Ever tried sweet woodruff? It just recently found its way into our apartment again, immediately permeating our kitchen and senses with its rich fragrance, a scent somewhere between marzipan, almonds and amaretto. I got a bundle of already wilted woodruff (much more intense) and a cute looking fresh plant (in some weird way reminding me of hemp), just to see how they differ in taste. And the difference in fact is HUGE. In comparison to the dried woodruff, the plant hardly smells at all. However, even only after 2 hours of removing one or two branches to let them dry, they miraculously become super fragrant.
When Oliver walked in the door, he directly headed to the kitchen assuming that it would be the source of the intense scent. “WOW, that smells fantastic!!” So when I told him what it was, he was completely baffled – he never liked woodruff. It was probably a 70ies and 80ies thing to flavor jell-o and puddings, even ice cream. I didn’t like it either back then, but the plant’s actual taste is so different from those -presumably- artificial flavors!
Woodruff is said to have mind-altering properties if consumed in too large quantities. What’s “too large” again?? While that may sound like a fun thing to find out, very high doses can also cause more severe discomfort. I dare to say that the small bunch we used to infuse the panna cotta with is far, very far from even being remotely dangerous. But wait, where do all the colors and the music come from all of a sudden…
Finally, after months devoid of good strawberries the ones used in this recipe easily qualified for an A+, measured not only by their deep red looks but even more importantly by their pronounced taste, which perfectly complemented the mild woodruff taste of the yogurt-cream. Sooo good. This recipe was an instant favorite for Oliver and although at some point late last year he felt like he was being drowned in panna cotta (and thus asked me to not make one for a long time) he’s so into this dessert again. Thank god ;)
Heat the cream, add the sugar and a lengthwise sliced vanilla bean (and the scraped out vanilla seeds). Let it simmer for about 10 minutes and stir every now and then. Remove from the heat.
2 Infuse the mix with the woodruff for about 30 minutes (just dip the leaves, don’t let the stalks get in touch with the cream as they might turn it bitter), then remove vanilla pod and woodruff. Pour the cream trough a fine mesh sieve. Add the Greek yogurt and blend well.
Meanwhile soak the sheets of gelatin in cold water (for about 10 min). Take the sheets out, don’t squeeze (as you need some water) and put them in a small pot. Heat carefully (maybe add another 1 or 2 tablespoons of water) and stir until completely dissolved. Add it to the cream/yogurt mixture and stir thoroughly until fully combined. (The original magazine recipe suggested the double amount of yoghurt, but I tried to avoid a too tangy result. It further suggested to use artificial coloring to turn the whole thing green – why would I want to do that?)
Chill for at least 5 hours, better over night.
To unmold the panna cotta, briefly dip the form in hot water and carefully flip it over on a plate. Decorate either with strawberry puree, fresh strawberries – or both.
Tip: Unmolding is not very easy, because I only used little gelatin with this recipe. If you want to be on the safe side, feel free to add another 1/2 sheet of gelatin or serve in pretty glasses.
Woodruff Panna Cotta
Recipe source: inspired by Living at Home 05/2003, p.88
Prep time: about 40min., chilling: at least 5 hours, better over night
Ingredients (serves 4):
400 ml heavy cream
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped out
1 bunch of woodruff, wilted
150g Greek yogurt
2 sheets gelatine
2 tbsp water
150g fresh strawberries
additional strawberries for decoration