I have a confession to make. I love shopping at Costco. My heart starts to pound when I see 1.5kgs of butter and my palms get itchy walking by the 1kg peanut butter jars and 2kg cream cheese blocks. I could often be seen at the front of the line when a new batch of sample steaks are about ready and I would rarely say no when staff offer me free cheese to try. When my mum and I joined Costco, we literally spent $400-500 each time we shopped there. In fact, I think she still does.
My rational is that sometimes it’s just convenient to buy things in bulk when you know you need it for say a large party, or because well, they just look so cool (how awesome would it be if you built a house with butter bricks? It might melt in the sun but still…) and Costco is so far away from me so I have to get more of what I need in one go….ok…deep breathe.
Of course, one of the issues that come with buying in bulk is buying too much of something that you possibly won’t need or use for a very long time (talking from experience here) and it’s bad when the product is perishable (duh), tiny bit better if it can be frozen (if you have the freezer space).
Just the other day, I was digging through Yuye’s freezer and found a bag of mixed frozen berries that I haven’t seen for a long time. I panicked. It had 500g of berries left and was nearing its expiry date. A lot of recipes went through my head at that moment, in a frantic struggle to not let a perfectly good bag of berries go to waste.
The recipe that I settled on was this lovely vanilla panna cotta with mixed berry compote. The compote turned out a little more watery than I wanted but that’s because the berries were not as fresh. You can tell if the berries had huge clumps of ice stuck to them, signalling that you will get a lot of water in your compote. If you used fresh berries or a fresh bag of frozen berries, it should turn out a lot better.
I also made the mistake of putting the panna cotta in glasses that were too large, so they ended up only filling 3 glasses but should actually fill 4 regular ones. As a result, I also struggled to finish one glass by myself. Yuye didn’t seem to mind the size though and even ate my left over portion. Considering he doesn’t usually have a sweet tooth, it must mean that he thought they were quite delicious.
I made a mental note that next time I buy a bag of these frozen berries, I need to have a few recipes lined up first.
Also feel free to substitute mixed berries with just one type such as blueberries as this will also turn out very well.
Vanilla panna cotta with mixed berry compote
Total time: 6 hours 20 mins
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking & setting time: 6 hours
Adapted from David Lebovitz
For the panna cotta
• 2 cups heavy cream (if you don’t like it as creamy, you can use half cream and half milk)
• 50g caster sugar
• 1/2 vanilla bean (cut lengthwise and seeds scraped out) or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 tbsp unflavoured powdered gelatin
• 2 tbsp cold water
For the berry compote
• 120g frozen mixed berries
• 30g caster sugar
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can be omitted)
1. Combine cream and 50g sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add in vanilla bean seeds and pod (or vanilla extract) and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Discard vanilla bean pod.
2. Pour the 2 tbsp cold water in a small bowl, add in gelatine powder and let sit for roughy 10 minutes – do not stir.
3. Pour simmered cream mixture over gelatine and stir until all the gelatine is dissolved.
4. Pour cream mixture into 4 serving glasses or ramekins and leave in the fridge to set for a few hours or overnight.
5. Put frozen mixed berries, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat on medium high until melted and soft. Stirring occasionally to melt the sugar.
6. Take off heat and cool.
7. When the panna cotta has set, in the fridge and ready to be served, spoon berry compote over the serving glasses and top with a mint leaf. Serve chilled.
Panna cottas are so easy to make and can be made ahead of time so they are perfect party finishers that can wow guests.
Question time: Do you like to buy ingredients in bulk or do you like to shop more often and buy in smaller portions?