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RECIPE: Panna cotta with strawberries

Panna Cotta with strawberries and Venturi-Schultze balsamic vinegar.
Panna Cotta with strawberries and Venturi-Schultze balsamic vinegar.

Strawberry season has begun and these sweet red berries, a favourite for many, are incomparable when fresh and in season.

There are a million and one ways to utilize strawberries while they are at their best. Make sure to eat as many as you can when fresh, either on their own or on spinach salads (also in season) with goat cheese, chopped on top of ice cream, bake them into muffins. Make sure to freeze some for smoothies too and of course, make jam.

This panna cotta recipe comes from my upcoming cookbook, The B.C. Wine Lover’s Cookbook to be released June 23rd by Penguin Random House publishing. The recipe is shared by Venturi-Schultze Vineyards in beautiful Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island. Balsamic vinegar and strawberries make for a magical pairing and what makes this recipe extra special is that the balsamic vinegar used to top the dish is also made at Venturi-Schultze. Giordano Venturi was born and raised in the Modena region of Italy, famous for balsamic vinegar, and he prides himself with carrying on both the tradition of winemaking and vinegar making from his home.

Strawberry season has begun!
Strawberry season has begun!

Panna Cotta with Strawberries & Balsamic Vinegar
You will need a large jelly mould or 12 ramekins.
Serves 12

1 Tbsp + 1⁄4 tsp gelatin powder 1⁄4 cup milk
1 cup icing sugar
1⁄2 tsp salt
3 cups cream
1 tsp pure vanilla
11⁄2 cups sour cream
1 lb ripe strawberries, sliced, or halved if small
2 tsp berry sugar
2 tsp Venturi-Schulze Classic Balsamic Vinegar
Mint sprigs, for garnish

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the icing sugar, salt and 2 cups cream to a boil, whisking occasionally.

Remove from heat. Stir the gelatin mixture and add it to the saucepan, stirring to dissolve, then add the vanilla.

Pour the panna cotta into a large metal bowl and cool, stirring occasionally. If you need to speed the process, cool over cold (but not iced) water. Whisk the remaining 1 cup cream to soft peaks.

Stir the sour cream so it has an even consistency, then fold it into the whipped cream and gently but thoroughly fold the combination into the cooled panna cotta mixture, keeping the mixture light and airy.

Pour into a single jelly mould or into 12 individual ramekins (depending on how you would like to serve) and refrigerate overnight.

To make the topping, place the strawberries in a bowl and gently stir in the berry sugar and balsamic vinegar. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 11⁄2 hours.

To serve, unmould the panna cotta by dipping the mould or ramekins into hot water and then inverting onto a serving platter or onto individual dessert plates in the case of ramekins. You may have to run a knife around the sides of the mould or ramekins and release the panna cotta on an angle over the plates.

Bring the strawberry balsamic topping to room temperature and spoon on top of the panna cotta. garnish with the mint sprigs and another drop or two of balsamic vinegar if you like.

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