Panna Cotta with Spiced Berries and Orange Tea Sauce

I am a Tea lover! Drinking tea or chai is a big part of Indian culture, its a celebration in a way. Growing up, drinking at least 3 cups of aromatic tea (over a span of 3 to 4 hours) in the morning of the weekends was a ritual in my family- it was a medium of socializing and making conversations, catching up on the things that happened during the weekdays, cracking jokes, making plans for the weekend, re-bonding in a lot of ways. A very relaxing way to start the weekend!

A perfect cup of chai is a concoction of tea leaves, milk, sugar and spices boiled to perfection. Taking aromatic and spiced chai as an inspiration I made two mixtures to accompany the panna cotta- A sauce with black tea and orange juice and spiced berries, both sweetened with honey.

I infused the berries with the spices to enhance the flavors and to loose the tartness, it became a sweet and spicy compote like mixture. I reversed this process with the orange sauce by adding the tartness of orange juice to a black tea and honey mixture, this sauce tastes very fruity yet not overpowering. This turned out to be a perfect dessert with tangy, tart and sweet flavors with a hint of spice- just what you want for a summer evening!

To make Panna Cotta:

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup fine sugar
2 tsp good vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
1 pkt unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold whole milk to dissolve the gelatin

Mix the gelatin with a quarter cup cold milk ans let it set for a minimum of 5 min (just so that the gelatin swells up completely). In a deep pan pour cream, milk and put on medium heat, add sugar and vanilla extract and keep stirring till the mixture heats up (not boiling but just very hot). Mix in the gelatin and keep whisking till all the crystals are dissolved completely- to test it dip a spoon in the mixtures and there should be a smooth coating on the back of the spoon. Pour into 6 buttered ramekins and let it set in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight. To unmould the panna cotta dip the ramekins in hot water for 30 to 40 seconds, run a knife around the edges and turn it out on a plate- you might have to tap the bottom of the ramekins a little.

To make Spiced Berries:

Make your own combination of berries- I mixed blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and red grapes
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
3 cardamoms
In a medium saucepan mix water, sugar and honey and heat till the sugar and honey dissolves completely. Add the spices and leave it on low to medium heat for 15 min. Take off from the heat and let it cool till it reaches the room temperature. Strain it and mix with the berries. leave it for at least 4 hours so that the spices are nicely infused with the berries.

To make Orange Tea Sauce:

1 cup water
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup honey
2 tea bags (use black tea)
2 tsp cornstarch

Warm up the water and add the tea bags and let it sit for 5 min. Mix in the honey and bring it to the room temperature. Once cooled add the orange juice and take it back to the stove. boil the liquid on medium heat for about 10 to 12 min and add cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Set aside and let cool. You can make this sauce in a day in advance. Arrange the panna cotta in a plate and enjoy it with fresh fruit flavors!