An Asian Twist To A Classic Italian Dessert
The Panna Cotta is an iconic Italian dessert. It is traditionally made with only four ingredients: heavy cream, cane sugar, vanilla, and gelatin. The result is a rich and silky smooth dessert that’s sure to please. In this Lemongrass Coconut Panna Cotta I use a mix of plant milks instead of the heavy cream and use agar-agar, an algae based thickening agent, instead of the gelatin. The result is a much lighter and healthier dessert.
I also put a little Asian spin on my Panna Cotta. But infusing the milk with lemongrass the dessert gets a fresh Southeast Asian twist. Something which, in my book, greatly enhances the original dessert. A word of warning, though: Infusing milk takes time, so start this dessert the day before you plan to serve it.
Options For Toppings: Mango Coulis Or Lemon Relish
I love the flavor of tart lemons on a smooth and creamy dessert. I also adore mangoes when in season. That is why I go back and forth between these two toppings for my Lemongrass Coconut Panna Cotta. For me it comes down to mood and season. If mangoes are in season then that is the way to go. If not, then the lemon relish adds a deliciously fresh touch to the silky smooth custard. I’ll give you both options in the recipe below. The choice is yours.
I also usually serve a little fruit on the side. If I’m in a mango kind of mood then I make a quick mango and mint salad drizzled with fresh lime juice, and serve that on the side. If it’s a lemon relish kind of day then I serve the Panna Cotta with fresh berries, usually raspberries or blueberries.
Lemongrass Coconut Panna Cotta With Mango Coulis Or Lemon Relish
Ingredients for the Panna Cotta:
- 800 ml unsweetened almond milk
- 400 ml light coconut milk
- 8-10 lemongrass stalks, bruised and roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons palm/coconut sugar, erythritol, or sweetener of your choice
- Grated zest from 1 organic lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered agar-agar
Ingredients for the lemon relish:
- 1 organic lemon
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon palm/coconut sugar or sweetener of your choice
- 4 tablespoons reserved lemon water
- 3 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Fresh berries, optional
Ingredients for the mango coulis and the mango salad:
- 3 large mangoes
- Juice of 1 lime
- A small handful fresh mint
To make the Panna Cotta:
- Add the two milks and the chopped lemongrass to a pot and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes (careful it doesn't boil over); then turn off the heat. Let the milk cool down, still covered, before transferring the pot to the fridge where it will steep overnight.
- The next day, strain the milk into a blender and discard the lemongrass; then blend the milk with the erythritol and the lemon zest.
- Once well blended, transfer 2 cups of the milk mixture to a small pot and add the agar agar. Heat the milk gently, stirring consistently. Once it reaches the point of simmering, turn off the heat and pour the hot milk back into the blender with the cold milk. Blend it all together well before transferring to eight ramekins or serving glasses. Let them cool down a bit before transferring to the fridge, where they will set an about an hour.
To make the lemon relish:
- Peel the lemon using a vegetable peeler. This will ensure you won't be including a lot of the white pith which is the bitter part. Alternatively, use a knife and make sure most of the white pith is cut away.
- Simmer the lemon peels in 1/2 cup of water for 10 minutes. Drain, but keep 4 tablespoons of the water.
- Slice the peels as thinly as you can and place them back in the pot. Add the erythritol, reserved lemon water and lemon juice and simmer over low heat, partially covered, until it thickens a little, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool before transferring to the fridge.
To make the mango coulis and mango salad:
- Peel one of the mangoes and remove the stone, then blend the flesh in a blender. If your mango is perfectly ripe, then you will not need any additional sweetener. Transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.
- For the salad, dice the flesh of the remaining two mangoes and add to a bowl. Drizzle with fresh lime juice and add a small handful chopped fresh mint. Toss to mix and transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.
- Run a knife around the edge of the ramekins and invert onto individual plates. Add a spoonful of lemon relish and some berries, if you like. Alternatively, top the panna cottas with some mango coulis and serve with a bit of mango salad on the side.