… and end on a sweet note with rhubarb panna cotta


Photograph by Piers Cunfliffe

Photograph by Piers Cunfliffe

Melt in the mouth, super simple and effortlessly impressive, this beautifully creamy panna cotta makes an elegant finale to your Valentine’s feast.

Deliciously light and creamy, panna cotta has to be one of the simplest desserts to make and is a fantastic accompaniment to the sharp, forced rhubarb that has just come into season. It’s one of my dinner party staples. It’s great as it can all be prepared in advance and just taken out about 30 minutes before serving. Here, I’ve paired it with some Florentines to add a bit of texture but if you don’t have time a good shortbread or wafer will do the trick.


For the pannacotta
180ml cream
60ml milk
75g castor sugar
1 leaf gelatine
¼ vanilla pod – split

For the topping
100g champagne rhubarb
1tsp rose water
50g caster sugar
100ml water
2 pieces peeled lemon zest
1 star anise
¼ vanilla pod, split

Start by soaking the gelatine in a little cold water until soft. Place the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds and sugar into a pan and bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaf, then add to the pan and take off the heat. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Allow the mix to almost set either by placing over ice or in the fridge and then pour into glasses – this will make sure the vanilla is suspended throughout the panna cotta and doesn’t just sink to the bottom. Place into the fridge for a couple of hours, until completely set.

For the rhubarb, dice the stalks and place in an oven proof dish, bring the water and sugar to the boil add the rosewater, star anise, vanilla and lemon zest pour over the rhubarb and place in a low oven about 100ºC for about 30 minutes until just tender but not mushy. Drain off the cooking liquor, discarding the vanilla, zest and star anise. Set over a high heat and reduce until a light syrupy consistency mix back through the rhubarb and set aside.

For the white chocolate Florentines

15g butter
5g flour
30g castor sugar
30g honey
60ml double cream
50g flaked almonds
60g mixed peel
50g white chocolate
2 crystalised rose petals (optional)

Pre heat the oven to 160ºC. Start by putting the butter together with the sugar and flour in a small, heavy-based saucepan over a very low heat, and keep stirring until the mixture has melted. Now gradually add the cream, stirring continuously to keep it smooth. Then add all the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate. Stir thoroughly again, then remove the saucepan from the heat and put the mixture on one side to cool.

Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, allowing some space for the mix to spread and flatten with a fork. Bake for about 10–12 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave the biscuits to harden on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, before quickly removing them to a wire cooling tray to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a basin over a saucepan of barely simmering water, brush or spoon the chocolate over the base of each Florentine with warm melted chocolate & stud with little pieces of rose petal if using. Serve alongside the pannacotta.

What to drink with it?
Pol Roger, Rich Demi Sec, £39.95 a bottle
As if we need an excuse for more Champagne. This is works well with the sweetness of the panna cotta and is perfectly balanced for the sharp, sweet rhubarb and cream. Richard Veal, Berry Bros. & Rudd Private Wine Events