nicely into flower.
Crystallised rose petals

I crystallised (beaten eggwhite, caster sugar, dried out over night) the petals from a couple of our (unsprayed, fragrant) roses. And I used them to garnish a rose and lime pannacotta.

Rosewater and Lime Pannacotta (serves 2)

170ml double cream
1tbs caster sugar
zest of a lime
50ml water
1 heaped tsp gelatine
Rosewater

Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water and leave to sponge. Warm the cream, lime zest and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the water and gelatine and stir until the gelatine melts completely. Stir in rosewater to taste. It absolutely must be to taste - the slightest hint too much and it is like grandma's knicker drawer.

Strain into two wetted ramekins, cover with cling film and chill over night.

Turn out (and truth be told, I took a picture of it in the ramekin as well, in case the whole operation went tits up) onto serving plates. Serve with rhubarb and strawberry compote (also delicately flavoured with rose) and some of the crystallised petals. Utterly sublime.


Edited to add: oh bollocks - I was just googling for something else and came upon this remarkably similar recipe from Diana Henry. I regularly read her column so that must have been floating away in the back of my subconscious. I wonder if there are any genuinely original ideas out there now?

28 comments:

grace said...

first of all, that compote looks amazing. secondly, i'm way too unfamiliar with rose-flavored goodies (i do, however, own a pair of rose-colored glasses...), but i like what i see!

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

I was looking forward to this post! Such a pretty dessert with pretty flavours.

Foodycat said...

Grace - I like a little rose. But it has to be subtle!

Leafy - thank you!

Rachel said...

A lovely and fragrant contribution to Cook the Books. Just perfect. I am always leery of adding too much rosewater too, precisely because of the knicker factor as you point out.

Simona said...

I like the final composition: a very pretty dessert plate.

Foodycat said...

Rachel - thanks!

Simona - oh thank you!

~~louise~~ said...

This post brings new meaning, to me anyway, to the words sub rosa.

The dessert is eloquent and your enticing summary makes me want to Cook the Books! (I'm afraid I still can't manage it yet though:)

Thank you so much for sharing...

Choclette said...

How absolutely lovely - my sort of dessert. I have yet to make pannacotta and yet to crystallise rose petals although I've done violets, pansies and primroses. The book sounds great too.

Now I'm sure it was on your blog I cam across halva flapjacks so am just off to search and hope I was right :)

Foodycat said...

Louise - thank you!

Choclette - it might be tricky for yu to make pannacotta. I've tried using agar but it doesn't get the right texture! Maybe carrageen? Suelle and I have both made the halva flapjacks recently!

C said...

The pannacotta looks gorgeous. I really must overcome gelatine-fear and just get on with making one...

mscrankypants said...

This vexes me: your last couple of posts haven't appeared in my blog feeder and I missed them. I'm glad I did a manual check and saw this lovely pannacotta -- the whole thing looks magical.

Angie's Recipes said...

I love those crystallised rose petals!
Rose pannacotta looks so creamy and delicious.

Foodycat said...

C - I prefer leaf gelatine but I made this with granules and it was perfect.

Cranky - mine does that too sometimes. No idea why.

Angie - thank you!

~~louise~~ said...

I'm so sorry Foodcat, the letter G is spoken for. The remaining letters are: H, I, J, N, O, Q, T, V, X, Y and Z. Do you have a second choice? I hope, I hope:)

hungryandfrozen said...

Those rose petals look so beautiful - all twinkly with sugar. I completely understand taking the photo of the panna cotta in the ramekin just in case - I've stuffed up too many 'dismounts' and it's made me cautious about things like that. Sounds like a good book!

Foodycat said...

Louise - oh no! I don't have time to make anything and that is the only outstanding post that fits the brief!

Laura - thanks! The dismount is the hardest.

~~louise~~ said...

Perhaps next year, Foodcat. Stay tune for the round-up. It's looking good:)

Thanks again...

Deb in Hawaii said...

Gorgeous! Such a great representation of the book. I especially love your candied rose petals and pannacotta is one of my favorite desserts.

Foodycat said...

Louise - your round-up is looking good so far!

Deb - I am such a sucker for a pannacotta!

ARLENE said...

A work of art! I've never candied flowers; they look so beautiful. Would have loved to taste this.

DaniD said...

These look really incredible and I love your creative use of the rose. I love how easy the rose petals were to crystalize although yours seem to be much more beautiful than mine were! I can't wait to read more of your posts, these were a great tribute to Claire!

Claudia said...

What a lovely little, well-behaved apple tree you have. And, I am wanting some of that pannacotta soon. It looks heavenly.

cantbelieveweate said...

Absolutely stunning my dear! Now I'm in serious search of caster sugar...my hubby cracks up when USPS delivers food products! Happens a lot here! I've GOT to try pannacotta. It looks so elegant! And I've got strawberries in the freezer and rhubarb in the garden! Thanks for sharing!!

Elizabeth said...

I am so jealous that you have an apple tree! With that being said, I wish I just lived in your house or something so you could make me that :)

Foodycat said...

Arlene - this was the first time I candied rose petals too!

Dani D - yours look really pretty too!

Claudia - it is a very sweet tree.

Can'tbelieveweate - I think caster sugar is just fine granulated sugar. You shouldn't need to buy it specially!

Elizabeth - you are welcome to visit!

girlichef said...

Oh, gorgeous! So light and delicate...such a lovely choice =) Oh, how I wish I had an apple tree of two in my yard. Silent or feisty ;P

Eliotseats said...

A truly magical dish. And, I covet your apple tree. What marvelous photos.

Foodycat said...

Heather - thank you!

Eliot - I do like my apple tree! So does the cat.

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