This is not a dessert, although the recipe does contain a little sugar, it’s a savoury dish and it’s ideal for showboating...oh look… Christmas is coming!
You have options here, you could make tiny portions in shot glasses for canapés, set a whole one as a centre piece and say, sling a lobster on top, or do as I do and fill individual glasses to form the basis of a starter. This dish is on the menu currently topped with local crab, just dressed simply and bound with a ribbon of cucumber, with flavours leaning towards South America; lime, coriander and smoked paprika. As with all panna cottas it needs to be made well in advance and will keep happily for a couple of days in the fridge. The only slight downside is that you really do need good ripe avocados rather than those supposedly ‘ready-to-eat’ replica hand grenades, so buy them well in advance and ripen them at home, at room temperature, popping them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process if they’re getting ahead of the game.
(serves 8 portions of 120ml)
2 x ripe avocados
2 x limes
325m semi-skimmed milk
225ml double cream
1 x teaspoon caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 x 4g leaf gelatine
Use a citrus zester to remove the zest from one of the limes and then chop it as finely as you possibly can. Roll the skinless lime under the palm of your hand a couple of times to release the juice from the flesh and then cut it in half and juice it.
Have the juice ready in a bowl to add the avocado to.
Halve, peel and stone the avocados, but don’t be tempted to suspend the stones over a jam jar of water and grow them into plants, they just look rubbish and clutter up the kitchen window sill.
Add the avocado flesh to the lime juice as soon as you peel each half to stop it discolouring. Then tip the whole lot into a food blender along with a teaspoon of caster sugar, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and whizz it to a smooth creamy paste, scraping down the sides of the blender at intervals.
Add the milk and blend again.
At this stage soak the 2 gelatine leaves in cold water.
Pour the milky avocado into a medium sized saucepan set over a medium heat and stir in the double cream and the lime zest.
Bring slowly to a ‘simmer’- this can be a messy business if you’re not careful, it will splat and splutter all over the place so stir regularly (the quicker you complete this stage the less discoloured the final thing will be).
Once the avocado cream is hot and steaming, squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and stir them into the avocado. Taste for seasoning, you may need another ¼ teaspoon of salt and some more black pepper – bear in mind this will be served fridge cold, so if you’re not sure whether it needs a bit more seasoning or not, errr on the side of giving it a bit more.
What you do with it now is up to you, I use a funnel to fill Martini glasses to about ¾ full. If, like me, you’re hell-bent on straight lines and tidy edges don’t be tempted to move the glasses for 20 mins or so after filling, and ideally fill them somewhere close to the fridge to avoid unsightly tide marks. Alternatively use ramekins and you can be as cack-handed as you like.