Method For the lilac syrup Remove the individual lilac flowers from their stem. Be sure to only take the purple flowers, discard all brown flowers and green stems. Wash lilac flowers. Place flowers, sugar and water in a saucepan. On medium heat, bring to a simmer and continue to simmer for 10 mins. Remove from heat and strain through a wire strainer. Use the back of a metal spoon to push as much colour and flavor out of the flowers as possible. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature then refrigerate. Can be made a week in advance.
For the panna cotta Place gelatin sheets in enough cold water to cover the sheets. If you haven’t used them before, don’t worry about the gelatin sheets dissolving, they will hold together as a sheet in the cold water but will become floppy. Place cream, blueberries, lilac syrup and sugar in a saucepan. Over medium heat bring to almost a simmer. When you start seeing bubbles remove from heat and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Take gelatin sheets from water and shake off excess water. Add to hot cream and gently stir until dissolved and well incorporated. Strain the panna cotta mixture through a wire strainer. Pour into moulds and cool to room temperature uncovered. This will take at least an hour. Once at room temperature, cover and place in the fridge over night. Can be made a couple of days in advance.
For the blueberry coulis Make the blueberry coulis on the day of serving. Add blueberries, sugar and lemon juice to a saucepan and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and simmer until the coulis has thickened. Similar to the consistency of traditional jam but not dry. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
For the ganache Chop the chocolate into small pieces or shavings and place in a clean bowl. Set aside. Put cream into a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Don’t take your eyes off it. Cream tends to boil over very quickly. Remove from heat and whisk it into the white chocolate. Keep whisking until the chocolate has completely dissolved and you have a smooth ganache. Pour into a small pouring vessel. Individual vessels per guest are thoughtful but if in a shared vessel, the fight over the remaining ganache can make things fun. In terms of timing during dining, make the ganache as close as possible to serving. I put the saucepan with the cream in the fridge and I leave the shaved chocolate in the bowl at room temperature ready and waiting. When the main course is finished, I quickly make the ganache and pour it into the serving vessel. Then I plate the panna cotta.
Plating Make sure that your utensils, plates and all ingredients are cool to room temperature. Putting anything warm on or under the panna cotta will melt it. Wash the fresh lilac flowers and blueberries and lay them on a towel to dry. To remove the panna cotta from the moulds, take a sharp knife. Holding the panna cotta on its side, place the point of the knife between the inside of the mould and the panna cotta. Push the knife in slowly being careful not to pierce the panna cotta. The weight of the panna cotta will start to pull it away from the edges of the mould, let gravity help you. Once it starts to peel away, begin to roll the mould progressively until it peels completely from the edges. Place the plate against the opening of the mould while still on its side, precisely where you would like the panna cotta to be on the plate then turn the mould upside down with the plate underneath. Just as you would turn out a jelly. If you are having trouble getting them out you can quickly dip the bottom of the mould into very hot water, be careful not to allow any water into the panna cotta. Using a small spoon, place some of the coulis on top of each panna cotta. Using the back of the spoon, carefully spread the coulis to the edge of the panna cotta. Decorate each plate with blueberries and flowers. I often slice the bottom third off of one of the blueberries so that it looks submerged into the top of the panna cotta. Don’t forget to put the ganache on the table!
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