Fire and Ice

Hey folks, it’s the last weekend of the month and that means that it’s recipe time!

This month, however, I’m splitting my recipe in two. A post for 🔥 the vodka that I’m using as a heat source 🔥 and then this one for the main recipe.

And, also unlike my other recipes, I’m going to recommend that you don’t read on unless you’re above legal drinking age. This one uses alcohol and, while we will be setting fire to it, that only increases any risks.

It certainly won’t all burn off or evaporate like the rum in Dorset Chilli Shop’s lava cake.

If, however, the idea of spiced, flaming panna cotta with a burnt sugar topping appeals to you and you’re old enough to at least feign responsibility, go right on ahead.

For two portions of my flaming cherry bomb dessert, you’re going to need the following:


200ml double cream

100ml whole milk

1½ teaspoons or leaves of gelatine

1 vanilla pod

1 star of anise

2 green cardamom pods

50g brown sugar

20ml (just under a shot) of chilli vodka*

A lighter or other source of fire

And we’ll begin by mixing the milk, cream and thirty grams of the sugar in a small saucepan, being thorough to ensure an even consistency.

Add the spices, splitting open your vanilla pod to let the seeds out into the dairy, and turn up the heat on your hob. Not too high, of course, since we don’t want to boil and solidify any of our mixture. We just want to get a good simmer going to heat it through and infuse the spices.

Ideally, we want to keep that simmer going on a low heat for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally and using the rest of the time to soak our gelatine in cold water if it came in sheets. This helps soften it up for the next stage.

Once you’re satisfied with the length of your simmering or, if the mix does end up boiling slightly, strain it through a sieve into the dish you plan on serving it in. Ideally something like this that allows for a decent three-centimetre depth:


Or maybe some smaller diameter versions that let you split the dish in two.

Gently but thoroughly whisk in your gelatine while the dairy’s still as warm as possible to avoid clumping and then leave your mixture to cool. You may have to dry off the gelatine if you used sheets.

After ten minutes or so, everything should be more or less room temperature and ready to go into the fridge. Leave it there for at least an hour to make sure that it sets into a proper panna cotta and then transfer it to the freezer for twenty to thirty more minutes before serving. It needs to be extra cold to hold together when we set it on fire.

When you’re ready to do so, take your panna cotta out and use your remaining sugar to dust the top. If you’re feeling particularly confident in its integrity, you could even run a knife around the edge of its container and turn it out onto a plate but I’d rather not screw up on here for the world to see. I’m leaving mine in my ramekin.


Quickly but carefully, drizzle all but a teaspoon of your chilli vodka over the top to cover it and use your lighter (or other flame source) to warm up the remaining spoonful before setting it ablaze.

You now have a spoonful of blue fire to get the rest going. Pour it atop the panna cotta and enjoy the show while your sugar caramelises. It’s going to be a little too wet to turn crisp but it’s going to give the remaining vodka all the sweetness it needs, while adding a sophisticated flavour of its own.

Just make sure that it’s gone out before you dig in.

Subtle spices then work their way up from the smooth, creamy base but mostly it just serves as a great textured carrier and counterbalance for the flavour and (metaphorical) fire of our vodka.

The vodka I made held a surprisingly high


but, with the all the cream in this dish, I feel like it’s gone down to a mere



Yet it’s not really about the heat for me. This dish is about its carefully balanced chilli and cooling cream. About the interplay of sweet and “dry” tastes and about giving some of littlepod’s spices a place where they can really come into their own.

Of course, you can spice it up or down by varying the amount and/or type of chilli vodka but I like this dish as is. I think it tastes phenomenal and there’s a level of showmanship to serving it that I really enjoy, too.

I only wish that I’d been able to capture its flaming finale on video for you.

*The vodka that I’ve used in this recipe comes from 🔥 today’s mini recipe for chilli vodka 🔥. Other red chilli sorts,including most commercial varieties, will be a perfectly adequate substitute but may not pair quite as perfectly with the spices in the main body of this pudding.

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