This crowd-pleasing panna cotta is the perfect way to finish off a dinner party; simple but divine. Try serving it with poached pears, rhubarb or apples if you don't have access to quinces. Or, take it to another level by setting it in a lovely glass, building a seasonal fresh fruit salad around it (blood orange, strawberry and pistachio comes to mind) and making a granita to sprinkle over the top.
1/3 cup pure cream
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 titanium-strength gelatine leaves
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsp pure cream, extra
For the quinces
2 medium quinces
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
HEAT CREAM, sugar and half the vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches scalding point. Turn off heat and allow vanilla to infuse for an hour.
SOAK GELATINE IN COLD WATER for 2 minutes. Gently reheat the vanilla cream and stir in squeezed gelatine until dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in buttermilk and strain mixture into a bowl.
COOL THE BUTTERMILK mixture in the refrigerator, whisking every 20 to 30 minutes for about 2 hours, or until mixture is beginning to set. It will start to set around the edges of the bowl first, and the whisking is important to prevent lumps forming. The result will be a smooth, light product.
WHIP THE EXTRA 2 tbsp cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the buttermilk mixture. It is important that the buttermilk mixture is slightly set at this stage so it holds the cream; the components must have similar consistencies.
POUR MIXTURE into four glasses or ramekins. Refrigerate overnight.
FOR THE QUINCES, combine the sugar, 1 cup water, cinnamon and the remaining vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
PEEL, CORE AND SLICE quinces into wedges and add to the syrup. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is tender. Remove quinces from liquid using a slotted spoon and set aside. Continue to simmer sauce until syrupy, about 30 minutes. Discard vanilla pod and cinnamon stick.
JUST BEFORE SERVING, top with quince, some poaching syrup and serve.
Photography William Meppem, Jennifer Soo. Styling Hannah Meppem. Food preparation Nick Banbury.