Coconut & Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

This may sound odd, but I love things that are squishy.
I like play-doh, I like bean bag chairs, I like overweight animals, and I even like the word squishy. Say it out loud: squishy.
I bet you’re smiling.
Anyways, let’s get down to business. As you can tell, I am a tad sugar high and quite pleased with myself.

Since waking up to find London immersed in fog and rain, again, today was definitely an indoor day, and what better place to be indoors than the kitchen.

One of my favorite desserts in the world is an Italian Panna Cotta. Panna meaning cream and cotta meaning cooked, the dessert essentially consists of cooked cream. I’ve been craving this dessert for weeks and decided I would make myself some as a kickoff to my Birthday Week. Yes, I get a week. 

The good thing about this recipe is that it is so incredibly easy to make. The bad thing, it’s so incredibly naughty.

400ml canned Coconut Milk
200ml Full-Fat Milk
50g Caster Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod
12g Powdered Gelatin (or leaves)
Serves: about 3
1. Pour the coconut milk and milk into a saucepan, then add the sugar. Split the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and empty pod into the pan, and give everything a good stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, and be ready to have the most glorious smelling kitchen in the entire world. Once the mixture is fully boiling (not just a few little bubbles), remove from heat and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Seriously, walk away.

2. After 5 minutes, return to glorious smelling brew. Spoon 200ml of the hot mixture into a bowl. Shake in your powdered gelatin whilst whisking until it has dissolved into the mixture. If it’s not dissolving completely, return the mixture to a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes and stir. Stir back into the coconut mixture and discard the vanilla pod.

3. Pour the mixture into little ramekins or moulds, preferably with a cool shape. Imagine how it will look upside-down. This recipe is enough for 3 good sized desserts, but you could always make lots of little Panna Cottas or a couple larger ones.

4. Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, until they are firm with a slight wobble. Squishy.

As my little desserts sat to harden safely in the fridge, I saw my massive bowl of pineapple and decided to experiment.
I heard the Dessert Gods in my head warning me to never experiment with baking. But, this isn’t really baking, is it? I’m using a stove and things are boiling, surely that counts as cooking.
I am so glad I ignored the Dessert Gods because my experiment could not have turned out better!

If you’re willing to defy the Dessert Gods and want to add some serious flavour to your Panna Cotta, I give you: Caramelised Pineapple & Coconut Sauce with Mint Sugar. This was an in the moment experiment so hopefully my instructions are accurate enough to get you the same yummy sauce.

1 cup Ripe Pineapple
1/2 cup Caster Sugar
1 tblsp Water
1 tblsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup Coconut Milk
1/3 cup Double Cream

Mint Sugar
Handful of Fresh Mint
1 tblsp Sugar

1. Pour sugar and water into a saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir until sugar has almost completely dissolved.

2. Chop pineapple into small chunks and add to your saucepan. Add vanilla extract. Stir pineapple with vanilla and sugar water and let simmer for about 8 minutes until the pineapple begins to break down and brown.

3. I wanted the sauce to be slightly creamy, but still maintain the juiciness of the pineapple, so I decided to make my sauce a full fat situation. If you want, you can stop here and have a perfectly yummy sauce. But, I don’t think you want to. Stir in coconut milk and double cream and remove from heat.

4. Finely chop fresh mint leaves and mash together with sugar with a mortar and pestle. A spoon and bowl works just fine if you can’t find your mortar and pestle, like me.

And Voilá! Experimental Caramelised Pineapple and Coconut Sauce with Mint Sugar!

3+ hours later: They’re DONE!
To Serve:
Boil some water and dip the mould for about 10 seconds to loosen the Panna Cotta. Don’t leave it in the water too long as it will instantly begin to melt. Turn onto a serving plate and wait for it to plop out. There it is! Your squishy, flawless masterpiece.
Top with warm Caramelised Pineapple and Coconut Sauce and garnish with a sprinkling of Mint Sugar.

Perfect way to kickoff my week of celebrating! Happy Birthday to meee!

Sunny Salmon Salsa

Summer in London is nonexistent this year.
My lack of Vitamin D combined with this incessant rain has left me down in the dumps.

To cheer myself up, I decided to bring some sunshine to the kitchen. I improvised a bright, tropical recipe that will put a smile on your face that will shine through the gloomiest of weather.
If you’re anywhere else in the world, experiencing a joyous summer of sun and water, this is the perfect, healthy summer lunch. Oh, and I’m jealous.

Right, the ingredients. I am not the greatest at instructing how to cook a dish. Cooking is all very “in the moment” for me. I like to look at a recipe to get a general idea of what i’m making, and then go about adding a pinch of this and a dash of that. Feel free to take out or add anything you like. You are the chef, this is your meal, make it the way you’ll most enjoy it!

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 salmon fillets

1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 table spoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. If you’re missing something, be creative and add something else, or ignore it.

Fruit Salsa:
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup diced mango
1/2 cup diced strawberries
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalepeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chipped mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and stir together. Cover with plastic wrap and allow salsa to macerate for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

1. Preheat grill to medium
2. Drizzle Olive oil over salmon. Cover salmon on both sides with seasoning.
3. Place fish on the grill, skin side down, and cook for about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Sear sides for an additional minute each, or until cooked through to the desired doneness.
4. Plate fish and serve with fruit salsa spooned over the top.

I had mine with quinoa, but you can have it with brown rice, noodles, or even on its own. I hope you enjoy your healthy summer lunch, and I really hope the sun comes out!

S’mores Dip

We have had the most ridiculous storm in DC for the past few days. (As if I don’t get enough rain in London) I’ve finally given up on trying to be productive and have succumb to a massive movie marathon.

Stormy weather like this can be a welcome break, lounging around, catching up on movies. This storm lead to a naughty treat break through. I had an intense craving for s’mores, but wasn’t about to be roasting any marshmallows in this weather. I took to the kitchen and developed the most amazing s’more dip.

1 extra large marshmallow (2 regular sized)
1 piece of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate bar filled with caramel and black sea salt (you can obviously substitute with any chocolate, but this is the best!)
1/3 cup of graham cracker crumbs

Place your marshmallow and delectable chocolate in a bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds. Check to ensure your marshmallow has swollen and begun to consume your chocolate slab. Pour in your graham cracker crumbs, and stir into a delicious, gooey mix. To dip, you can use graham crackers, biscuits, cookies, the options are endless. Load your cookie choice with this dip, and take a massive, gooey bite. The graham cracker crumbs add extra texture to the mix and the black salt brings out the intensity in the chocolate which contrasted well with the light, fluffy marshmallow. There you go! The perfect stormy weather/movie marathon treat.

Couscous has a developed new obsession with the Koi Fish Pond App on my iPad during the storm. She sits patiently for half an hour before striking the fish with her paw. Dissatisfied with her attack, she allows another half hour to pass before her next attempt.

Homemade Pizza

I’m enjoying a beautiful weekend up in Hermosa Beach, California. To accompany our movie night, we’ve decided to make some homemade pizza. There’s nothing like topping your own pizza with as much sauce, vegetables, cheese, etc. as you like.

If you’re in the States and familiar with Trader Joe’s, I would recommend popping in and picking up a bag of their wholewheat dough already made. It’s quite easy to make dough, but we want pizza right now, and I love Trader Joe’s version. You can always stop into a local pizzeria and ask for some dough, or you can put your apron on and make it yourself.

I’ll make this quick because I can tell (smell) my pizza is almost finished!

Depending on the dough you have made or purchased, follow any instructions regarding letting it rise. Flour your dough and roll it out to your desired shape thickness. Normally i’m a thin crust kinda girl, but we decided to go for a thicker crust with the deliciousness of the wholewheat. Lay your floured dough onto a pizza pan or cookie sheet and brush lightly with olive oil for some crunch.

Whatever you like! This is my favourite part about homemade pizza. I would suggest using packaged mozzarella versus fresh mozzarella because the water makes the dough soggy. Other than that, anything goes. We put homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, tomato, mushroom, bell peppers, olives, basil and lots of chill flakes on one. On the other, tomato sauce, prosciutto, arugula, and fresh parmigiano reggiano. Decadent, delicious, and not terribly unhealthy (depending on your toppings and portion control).