Hands up gin lovers? I have an amazing fact for you - 90% of the worlds gin is made from juniper berries grown within 100km of Cortona, Tuscany.
So visit Cortona and you're paying homeage to the birthplace of gin (sort of).
At the very least, I can take you to see the paddocks full of wild juniper berries that surround our beautiful town. Crush them in your palm and the scent takes you straight to cocktail hour - the dainty juniper berries smell just like gin.
Wild juniper berries are at their best in September/October when the new berries form. They're small and flavoursome; this time of year (May) the berries have been on the bush for six months and their aroma is fading.
So my gorgeous neighbour Tina has promised to make gin with me in September and I'm really looking forward to it. Tina was a chemist and has a small still, so we can distill our own very own gin. So come September I'll use my homemade gin to create this luscious pannacotta with blueberry and gin soup.
Speaking of which, there's a new Giniversity course in Margaret River which is meant to be very good. You get to choose all the botanicals and distill your own gin. Our marketing manager went and said it was excellent.
Pannacotta literally means "cooked cream" in Italian, and isn't it just delicious? Silky, smooth, sweet and totally moreish. This recipe is by no means difficult, but you do have to follow the recipe closely enough that you get the ratios right. Most importantly, allow yourself enough fridge time for the little pannacottas to set - nothing worse than making it too late in the day, ahead of a big dinner party, and having them melt on the plate.
So I present, Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Gin and Blueberry Soup - the recipe
Panna Cotta Ingredients
- 450ml whipping cream
- 275ml full cream milk
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half length wise
- 2 ½ leaves of gelatin
- Heat milk, cream, sugar and vanilla bean in a heavy based pot until, the sugar has dissolved and ingredients are hot but not boiling.
- Immerse gelatin leaves in cold water one at a time and leave to soften.
- Once they are soft and pliable squeeze all of the water out.
- Add the gelatin leaves to the milk and cream mixture and whisk lightly so that the gelatin dissolves. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pod with a teaspoon. Strain the panna cotta mix through a sieve into the dariole molds and leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours
Blueberry and Gin Soup Ingredients
- 500g fresh blueberries
- 500ml water
- 350g caster sugar
- 75ml gin or to taste
- zest of 1 lemon
- In a pot place the water and sugar and bring to the boil, reduce for 3 minutes on a low heat.
- Add the blueberries and lemon zest and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavour and colour to come out of the blueberries.
- Remove about 2 tablespoons of blueberries and set aside.
- Add the amount of gin to your liking and pass the soup through a fine strainer, pushing as much blueberry pulp through as possible.
- To release the panna cotta from the dariole mould, run a paring knife around the inside of the dariole mould and then tip the mould upside down on your dessert plate. The panna cotta will slowly fall out.
- Pour the soup into the plate and place some of the reserved blueberries around the panna cotta. You can serve this with a couple of Pavesini biscuits on the side.