As I entered the house the first thing that struck me was the composed stillness. The lights were on but it really seemed that nobody was home. Straight away my mind began wondering if something was wrong. Why is it that every time things are slightly displaced or out of routine we expect the bad?
I meekly walked into our spacious dining and living area and smiled. In the center of the worn wooden dining table I was greeted by a colorful card adorned by a somewhat wonky looking hand-drawn red heart. My favorite vase was standing proudly filled with my favorite fresh flowers - calla lilies in several hues of red and pink. Leaning against the vase was a vanilla colored envelope with my name on it.
“Will you be my Valentine?” I turned around and Soeren, at the time 5 years old, stood smiling cheekily at me.
“We’ll have to duel over this fair lady like true gentlemen do!” replied Tom coming down the stairs.
“Correction - like real Jedi Knights! Where is your laser sword Master Obi Tom?” squealed Soeren running past him and back up the stairs.
“Happy Valentine’s day!” Tom said brushing my cheek with his lips before he chased after Soeren.
There I was, left to myself again, thinking “Boys and their games!” I remembered the envelop and opened it to find an elegant hand-made card inviting me to a three course homemade dinner. Each course of this Italian themed menu was described in minute detail, making me think of the trouble Tom must have gone through. The card boosted my mood and I was looking forward to the dinner.
Something was not right though. I walked into the kitchen. The lights were out and there was an eerie tranquility in the air. Surely if I was to be treated to an Italian 3 course meal then where was the pasta bubbling in the pot, the ragu simmering gently on the stove, where was the fragrance of fresh basil and where were the dirty bowls of chocolate and mascarpone? Shouldn’t the kitchen be lively with hectic commotion?
I went back to the card and picked it up again. I must have missed something or misread a tiny by-line. Yes - indeed I realized there was a very vital piece of information that was not stated on the card. The date!
You see, three years later I am still waiting for my romantic three course homemade Italian dinner. The card is boldly pinned on our cork board, defiantly expecting to finally recompense the dinner promised. I’ve started to add tally marks at the bottom of it to mark the years as they go by. It’s become a common joke between both of us and every time Tom pompously proclaims he is a good cook, I jovially harangue and tease him about the romantic Italian Valentine meal that never was cooked!
It’s Valentine’s day again soon and I wonder if this year I’ll get my long expected dinner. I’d even pitch in with dessert. Maybe with this one here!
This is one of my latest experiments. It’s Italy meets Norway in the sweetest of pairings. Silky, creamy smoothness of panna cotta infused with the caramel aromas of Brunost cheese. Recently I featured the spectacular Norwegian Brunost cheese and read all your comments with delight as you all shared your experiences with the cheese. Thank you!
While the cheese is incredible on its own, I could not resist playing around with a few ideas. This is one of them. The flavors come together in perfect harmony, complementing each other to a perfect dessert. The vanilla highlights the wonderful caramel-y, slightly salty notes of the Brunost, while the toffee sticky pears adds a wonderful new level to the dessert.
Brunost Cheese Panna Cotta with Sticky Toffee Pears
Printable version of recipe here
For the panna cotta
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped and pod reserved
70g Brunost cheese, thinly sliced
3 sheets gelatin
For the sticky toffee pears
200g muscavado sugar
2 pears, cubed
- Pour cream and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat. Add the vanilla pod and the innards, stirring with a wooden spoon. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes then add the slices of Brunost to the mixture. The cheese will begin to melt fairly quickly. Simmer mixture for another 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the Brunost has melted completely.
- Soak the gelatin in a bowl filled with cold water for 5 minutes. In the meantime prepare your dessert glasses or bowls.
- Take the saucepan off the heat, remove the vanilla pod and stir in the soft gelatin into the mixture.
- Pour the brunost-vanilla-cream mixture through a fine meshed strainer into a jug (this helps for easy and clean pouring in the dessert glasses), then carefully pour equal amounts of liquid in each dessert glass.
- Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
- To make the sticky toffee pears, place sugar and butter in a saucepan and over a low heat, simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook until the sauce takes on a lovely toffee color. Add the pear cubes and allow them to soften – about 2-3 minutes in the toffee sauce. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- To serve, pour 2-3 tablespoons of the sticky toffee pears over the panna cotta. I added a few cubes of fresh pears over this, which gives it a slight crunch and an additional fruity taste, however this is entirely optional.
Meeta’s Tip: I understand that Brunost is not available everywhere, so if you are having trouble finding the cheese then try this other twist – add 2-3 tablespoons of dulce de leche and a pinch of fleur de sel to the cream mixture. While the flavor will be different to this Brunost Panna Cotta you’ll be a step closer to a very divine dessert!
Brunost is an acquired taste and depending on the variety you are using you might find the flavors more intense or fairly mild. I used the variety Gudbrandsdalsost for the panna cotta, which is not as bold in it’s flavors as some of the other ones. I liked it because, in my opinion it provided the perfect balance of flavors The distinct sweet caramel flavor paired with a hint of saltiness and rounded off with that essence of goat milk, without being too goat-y was spot on. However, if you prefer a more pronounced flavor, you should try the more intensive variety.
The Brunost melted away in the creamy vanilla mixture and as it did it began changing the pure white creamy mixture into delicate shades of beige to vanilla to eggshell. The fruity pears in the sticky toffee sauce intensify the caramel experience of this panna cotta. It definitely is a dessert that will have your special guest, or your loved one scraping the glass clean with their spoons and it sure beats the cheese platter!
What’s For Lunch, Honey? is one of top five finalists for Best European Blog this year at the Eleventh Annual Weblog Awards. I’m already very proud and thank all those who nominated me in this category. Now all you need to do is go back and vote.
I’m sending a few of these Brunost panna cottas to Astrid, who not only is my gracious guest hostess for this month’s Monthly Mingle but also will be celebrating her birthday on the 19th. Happy Birthday Astrid. Her theme for the Monthly Mingle is “Small Bites – Soul Food for the Loved Ones” Perfect for a Valentine or a birthday surprise! Hope you will join us for the event – the deadline is February 28th.
As for me – I am not sure if I’ll finally get that 3 course meal or if I’ll add another tall mark to the card. One thing is for sure – both my Valentines will get their sweet treats ;o)
Hope you all have a great weekend and enjoy a day filled with fragrant flowers, decadent chocolates, extravagant meals and most of all special moments with your loved one on Monday!
More Panna Cotta from WFLH:
|Panna Cotta - Strawberry with Balsamic Red Wine Syrup||Panna Cotta with Saffron & Cardamom||Panna Cotta - Chocolate with Caramelized Pineapple and Amarena Cherries|
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