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Orange Cardamom Panna Cotta with Spiced Mandarins & Pistachio Crumb

Panna cotta is one of Italy’s most-loved desserts. It’s a delightfully creamy pudding that is elegant enough for a special dinner, but is also surprisingly easy to make. I’ve added a hint of Middle-Eastern flavour with aromatic orange blossom, a crunchy crumb of pistachio and gently spiced mandarins. Check the packet instructions because you may need more or fewer gelatine sheets depending on the brand. You can easily make this a vegan dessert by using dairy-free milk and cream (such as soya or coconut) and a gelatine substitute, which are all now readily available in supermarkets.

Found in this book

Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook


Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, combine the cream, milk, sugar, cardamom pod and orange blossom water in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat.

Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine and add to the hot cream mixture. Whisk to dissolve the gelatine, then pass the cream through a sieve into a jug. Pour into four ramekins, leave to cool for 5 minutes, then chill in the fridge for 4 hours until set.

To make the spiced mandarins, set a sieve over a saucepan and drain the juice from the tin into the pan. Set the mandarins  aside in a bowl. Add the honey, star anise, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick to the pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow to cool and infuse for 30–40 minutes.

Remove the spices from the infused syrup and stir in lemon juice to taste. Pour the syrup over the reserved mandarins and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

For the pistachio crumb, place the sugar in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water. Heat gently over a low heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and simmer rapidly until golden.

While the sugar is boiling, brush a baking tray with a little oil and scatter the pistachios over it in an even layer, keeping them close together. As soon as the caramel is golden, remove from the heat, allow the bubbles to subside, then pour the caramel over the nuts. Leave to cool and set.

Place the cooled praline on a board and use a heavy knife to chop it into shards. Place the shards into a food processor and blitz to a coarse crumb – you still want to have a bit of crunch.

When ready to serve, dip the ramekins into warm water to release and tip the panna cotta out onto serving plates. Serve with the spiced mandarins and a sprinkling of pistachio crumb.



  • For the Panna Cotta
  • 2 gelatine leaves
  • 250ml double cream
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 cardamom pod, cracked
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (brands vary in strength, so adjust to taste)
  • For the Spiced Mandarins
  • 1 x 298g tin mandarins in natural juice
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
  • For the Pistachio Crumb
  • 35g granulated sugar
  • sunflower oil, for greasing
  • 30g pistachio nuts