The tang of homemade rhubarb compote perfectly compliments the creamy vanilla bean panna cotta for this delicious springtime rhubarb panna cotta dessert.
Rhubarb, rhubarb… apparently when actors are pretending to talk in the background when onscreen, that’s what they mumble. It’s meant to be indistinct and contains no recognisable sounds. That might be so for the word, but boy is actual rhubarb anything but indistinct and unrecognisable!
The unmissable bright pink stems and giant fan-like leaves (remember to always remove them: they are poisionous!) that spring up in our veggie area in April put a little spring in my step and send my Pinterest boards into meltdown, as I think of all the wonderful things I can do with them.
Until I finally tried rhubarb in my late teens, I’d been content to say that I liked rhubarb on the basis of being able to demolish a packet of rhubarb and custard sweets in one sitting. Of course, they weren’t real rhubarb but the bright pink and yellow sweets tasted in my mind just as rhubarb should do. How wrong was I?
Fresh, real rhubarb isn’t sickly sweet, but sour, wonderfully sour in fact with a sharpness that cuts. As I’ve learnt over the years, using rhubarb just as it is, is ok, but to truly appreciate the flavour of this beautiful vegetable a little sweetening helps it to get on with other flavours; and there’s nothing better than with a smooth, creamy panna cotta. So that’s exactly what I did with the first crop… rhubarb panna cotta.
There’s nothing more simple than a vanilla panna cotta, not just in flavour but looks, flecked with little specks of vanilla beans. There’s not much to it, just 3 ingredients, there’s no custard or baking, and if it takes more than 5 minutes to make, you’re doing something wrong.
Despite that, the simplicity of making a panna cotta seems to scare so many, especially that elusive wobble of the creamy jelly. It’s either too stiff and sits like a brick on the plate or it doesn’t set and disintegrates into a puddle. The balance of getting the gelling agent, gelatine for non-veggies, or agar agar for veggies and vegans, seems to be a case of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best!
But fear not, I have a recipe that gives you a perfect wobble every time; and if you don’t want to risk turning out a puddle, leave them to set in a glass. It’s not a cheat, honest. I promise. For me, it’s glasses as each person gets more than if I was to use my diddy ramekins. Sometimes size is important. So before we get back to the rhubarb, here’s…
Top tips for a perfect rhubarb panna cotta
- Don’t get too heavy-handed with the gelatine – I use sheets rather than powder, it’s easier to measure. Remember to squeeze the water out before adding to the cream.
- Cut some of the richness by swapping out half of the cream. Instead, try buttermilk but add it when the gelling agent is added after heating.
- Or if you’re after a more tropical taste, switch out the milk for coconut cream and add passionfruit pulp.
- If you are using moulds don’t be scared – take a knife and run it around the edge of the mould, then dip the mould in hot water until the panna cotta is just coming away from the side. When you’re ready, put a plate over the top of the mould and turn them over. Gently lift the mould off and hopefully, the panna cotta is sitting pretty!
Now I’ve got you wobbling perfectly, my rhubarb panna cotta recipe is below; but if you’re like me, you’ve got more rhubarb than you can… well… shake a rhubarb stick at, so rather than just give it away as most people do, here’s 5 other things to do with that beautiful pink veggie that springs up in the corner of the garden that you forgot you had…
- Use as a cocktail base: using the compote recipe below, strain off the rhubarb and use the syrup in cocktails or summer drinks
- Make a curd: like my lemon and gin curd, it will have a real tartness that will work well with a sugary meringue or pavlova
- Add it to salads: roast the rhubarb and add to a goats cheese salad
- Get savoury: make a chutney and serve with cheese and biscuits alongside a balsamic onion chutney
- Be classic: if it’s not in a pie, it’s in a crumble. Yes, it’s the staple thing to make with rhubarb but add a good creamy custard and you’re in pudding heaven
And if you’re still not sure, chop up the rhubarb into 2cm pieces and freeze for up to a year. Just don’t forget to remove the leaves – they can be poisonous!
Looking for more recipe inspiration?
Why not try out some of these other deliciously easy dessert recipes…
Rhubarb Panna Cotta
For the Compote
- 400 g Rhubarb fresh and trimmed
- 1 Lemon juice and zest
- 75 g Caster Sugar
- 1 tbsp Honey
For the Panna Cotta
- 2.5 Sheets Gelatine or 1 Packet of Powdered Gelatine approx 12g
- 400 g Double or Heavy Cream
- 150 ml Milk Full-fat
- 60 g Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
- To Make the Compote
- Roughly chop the rhubarb stems into pieces approximately 2cm in length
- In a medium saucepan, add the rhubarb, lemon juice and zest, caster sugar and honey, and cover with a lid.
- Heat the rhubarb over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb has broken down. Stir occasionally to stop the rhubarb catching.
- Although the compote to cool and keep in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- To Make the Panna Cotta
- If using gelatine sheets, fill a bowl with cold water and add the sheets to soak for 5 minutes. See notes for using powdered gelatine.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the cream, milk, caster sugar and vanilla bean paste and gently bring to the boil over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Take the gelatine sheets and squeeze out any water. Add the gelatine to the heated cream and stir until it has completely dissolved.
- Once dissolved, pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug, then divide equally behind 4 glasses. Set to chill in the fridge overnight or for 6 hours.
- When ready to serve, remove the panna cotta from the fridge and top with the rhubarb compote.
- When making the compote you can add other flavours and fruits – why not add some fresh strawberries, or a piece of ginger and maybe some orange peel.
- If you are using powdered gelatine for the panna cotta, when the cream is heated take 100ml of the mixture in a separate bowl and dissolve the powdered gelatine in it; then add back to the rest of the mixture and stir in. Strain through a sieve as normal.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.