Meeting a Masterchef and beating the heat with a skinny pannacotta

For those of you who know me, you’ll know by now that I’m a huge fan of Masterchef Australia. So much so that I tend to go into an anti-social mode when the series is on. Australia is one of the places I want to go to but, that’s not for the Great Barrier Reef or Sydney Opera House. I have a one point agenda – meet the judges of Masterchef Australia! The husband thinks I’m cuckoo, well then, what is life if not a bit of madness?

Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragu 

Brent Owens in action

So when I got to know Brent Owens, winner of season 6 of the show, was going to be in Mumbai, I hoped and prayed I’d get to meet him. I’ll confess I wasn’t a huge fan of his but then, if it meant meeting someone associated with my favourite show, I was game. I entered the contests on Twitter and was lucky enough to win one of those! Friends of mine, who find Brent to be quite the dish, gave me strict instructions – don’t come back without a picture, actually, take a selfie, they said.

Ready to serve

Brent was just like he was on the show – chilled out, down-to-earth and extremely at ease behind the stove. He took us through one of his favourite recipes, Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragu, which was an absolute stunner with earthy, mellow flavours that just flowed seamlessly. A little conversation with the Masterchef winner, which is when the selfie was taken, revealed that Jamie Oliver is his favourite chef. Ah ha, now this is one chef I’d do anything to meet. With that in common, my smile grew a little wider for our picture together.

Happiness happened!


Summer is here and that means, at home we include a lot more light food in our meals, use ingredients that keep the body cool and basically eat sensibly to avoid burning in this punishing heat. One of the desserts that I make pretty often this time of the year is pannacotta. You’ll find several versions of this on the blog. The best part about this is that you don’t have to spend more than five minutes to put it together, the fridge does the rest of the magic. The other reason I prefer making pannacotta is because it goes so well with a variety of flavours right from fresh fruits like mango to more intense ones like coffee and chocolate. 
Ever since my grandmum told me that gulkand (a paste made with rose petals) helps combat body heat, I try to include it in our diet. The husband enjoys it mixed with milk, but I’m more of a fusspot – I can’t stand milk so I’ve to think of different ways to have it! That’s how I thought of using this in a pannacotta. 
Perfect for the summer
I’d been reading a lot about ‘light’ pannacottas and wanted to try my hand at it. This seemed like the perfect chance. I wasn’t too confident about completely eliminating the gelatine and cream so I substituted just half of each. This pannacotta was served topped with some sabja (basil) seeds and silver sugar crystals. So good after an Indian meal. This is one dessert that’s sure to become a regular at home. 
Gulkand pannacotta 
3 cups of milk 
2 tbsp of cream 
2 tsp of corn flour 
1 tsp of gelatine 
1/4 cup of water (room temperature)
2 tbsp of gulkand (since this is sweet enough I didn’t add sugar) 
To garnish
A betel leaf (Kolkata paan variety)
Silver sugar crystals 
Sabja seeds, soaked in water till they’ve swollen up 
Sprinkle the gelatine over the water and give it a quick mix. Cover and keep it aside, allow it to bloom. 
Mix the milk, cream and corn flour together till there are no lumps. Gently heat this over a low flame, stirring continuously to avoid the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the gulkand and mix again. 
Now add the gelatine to the mixture, remove from the heat and allow it to cool down. Pour the mixture into prepared moulds and chill for about six hours or overnight until done. 
To serve: Unmould the pannacotta and place it over the betel leaf. Spoon some of the sabja seeds over this and sprinkle the silver sugar crystals to finish. 
*You can make this with only cream. In that case, use 2 tsp of gelatine for 3 cups of cream, eliminate the corn flour too. 
* In case you enjoy the taste of paan it is a good idea to finely chop betel leaves and add to the pannacotta mixture just before adding the gulkand 
*Top the dessert with chopped nuts to add crunch and texture 


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