Buttermilk, Beetroot, Lemon, Rose and Sumac

This pudding came about whilst in isolation during the Covid-19 outbreak because my father panic bought sumac. I love sumac, but I’m of the opinion that if you have one jar, you’re probably covered for the foreseeable – not so in my father’s head.

In Middle Eastern cooking, sumac is used to add tartness to savoury dishes, often in conjunction with or as a replacement to lemon. So this got me wondering whether it would be good in a dessert, which obviously I think it now is or it wouldn’t be on here!

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:

Beetroot meringue:

  • 4 Eggs, whites only
  • 400g icing sugar, approx. (2 x weight of egg white)
  • 65ml Beetroot concentrate

Buttermilk panna cotta:

  • 600g Double cream
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste
  • 3 leaves of Gelatine
  • 500g Buttermilk

Sumac roasted almonds:

  • 100g Whole almonds
  • 2 tbsp Sumac
  • 20g Honey
  • Pinch of Maldon salt

Lemon and rose curd:

  • 120g Lemon juice
  • 10g Rose water
  • 100g sugar
  • 3 – 4 eggs (150g in weight), beaten
  • 1 leaf of Gelatine
  • 175g Butter

Method:

Beetroot meringue:

  1. Preheat the oven to 90 C.
  2. Find a mixing bowl that fits snugly over the top of a pan and fill that pan a third of the way up with water ensuring that the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water when placed on top. Bring the water up to the boil.
  3. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and icing sugar in the selected mixing bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until well combined. Once the water has come up to the boil, remove it from the heat and place the bowl over the top. Whisk the whites and sugar until you can stand a teaspoon up in the mixture – this should take approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk the meringue until it’s cool. Add the concentrate when the meringue is nearly completely cool and whisk until evenly combined.
  5. Using a palette knife, spread the mixture evenly over a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. The meringue wants to be approximately 0.5cm thick.
  6. Cook the meringue in the oven until it is brittle, completely dried out and comes away from the paper easily. This will be approximately 1.5 – 2 hours.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Once cool, break into large shards.

Buttermilk panna cotta:

  1. Place the cream, sugar and vanilla in a pan and warm over a low to medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar doesn’t catch on the base of the pan.
  2. Soak the gelatine in water until it has softened, remove the leaves squeezing out any excess water and then add these to the cream. Stir the mixture until all of the gelatine has dissolved.
  3. Allow the cream to come down to room temperature. Meanwhile, remove the buttermilk from the fridge and allow this to come up to room temperature. Once both are similar in temperature, add the two together and whisk until they are evenly combined.
  4. At this point, we are going to pour the mixture into a container to set. I like to spoon my set panna cotta onto the plate for service, so I just use an airtight container to set it in, but you can just as easily set it in individual ramekins or moulds. If you are using moulds, brush the inside with a little flavourless oil to assist with the turning out process.
  5. Place the mixture in the fridge for at least 8 hours to set.

Sumac roasted almonds:

  1. Roast the almonds in an oven preheated to 150 C for 20 minutes and then allow to cool. Turn the oven up to 180 C.
  2. Combine the nuts with the honey, sumac and salt and tip out onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast the nuts again in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes until the honey has caramelised a little. Allow to cool completely and then blitz the nuts to a coarse consistency.

Lemon and rose curd:

  1. Similar to the whisking of the meringue, place a pan a third full of water on to boil. Place the lemon juice, rose water, sugar and egg in a bowl that fits snugly over the top of the pan without touching the water. Stir the mixture continuously until it thickens.
  2. Soak the gelatine in water and once soft, squeeze any excess water out and add to the lemon and rose mixture and stir until completely dissolved.
  3. Then whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time, ensuring that it is mixed in completely before adding the next piece. Allow the curd to cool before placing it in a piping bag (or just in a bowl) ready for service.

Assembly:

You can assemble this dish however you want – it’s good fun – particularly if you had had a few wines by this point! I really like the idea of the shards of meringue hiding the other elements of the dessert but play around with it and do what you think looks good. Finish off with a sprinkle of extra sumac – if you have any to spare!

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