I had read about a Basil Custard in a Gourmet (RIP) magazine and the idea of using herbs that are traditionally savory in a dessert intrigued me. I decided to do a panna cotta with that idea and the experiment worked beautifully. The panna cotta has a smooth, creamy texture and the fresh taste of the basil and mint is a pleasant surprise. It's matched perfectly with ripe strawberries also macerated with sugar, basil and mint that add a vibrancy to this dessert. I like my panna cotta extremely jiggly; if you'd like yours set a bit more, add 1/2 teaspoon more gelatin to the recipe. —Heena
What You'll Need
zest of 1 large lemon
fresh basil leaves, packed
fresh mint leaves
thick yogurt, at room temperature
fresh basil leaves
fresh mint leaves
Heat the cream and milk with the lemon zest and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer.
Remove from heat and add the basil and mint leaves. Cover and let infuse for 30-40 minutes.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a bowl and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
Lightly oil 8 ramekins with a neutral tasting oil.
Strain the zest and leaves out of the cream and milk mixture and rewarm over gentle heat.
Pour the warm mixture over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.
Whisk the yogurt until smooth and mix into the cream and milk.
Pour the mixture through a sieve into a jug and then pour into the prepared ramekins. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cool, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate to set overnight.
An hour before ready to serve, finely chop the basil and mint with a sharp knife or scissors.
Cut the strawberries into quarters or one-eighths depending on their size. Place in a bowl, sprinkle sugar and the basil and mint over the berries, toss gently and let stand for an hour.
Unmould the panna cotta onto serving plates. (One trick I use is to dip the bottom half of the ramekin in hot water for 4-5 seconds; it helps to slip the panna cotta right out.) Serve with the berries and accompanying syrup spooned around the panna cotta. (You can also serve this directly in the ramekins topped with the strawberries.)