Allow me to introduce you to my newest obsession: lemon verbena or in a French way – verveine (I think it sounds better like this). Every other year, I spend my Christmas in the South of France and on the cold days, when you’re afraid to stuck your nose outside (yes, forget the myth it’s always warm and sunny there), verveine tea is a true comfort. It has the freshness and the depth of flavour quite different from anything else and I think I drink in not litres but buckets while staying there. However, for reasons beyond my understanding, I never drink it once I’m back, and only when Christmas is around the corner that I remember it.
This year Christmas spirit visited me rather early. It was October I believe (I blame the cold weather), when I got hooked on the idea of verveine tea. I thought about it. I waited. But as patience and will are not among my best qualities, a shortcut was made to start enjoying this early. After some research and running around, I got my package of dried verveine and sipping the first verveine tea cup of the year, it just dawned on me, that this would do great things in deserts… I’ve never tasted any with verveine before, but the idea was so appealing, that I just had to do something. But what? Some consultations with my Flavor Bible (a fantastic book by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg) later and a panna cotta infused with verveine was on the way. To make the taste a bit more complex a blueberry coulis was added on top.
Now let me just tell you, the sweet, the sour and the creamy verveine base was heavenly. Truly heavenly… It’s one of those things in life that can make you happy in no time. Just like chocolate. And macarons. Or chocolate macarons. Or chocolate vanilla macarons… Ok, never mind… Here’s how you can make it (4 regular servings or 14 shots)
- 350 ml cream
- 150 ml whole milk
- 3 gelatine leaves
- 80 g sugar
- 7-8 lemon verbena leaves (I used dried, but fresh would be even better)
- 150g fresh blueberries
- 70 g sugar (can a bit more depending how sweet you want it to be)
- Bring the cream and the milk to boil, add the lemon verbena and let it rest for about 10 minutes to infuse.
- Soak the gelatine leaves for about 5 minutes in ice cold water.
- Strain the milk cream mixture through a sieve, then add the sugar and warm the liquid again mixing until the sugar dissolves.
- Squeeze the extra water out of the gelatine leaves and add to them to the pot, mix well and set aside to cool a bit.
- When it's cool, pour into the ramekins (or shot glasses) and transfer to the fridge for 5-6 hours, overnight works best.
- Place the blueberries and sugar in the blender and crush them well.
- Transfer to pan (on medium heat) and warm up till the point that all sugar has dissolved (this will take about 5 minutes). Set aside to cool until serving.
- Pour some of the coulis on top of the panna cotta and think of Provence. I always do. Enjoy!
Doesn’t this look absolutely divine? (photos by ieva)