Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Panna Cotta … tennis anyone?

We are very blessed in Australia to have access to wonderful fresh strawberries all year round with different growing regions having different seasons throughout the year.  Right now, Queensland strawberries have started to appear and are sweet and juicy.

So when I settle down to watch a spot of tennis at Wimbledon, do I rue that I’m not actually there in person?  Well, maybe just a little.   But I can still have my strawberries and cream and get all comfy in the evening and cheer on my favourite players, so I’m not missing out too much.  Plus we seem to be having more sunny days, albeit chilly, here in Melbourne, than at Wimbledon.  I’ve loved tennis since I was allowed to join a club as a child, totally obsessed with the sport.  I no longer play, but I do have fond memories of sneaking in to the Australian Open when it was still played on grass, at Kooyong, and watching Bjorn Borg at the height of his career.  My all time top tennis hero.  I don’t recall always having a ticket for centre court … although I vaguely remember sneaking past security 😉

But back to strawberries and cream.  A fine Wimbledon tradition.  I’m not going to sully that tradition by throwing a few strawberries into a bowl with some cream poured over them all sad and forlorn looking, am I?  Yawn.  Boring.  No!  This is the greatest Grand Slam event of the year.  Why not pay tribute to it and whip up a little panna cotta with vanilla and top it off with a fresh strawberry compote … and a splash of fig vincotto?  Cos I like a surprise ingredient … and it’s a little out of the ordinary.  Take note of this one, because I promise it will be popping up again in future posts. 😉

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Calogiuri Vincotto ai Fichi

I’m a big fan of vincotto and the black fig vincotto is so unctuous and sweet and mellow, it was just begging to join the party.  It’s fantastic drizzled over the berries but there will be no drizzle action here because I’m not tempting the rain gods of Wimbledon and frankly, drizzling looks messy.  So I added it to the compote instead.  Wow.  No, really.  WOW.

Crème fraîche adds a lovely tang to the panna cotta to lift it above your average panna cotta experience.  The little flecks of vanilla beans?  That’s just vanilla perfection.  You know it.  I know it.

The cool thing about panna cotta is that it looks like hard work but it isn’t.  It takes almost no time to make, and there’s plenty of down-time waiting around for it to set.  Lots of time to kick back and watch some tennis or take a cat nap so you can stay up late as I must.  Invite a few friends over.  Then tuck in when you get a little peckish for your Wimbledon strawberries ‘n’ cream fix … cos we don’t give a fig if we’re not actually there on centre court.   Well … *shrugs*

Oh, who’s my favourite player?  Rafael Nadal.  Hands down. I hope you win, Rafa, you champ! 😀

Serves 6

Vanilla Panna Cotta
300 grams crème fraîche
300 millilitres cream (35% butterfat)
75 grams sugar
3 teaspoons pure vanilla bean extract OR seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
5 grams gelatine leaves (about 2 1/2 sheets)

Strawberry Vincotto Compote
300 grams strawberries, hulled and quartered
25 grams sugar
1 tablespoon/15 millilitres fig vincotto
2 grams gelatine leaves (about 1 sheet)

6 perfect strawberries, halved
lemon balm or mint sprigs, to decorate (optional)

Make the panna cotta
Place the crème fraîche, cream, sugar, and vanilla into a saucepan over a low heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water to cover for a few minutes, until softened (while the cream is on the stove).  Bring the cream mixture to the boil, stirring gently.  When the cream reaches simmering point, take off the heat.

Drain the gelatine and squeeze out any excess water.  Add the gelatine to the warm cream mixture and stir until dissolved.  Do not pour the cream mixture over the gelatine!  Pour the panna cotta mixture into serving glasses or cups.  Cool slightly and refrigerate until set, about 4 to 5 hours.

Make the compote
Place the strawberries and sugar into a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves and the strawberries soften.   Soften the gelatine in some cold water while the strawberries cook.  Mash the strawberries with a fork and heat for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the fig vincotto.

Drain the gelatine and squeeze out any excess water.  Add to the strawberry compote and set aside to cool slightly.

Spoon or pour the compote over the vanilla panna cotta in each glass.  Refrigerate until set, at least a few hours, before serving.

Before serving, decorate with fresh strawberries and lemon balm or mint sprigs.

Eat it as you settle down to watch the tennis 🙂


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