Flavors: Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta

 Saffron Cardamom Panna Cotta (07a) by MeetaK

Friends - they are so vital, wonderful and important in life. There are many different types of friends and we all categorize them in separate boxes. In German these categories are defined by using two words: "bekannte" is used to describe friends that are more acquaintances. "Freund" is the word that really describes a proper friend. To the point!

But what is a proper friend?

Friends are very important for me. I am a friendly person by nature and often want to hug the world around me. Unfortunately, I have had a few "bad" friendships that have made me weary. I also learned valuable lessons in friendship from my German friends. You see, one often hears the Germans are cool and not too friendly. It's true - but only in the beginning. I have learned that they are careful. Unlike me - they do not want to hug the world straight away. Living here has taught me to be cautious and also to evaluate the people around me more critically.

What is the essence of a friendship?

It was back in 2003 when we moved to Weimar. Soeren had just turned 1 (and a few months) and I decided to join a baby club for the sole purpose of making new friends for both of us. In that same group I met AK. Her daughter was the same age as Soeren and they had also recently moved to Weimar. So, we had a common bond that we shared. Both of us were careful at first but if you get to know AK you will know that you cannot but help to like her.

We are opposites in many ways. I am a boisterous and energetic type of person, AK is calm and gentle. I speak my mind and go with my heart, AK speaks her mind but goes with her brain. I forget to call, AK always keeps in touch.

We complement each other in so many aspects of our lives. If I am gung-ho about something she will hold me back and make me look at the critical side of it. If she does not dare, I take her by the hand and accompany her the extra mile. She never judges me, my ideas or my feelings and always has a compliment on hand to make me feel good.

On a typical afternoon she will invite me to her place so the kids can play and we can chat. When we arrive she'll have a pot of her warming flavored teas in the teapot, a candle burning on the kitchen table. She will tell me to take my shoes off and relax. Being with AK is like a little oasis away from the hectic and stress. Even when the kids are screaming and shouting around us - her gentle attitude relaxes me from the first instant.

She is a physiotherapist by profession, which always seems to come to my advantage. Whenever she realizes I am a bit down or under the weather, she'll be over to give me a massage. She was there for me and Soeren when Tom was away for 8 months in 2004 doing research in Dubai, she is there for me when I worry about the new job and she is there for me when we just want to party.

How do you thank a person like that?

Well I decided to thank her in my way, by dedicating this post to her. You see I think AK and I are a lot like this dessert. If the bold colored saffron is me, AK is the cardamom that adds the delicate and finishing touch. The saffron brightens the way the dessert looks, but without the aromatic cardamom the dessert just would not be complete.

To you AK for your friendship.

Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta
(adapted from Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich)

Saffron Cardamom Panna Cotta (14) by MeetaK

Printable version of recipe here.

3 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands - crushed
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
Finely chopped pistachio nuts - optional


Saffron Cardamom Panna Cotta (16) by MeetaK

Heat the cream, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan until steaming hot. Stir from time to time to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, add the cardamom and saffron, then covered allow to steep for 25 minutes.

In the meantime pour the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside - do not stir - for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.

Add the milk-gelatin mixture to the cream mixture and reheat to steaming, stirring well to dissolve the gelatin.

Place a metal bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Strain the mixture into the metal bowl and stir frequently, until it cools and starts to thicken. Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer - the mixture should cool down to 10 degrees C (50 F).

Divide the mixture evenly between six 6 ounce ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 12 hours, preferably overnight.

To serve: Either in the individual dishes or unmolded onto a plate. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and a few saffron strands.

Tip: You can substitute 3 leaves of sheet gelatin for the granulated gelatin. Soak the leaves in the cold milk to soften them, then take them out from the milk and stir them into the hot cream - after the steeping process. Stir until completely dissolved. Stir in the milk and proceed as directed.


Saffron Cardamom Panna Cotta (13) by MeetaK

A sensational dessert pairing the flavors and aromas of two outstanding spices. Both complementing each other in such positive harmony that it leaves you wanting more. The spices infused in the milk add a wonderful note to the rich creaminess of the cream and milk mixture. In the original version of this recipe Medrich also uses cinnamon, grated on top of the finished panna cotta. I however, left this out as I wanted the flavors of the saffron and cardamom to play the major role. If you like them - the pistachios add a perfect crunch to pull the whole dessert together.

Friendship made in heaven I would say!

You might enjoy these great pairs:

ChocCaramelTart 14 Chocolate Caramel Tart
CremeBrulee 03
Crème Berry Brûlée
Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream
Spiced Risotto 04 framed
Sweet Spiced Risotto with Cherry Compote


It's International Women's Day tomorrow and you can bet I am celebrating. My yellow dish is for a a great woman and friend - AK. Zorra and Fiordisale have asked us all to take part in their great event to mark this day by creating a yellow dish.

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. Wow, that is a most beautiful tribute and thank you to a friend and friendship!!! And that is truly what a good friend and friendship is about! Wonderful compliment Meeta!

  2. Oh my! Meeta, What better way there is to express your love than by food. Cardamom and saffron - I am sold.

  3. All my favorite flavors in a bowl, I HAVE to try this one. Gorgeous pictures, as always.

  4. Such a lovely post Meeta, it was wonderful to read about your friend AK. It's nice to know you share such a wonderful bond :) The panacotta looks delicious, love the combination of saffron and cardamom. One question, how much of the gelatin...it says 2 1/2 ...did u mean envelopes or any other measure? Would love to try this ..

  5. How wonderful to have found such a great friendship and that dessert sounds amazing!

  6. Thanks for your comments ladies. Friendship is always so important - even though I tend to be wrapped up in my day that I forget to call etc. AK will always be around and get in touch. She knows me and that's the great thing.

    Namratha, I corrected that now. It is 2 1/2 teaspoons. Thanks!

  7. Wonderful post, in Ak you have a real true friend
    Love the dessert. Have bookmarked for making them.
    I know it is delicious as it is but
    Can i serve this dessert with any kind of sauce.
    Any sugestions?

  8. A wonderful thank you gift for a special friend.

    Happy women's day!

  9. Beautiful post and stunning pictures Meeta!

  10. There cannot be too much yellow in this world. Nor did I ever hear anyone complain about having too much friends :).
    Your panna cotta looks incredibly yummy, love it!

  11. This looks DIVINE, cardamom is one of my all time favourite flavours, am getting out my ramekins as I type!!!

  12. that's a great post, and I'm happy AK has a friend like you:) wish you a Happy Women's Day to you too! that panna cotta looks brilliant, as usual:)

  13. oh wow, look at the texture of that panna cotta... Wish I was your neighbor :) AK sounds like a great friend..

  14. gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous! amazing pictures, and it looks so smooth and creamy. love the color it gets from the saffron.

  15. a beautiful post, Meeta. I always believe that apart rom family and one's upbringing, for most part of our life it's our friends that shape us. And having lived in Germany for 4+ years (not much though!) i cannot agree any better on the first para:)

  16. That panna cotta looks good! I have been wanting to try using more cardamom in my cooking.

  17. Another spectacular dessert from Alice Medrich, Meeta. Its beautiful & stunning. Great for IWD & great for your friend AK!Cheers

  18. You and AK are really lucky to have each other...true friends are such a rarity in this world...so cherish it...

    ...beautiful dessert...the flavours must have been amazing :-)

  19. That looks amazing! Panna Cotta is a great dessert unto itself, but I really like the combination of cardamom and saffron. The photos also look wonderful--I like how you brought some color and excitement to the dish.

  20. What a beautiful post about friendship. I'm sending a copy to my best friend -- who probably would love this panna cotta, too.

  21. Thanks everyone!! I think when AK read the post yesterday she was touched - LOL!

    Sig, i wish you were my neighbor too! I think we'd be partying on your drinks and my desserts LOL!

    Mike, thanks. These are such delicate and elegant flavors and I found that they came together well in the panna cotta. Hope you do give this a try!

    Lydia, that is great. I hope your friend enjoys it too. Tell me what she thought of it!

  22. panna cotta with middle east flavours. i can hardly wait to try ir

  23. Panna Cottas will be the death of my hips....This one is just gorgeous! Great tribute to your friend, I am sure she feels the same way about you!

  24. Wow. It looks so creamy and delicious. And those flavours. Mmmmm. fantastic

  25. What a lovely post and tribute to your friend!


  26. Wonderful tribute to your friend! This was one of the first desserts I made from Alice Medrich's Pure dessert and I can vouch for the lovely flavors in this.

  27. I am going to try this as soon as I can. It looks gorgeous.

  28. Meetah, I have a friend just like that and I always surprise her with some or other treat...we are truly blessed. As for the Panna cotta....I can almost sense the smooth sensation in my mouth...

  29. I love saffron and cardamom icecream so your panna cota sounds georgous. I love its plae creamy colour

  30. What a lovely tribute, Meeta :). This dessert sounds lovely, as does your friendship.

  31. that looks truly sensational!!! wish you many more years of wonderful friendship.

  32. thank you thank you! I just got my box of treats yesterday and am slowly savoring every bite. And the kiddies loved the chocolate eggs!!!
    Thank you again, my friend!!

    xo, jaden

  33. That's a lovely tribute to your friendship indeed! Plus a gorgeous food photo :) (The texture of that pudding looks perfect - so smooth and soft and just set!)

  34. This is such a beautiful post. It touched my heart. may God bless your friendship!
    I could relate to it in many ways what you describe here.
    It is a bit late to respond, but just couldn't help after reading it. :)

  35. Thanks so much everyone for all your wonderful comments. Friendship is always a great thing. Although I tend to be tardy in my replies and late in calling back - AK never takes it badly.

    PG you are never too late for a dessert like this. Only if there is none left :-D

  36. Hi Meeta,
    Planning to make this for my dinner party tomorrow but I don't have a thermometre to check the temperature of the final product. Any tips on what I can do to ensure its the right temp?


  37. Can this be made with Amul fresh cream? That's the heaviest cream here...

    umm maryam

  38. Rekha - if the moxture is warm to the touch it should be fine.

    umm maryam - ii am sure it should be fine. heavy cream is thick whipping cream with all the goodness still left in it ;-)

  39. Thanks. I made this and I loved the texture. The cardamom flavor was absoultely Nil for me :(. Next time I make it I might probably crush the pods slightly before infusing. Wonderful dessert. Thanks for sharing.

    Umm Maryam

  40. Hi Meeta,

    I tried this recipe yesterday with slight modifications and it turned out great! Thanks for the inspiration. Now, I am waiting to try your macaroon recipes.



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