Pumpkin Panna Cotta

My love for panna cotta started when we had to make panna cotta at one of our practical classes at university.

Don’t you wish you could eat more panna cotta? Panna cotta is a good as dessert gets! Unfortunately, we hardly ever see it on menus (or maybe I just don’t eat out too often & at the right restaurants?). The other problem I have with trying something I have not eaten at a specific restaurant (in other words – the UNKNOWN) is that I am often disappointed. We went to an Italian restaurant recently and to my surprise there was panna cotta on the dessert menu. Obviously I had to give it a try. I must say the texture was great – it was really smooth, delicate and extremely light and it had that wobble to it, but the flavour was disappointing and dull. So once again, it left me feeling dissapointed.

If you are Afrikaans, most of you probably grew up with ‘flamby’ desserts – the instant crème caramel / flan packs that your mom used to make. She even had the little ‘flamby’ sets especially for this instant dessert that we all loved. Random fact: ‘Flamby’ is actually a French trademark product name owned by Nestlé and Lactalis. It is the name for a caramel custard dessert that is packaged and sold in little plastic ‘pots’.  The correct word is actually ‘Flanby’.

At the restaurant one of the guests at our table asked me what panna cotta was and I had to explain it to him. When my panna cotta dessert arrived, he said: “Oh, it’s a flamby!” And I just had to laugh and sort of agree! Créme caramel is made of an egg custard that has been poured over a caramel sauce and is then cooked in a bain marie in an oven. As you unmold the créme caramel, the caramel has melted and now serves as a sauce for the baked custard. The egg serves as a thickening agent in crème caramel and sets it. Panna cotta does not have any eggs in, but relies on the gelatine to set the mixture in the fridge. A sauce for panna cotta is only added after the dessert has been unmolded.

Too much information for one day? 🙂  Okay, let’s get back to the point.

The question remained: Why have I not made my own panna cotta at home?

I don’t know why I have never attempted this simple dish ever again after university. Being autumn and all, I thought it would work well to incorporate the autumn flavours into this dessert.

A lot of times cooks are scared to work with gelatine & I can guarantee you there is no need to feel this way – it all comes down to knowing the basics about gelatine. Here are some tips:

  • In South Africa we hardly get leaf gelatine or gelatine sheets, so we normally use powdered gelatine & to tell you the truth I prefer working with powdered gelatine. Powdered gelatine is easily available at most grocery shops. You can even buy larger quantities of gelatine at baking shops.
  • You need to ‘bloom’ powdered gelatine. Blooming is a very important step in ensuring your gelatine is properly incorporated into your mixture and ensuring that your end product does not separate.
  • You can bloom gelatine in almost any liquid, not just water. The liquid always has to be room temperature or colder. NEVER hot liquid.
  • To bloom gelatine, the ratio is more or less 1 part gelatine : 2 parts liquid. Pour the liquid into a small bowl (like a ramekin) and pour the gelatine over it. The gelatine will absorb the liquid and swell, but still keeping its granules. You need to melt the gelatine either in a water bath on the stove or in the microwave. Using the microwave is way easier and quick.
  • Be careful not to let the gelatine boil. If gelatine boils it loses structural integrity and it might not set. Once all of the granules are melted, remove from the heat, or stop the microwave and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • If it starts to harden before you are ready to add it to your mixture, you can just reheat it.
  • Do not add hot gelatine to cold mixes. You can, however, add the hot melted gelatine straight to hot mixtures.
  • It is best to add gelatine to a recipe as one of the very last steps as it will start working quite quickly if the mixture is quite cold.

Once you see how it easy it really is to prepare panna cotta, you will make it at home all the time! Once again, feel free to experiment with flavours and combinations.

I must say that this is not the lightest or smoothest panna cotta I have ever tasted. It has pumpkin in after all, so immediately your brain should tell you that it cannot be as light as a mere honey or vanilla panna cotta, but there are a few tips to make the pumpkin as smooth as possible (please read recipe for tips). In this panna cotta’s defence I must say that it has the wobble to it and is very flavourful with all the right spices – a perfect autumn dessert.

I have made a simple rooibos syrup to serve with the panna cotta. I have also added a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  The sauce is really sweet, so make sure that it is not too thick and make sure you only pour a very, very thin layer thereof.

You can make panna cotta in ramekins, dariole moulds, or if you don’t mind your panna cotta having an ‘old school’ twist, you can use your little ‘flamby’ plastic containers – the panna cotta slides out of the moulds without effort. If you are using dariole mould or ramekins, you can take a sharp paring knife and loosen the edges or you can dip the mould into hot water for a few seconds to loosen the edges so that the panna cotta doesn’t stick to the mould.

Cups - FB

Dariole Mold Plating - FB

Plastic Mould with Spoon - FB

Pumpkin Panna Cotta & Rooibos Syrup

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 small containers

Adapted from: Pastry Affair


    Panna Cotta
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2½ Teaspoons Gelatine
  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 80ml Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Purée (I used butternut, but any pumpkin will work; if you make your own, make sure to remove more of the skin than you would normally – the whiter parts don’t soften as easily and can cause your end result to have a coarse texture)
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ⅛ Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ⅛ Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • A Pinch of Chinese All Spice
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
    Rooibos Syrup
  • 250ml granulated sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 1 Teaspoon of Red Espresso (ground rooibos) or you can use a few teabags
  • 4 Vanilla Husks (vanilla beans already scraped out and used for something else)
  • 4 Black Peppercorns
  • 1 Star Anise
  • Rind of half a Small Orange
  • 2 Lemons


    Panna Cotta Instructions
  1. Work the pumpkin purée through a sieve and place it in a food processor. Add the cream, salt, all spices and salt. Blend until smooth.
  2. Bloom the gelatine with some of the milk.
  3. Add the rest of the milk to a saucepan and heat up. Add the pumpkin mix to the milk. Take an emulsion blender and blend the mixture to make sure more of the uneven pumpkin particles get broken down. Keep on heating this mixture.
  4. Melt the gelatine in the microwave and pour it into the hot pumpkin & milk mixture. Mix well for another 2 minutes. Please don’t let it boil.
  5. You can now pour out the mixture into your containers. Once the mixture is cool you can cover it and place in the fridge until it is set firmly. Mine was set overnight.
  6. Once the panna cot is set, unmold and add the rooibos syrup and a dollop of cream.
    Rooibos Syrup Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized pot.
  2. Over very low heat, stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. If you are not sure, press onto the base of the pot with your finger. (Before you do this, please be sure that the mixture is not too hot). This step is crucial!
  3. Once all of the sugar is dissolved, boil the mixture over medium heat for about 12 minutes – DO NOT mix the sugar syrup – just leave the pot as is without stirring.
  4. Strain the syrup through a sieve to remove all of the larger flavour elements. Set it aside to cool.
  5. Once the syrup is cool, add the juice of 2 lemons and mix with some warm water to make sure it is not too thick. It should be not nearly as thick as the syrup you get at the supermarket. It should in fact be a little watery.
  6. Because the panna cotta already has sugar in, having too much or a too thick sauce on your plate will leave you ending up with a dessert that is inedible.
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Fresh Butternut & Carrot Salad

Lately, a lot of people have asked me to post a recipe for something easy to prepare on a weeknight. Well, you asked for it and here it is. 🙂

While it’s still autumn, let’s stick to the warm colours and loads of pumpkin!

We recently had a braai at our house and I had to make some side dishes. Having butternut in the house mostly all year round, I thought it would be easy to make use of this wonderful, versatile vegetable. Who says butternut can only be eaten cooked?

This salad is really easy to prepare just before the meat on the braai is cooked. The guests will hardly notice you were gone!

Dressing Before - FB

Dressing After - FB

Salad and Dressing - FB

Salad Bowl - FB

Salad Plating - FBPlating Angle - FB

Fresh Butternut & Carrot Salad

Served 4

Adapted from: Food Well Said


  • Salad Dressing:
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ Teaspoon Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Wholegrain Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Red Onion
  • A Pinch of Salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Salad:
  • ± 1½ Cups Shaved Butternut (± ½ of a very small butternut)
  • ± 1½ Cups Shaved Carrots (± 2 medium carrots)
  • 2 Cups Rocket (I prefer wild rocket, but normal rocket is also fine)
  • A Handful of Dates
  • A Handful of Sunflower Seeds
  • A Handful of Pumpkin Seeds


  1. To make the salad dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a small glass jar with a lid. With the lid secured tightly, shake the jar vigorously until it is well combined and an emulsion has formed. Leave it in the refrigerator until later.
  2. To make the salad, peel the butternut and remove the seeds. With a peeler, shave the butternut to form long thin slices. Repeat this process with the carrots. There is no need to peel the carrots first – you can use the outer layer if is has been properly scrubbed with a brush to remove all of the soil. Less wastage!
  3. Combine the butternut, carrots and salad dressing in a mixing bowl. Allow to ‘marinate’ for 30 minutes.
  4. Cut the dates into smaller pieces – whichever size you prefer.
  5. Over medium heat in a non-stick pan (without any oil), toast the seeds for a few minutes. Please stir them every ten or so seconds as they can burn easily. They will start popping when they are busy toasting. Once they are golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool completely. The seeds can be eaten raw, but I prefer the flavour of toasted seeds – it really does enhance the flavour and bring out a nutty taste that wasn’t there before.
  6. Carefully place the ‘marinated’ butternut and carrots on a platter or in a salad bowl. Add the rocket. Lastly, scatter the dates and seeds over the rocket. You can also combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and then empty onto a platter or into a salad bowl – it is entirely up to you and which look you are going for.
  7. I have added some goat’s cheese pecorino to this salad and it really works well. It is also recommended that you grate in fresh horseradish with the salad, but I cannot seem to find it anywhere, so I have added horseradish cream to my portion.
  8. Serve immediately.
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BTW – Toasted seeds are great as healthy snacks throughout the day! Read more about the benefits here and here.

Feel free to play around with the ingredients. Grating the butternut and carrots can also work!

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie FB

When I think of autumn, I think of imagine myself reading a book under a tree shedding its warm-coloured leaves, warm aromatic Chai tea, rich butternut soup and cinnamon.

Celebrating Halloween, Americans always make pumpkin EVERYTHING – from carved pumpkins for decorations, pumpkin pie, and they even have something called ‘pumpkin spice latte’ at many coffee shops.

Because I am a major cinnamon fan and because cinnamon reminds me of autumn, I thought to myself why not try something that is not so well-known in South Africa, like pumpkin pie?

As you probably have seen in all our grocery stores, we do not get pumpkin purée in tins. You have to make your own. Please don’t be discouraged (and lazy) – it is so simple to make your own pumpkin purée. The pumpkin I used was butternut, but you can use whichever pumpkin you prefer. In terms of size, it is just easier to work with butternut than boerpampoen and hubbard squash, for instance. You cook (simmer / steam) the pumpkin until soft and then you purée it in a food processor once it has cooled – et voilà, there you have pumpkin purée.

Pumpkin Pie Mix

One of the latest trends in food is to use all the elements of the food that you are cooking with – the less wastage the better.  For this recipe I have also incorporated all the elements of the butternut, including the skin and the seeds which were used as part of the garnish. There is no need to be scared to play around and experiment with the elements you would normally throw in the bin or your compost heap. The seeds were baked in the oven with a little salt and sunflower oil until lightly golden brown (please don’t over-bake or it will become very bitter). The skins were candied in a pot, dried out in the oven, cooled and then crushed into a powder by using a mortar & pestle. For this recipe I cooked the pumpkin with a third of an orange’s skin. With the rest of the orange I made segments and burnt the segments with a blowtorch. Oranges really work well with butternut.

To finish the pie off I made a ginger cream cheese that was also used as part of the garnish.
Candied Butternut SkinButternut Skin Powder Pumpkin Seeds

I am by no means an expert baker and it is not really my strong suit, but it was definitely worth the effort to make my own pie crust. It gives a very soft, crumbly crust that tastes like butter. If I can try it, so can you. 🙂

Please let me know if you would like the recipe of the pie crust?


Pumpkin Pie


  • 2 Cups Pumpkin Purée (± 600g)
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 120ml Brown Sugar
  • 180ml Evaporated Milk
  • 1t Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼t Ground Nutmeg
  • 1t Salt


  1. Whisk together the pumpkin purée, eggs and brown sugar.
  2. Add the evaporated milk to the mixture and whisk until combined.
  3. Lastly, add the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk until combined.
  4. Pour into a cool prepared 30cm tart shell.
  5. Bake at 190°C for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for an additional 30 – 35 minutes.
  6. Once the pie is cooked, let it cool completely before removing from the pan. Finish off by garnishing the pie with the other pumpkin elements.
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