I've been doing a challenge on Instagram where there is a different ingredient each week around which a dish needs to be built. This week's ingredient is lemongrass. "Easy. I'll do a Thai curry," I thought. "But how about something new, too? How about something sweet with lemongrass. Maybe a lemongrass coconut panna cotta. No, it's Lent and I won't get a chance to try it. How about a savoury lemongrass panna cotta then? Hmmm. That's an idea. With what?" So in the end it turned into still crunchy stir fried veg with the warm spices from a curry, the panna cotta sitting on top of the veg with the cool flavours, and a chilli sauce drizzled over the top with the heat. I was not sure how any of this would work, starting with the panna cotta. Would it gel without a lot of sugar? And then how would it all come together. I wasn't sure until I made it exactly what I was going to put in the hot drizzle. In the end though it came out nicely.
For the warm base:
1-2 sweet potatoes, cut into fat matches
3-4 carrots, cut into fat matches
1 -2 red peppers, cut into fat matches
(1 onion thinly sliced if you have one, which I did not unfortunately)
4-5 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp cooking sake
juice of half a lime
For the panna cotta:
1 l of coconut milk
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
1 small chunk of ginger, finely grated
2 packets or 70 g gelatine
6 drops of fish sauce
1 tbsp cane sugar
Juice of 1 lime
For the chilli sauce:
1 red chilli, chopped fine
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp honey
Crispy millet (I soaked some millet grains in a little whey then put it in a cooling oven)
1) Prep the Panna Cotta in advance. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and warm gently. Add ginger and lemongrass and leave to infuse for at least an hour.
2) Bring the panna cotta back up to a gently simmer and add other ingredients except for the gelatine. Taste test then you have a choice. Either strain the bits out of the cream or, as I did, leave them in. I liked crunching on bits of lemongrass later. Add gelatine and simmer gently, stirring for about 5 minutes, then pour into small individual serving containers (eg ramequin pots) and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
3) Heat oil in a wok. When the oil is hot, add the mustard, coriander and cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add the garlic. Fry briefly then add the vegetables and other ingredients. Cook at high temperature for a few minutes then reduce the heat. Cook until the sweet potato and carrot are cooked but still crunchy.
4) In a small simmer all ingredients for the chilli drizzle. Partially blitz and set aside.
5) Plate it all. Place the veg on the plate, tip a panna cotta out on top (I placed my ramequins in hot water for a few minutes to loosen the edges. I did it a little too long though and some of them were a little softer than I wanted.) Drizzle chilli sauce over it, then place coriander leaves around and millet crisp over the top of the panna cotta.
This was a hit! I would do a few things differently next time though. I had hesitated about whether to do the veg in a wok or the oven. I did it in the wok in the end but I think another time I would do them in the oven to have crispiness to them rather than crunch. Also, I don't know that I would try to loosen the panna cotta in the cups first. Maybe just run a hot knife around the edge instead. As it was, the panna cotta melted a little fast, producing a (re)constructed Thai curry. The panna cotta was good on it's own and I would like to try it again with different pairings. It could also work as a dessert but would need a tangy coulis because it is quite rich.