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Yoghurt, honey and almond panna cotta

28 May 2017

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend three months training at Leiths School of Food and Wine here in London.

Professional cookery school is something that I had deliberated over for years. I was always desperate to do it but - like most people - couldn't quite join the dots financially between a year of unemployment, living in London and, of course, coughing up for the fees themselves. And oh my, those alone looked pretty eye-watering to me.

So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered that Leiths were introducing a brand new professional course, designed specifically for people like me. Set across evenings and weekends, the course could be fit around a full-time 9-5 job and, while still a big outlay financially, was significantly cheaper than foundation or diploma courses.

And so, from January through to March, life was point blank crazy. Twice a week, I would get to work in East London for 7.30am to ensure I could leave on time. Come 5pm, there was the mad dash across London at rush hour, laden as always with various bags of clothes and a rucksack jangling with tuppaware boxes. Next, the inevitable sprint from the tube station to school, before throwing on chef whites and studying until 10pm. I'd usually falling asleep on the tube back to Brixton, before arriving home wide awake and deciding there could be no better time than 11.30pm on a Monday to practise filleting a flat fish or filling choux buns with pastry cream.

There is no denying that this is an intense way of working towards a professional cookery qualification. On those nights that I wasn't at school, I was practising the skills I'd learnt, writing time plans for the next class and - occasionally - attempting to maintain some loose form of a social life. The later took a bit of a beating, but it could not have been more worth it. The joy I felt at learning again, improving as a professional cook and meeting a whole new group of incredible, like-minded people was off the scale.

Leiths, I love you. Reader, if you are also toying with professional training but - like me - can't see how to make it work, I implore you to look into the Evening Essentials Course. You can find all the details here.

This recipe was inspired by one of my favourite recipes that we cooked on the course. My recipe uses yoghurt in place of cream, which makes these a little less indulgent, but no less delicious. Whenever yoghurt features in one of my recipes, I always recommend using Rachel's Organic. It is totally delicious and the texture is perfect for set desserts such as this.
100g flaked almonds
150g whole milk
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
350g Rachel's Organic honey yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 gelatine leaves
Honey, for drizzling
Bee pollen, to decorate (optional)

Makes six individual panna cotta

Brush six moulds or glasses very lightly with sunflower oil. Invert so that any excess oil can drip away. 

Heat your oven to 180°C and line a large baking sheet with parchment. Spread the flaked almonds evenly over the sheet, then toast in the oven for around 10 minutes. They should be a deep golden colour and smell fragrant and nutty. Watch them closely as they burn quickly if over toasted. Reserve 10g of toasted almonds to decorate the panna cotta with before serving.

Place the milk, caster sugar and salt in a small saucepan, and warm over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the milk has reached scalding point. Remove from the heat and tip in the toasted almonds. Stir, then leave to infuse for 25-30 minutes. Do not leave for any longer, as the nuts will soak up too much of the milk. 

Once infused, pass the milk through a fine sieve into a sauce pan. Discard the soaked almonds. Separately, place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water, and leave for 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, return the infused milk to the heat and gently warm over a low heat. Add the softened gelatine, and remove the milk from the heat immediately. Stir until the gelatine is completely melted, returning to a low heat very briefly if needed. 

Stir through the yoghurt and the vanilla extract. Divide the mixture between the oiled moulds, then place in the fridge to set. They will take 1-2 hours to set completely. 

When you are ready to serve the panna cotta, dip each mould quickly in a bowl of boiled water, then turn out onto a small plate. Drizzle with runny honey, and decorate with bee pollen and the reserved toasted almonds. 

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  1. Great article, love your sharing so much, thank you!

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