When it comes to beer pairings, desserts don’t always get a whole lot of love (apart from a token nod to chocolate stout paired with, you guessed it, anything chocolate).
Instead, we gravitate towards beer’s savoury pairing potential, from burgers and pies to cheese and roast meats. That’s not wrong, of course, but think of it this way: swapping out your Moscato allows you yet another opportunity to enjoy beer at the dinner table.
I’ve always found rose to be a captivating flavour, and, clichés acknowledged, it seems a particularly appropriate choice for February. So, I turned to this panna cotta recipe. (“Panna cotta” is Italian for “cooked cream” – if you haven’t tried it before, think of crème brûlée, minus the brûlée). The rose here, balanced by vanilla and cream, is delicate, not at all soapy. And cardamom adds an additional dimension, evoking Middle Eastern desserts.
Creamy and delicately flavoured puddings can be tricky to pair with beer; avoiding anything overly bitter or sour here is key. In this case, Boon Framboise was just the thing. Frank Boon was one of the first to revive raspberry lambics back in the 1970s, and I’m glad he did. This beer is so redolent of freshly picked berries that sniffing it is like stumbling into a bramble patch (the label promises more than 300 grams of berries per litre). It’s just tart enough to cut through the creaminess of the dessert without unbalancing it – and raspberry and rose are a dream together.
Panna cotta sounds fancy, and therefore difficult to make. Luckily, it really isn’t. The active prep time for this dessert is about 15 minutes; the hardest part might be waiting the five-odd hours for it to chill and set. In other words, this should be your new dinner party or special occasion go-to.
[Just don’t knock over an entire bottle of red food colouring in your white kitchen while you’re making your panna cotta. The dye will splatter all over your appliances and floor and will somehow get inside of your washing machine (?!) and your flatmates will think you’ve committed a murder. The recipe is much harder if you do that.]
Rose Water Panna Cotta
Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater
600ml double cream
100ml whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
3 sheets gelatin 10 tbs icing sugar
3-4 drops red food colouring (optional)
4 tsp rose water (more to taste)
300ml Greek yoghurt
Dried rose petals and nibbed pistachios for garnish (optional)
Simmer the first four ingredients in a small saucepan for 5-6 minutes, or until the mixture begins to steam and get pleasingly frothy around the edges. In the meantime, soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water.
Remove the cream mixture from the heat and add in the sugar, stirring until fully incorporated. Add the food colouring, if you want your panna cotta to look as rosy as it tastes. Next, add the rose water and gelatin leaves (they should be slippery and soft at this point) and stir to dissolve. Lastly, gently stir in the Greek yoghurt until the mixture is uniform. Taste at this point to see if the rose water is strong enough for your liking; add a few drops more if you want yours especially floral.
Pour the mixture through a sieve and into a jug. From the jug, pour into six prepared dessert cups or glasses. Cover each tightly with cling film and chill for at least five hours prior to serving. Garnish with the dried rose petals and pistachios for a bit of extra colour.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.