Sea urchin panna cotta with dashi jelly & seaweed

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Preparation info

  • For

    6-8

    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey

Fusion

By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

  • About

In June 2008, we celebrated Matariki at The Providores restaurant for the first time. Matariki is what’s best described as Maori New Year and it takes its name from a cluster of stars normally seen in June, signifying the start of a new year to many cultures around the world, including the Japanese, Greek, Australian Aborigines, Chinese and Hindu. However, rather than being an excuse for a party to see in the new year, it symbolises the start of the planting of new crops, and a time to remember relatives, friends and ancestors who have passed on. As part of our own celebrations we sourced many New Zealand indigenous ingredients and used them to stunning effect on our menu. This dish was probably the biggest hit, and it was certainly a fusion of many cultures in itself. Kina is Maori for sea urchin, an acquired taste, but there truly is nothing quite so delicious as the coral from a freshly ‘shucked’ kina, or what the Japanese call uni. If you can’t source it fresh, you may be able to source it frozen from Asian food stores, or replace it with the fresh coral from scallops, or use whole oysters for a more earthy taste. For the seaweed, head to your local health food shop, or Asian food store, and see what they have to hand. If you can find the lovely crunchy vegetable samphire, use it as a garnish. Simply pick off any dry or discoloured branches and blanch and refresh twice in unsalted water. It has a lovely briny taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 x 10-cm piece kombu seaweed, rinsed briefly under warm water and wiped dry
  • 50 ml soy sauce (avoid dark soy sauces, a Japanese one is best for this)
  • 50 ml mirin
  • 550 ml filtered water
  • 6 g dried shaved bonito flakes (a very small handful)
  • 7 sheets leaf gelatine
  • 350 ml cream
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) fish sauce
  • 60 g fresh kina/sea urchin coral or 2 Tbsp dried kina powder
  • dried seaweed to garnish, soaked in cold water
  • a small handful samphire, blanched

Method

First make the dashi. Place the kombu, soy sauce, mirin and filtered water into a pan and very slowly bring almost to the boil - make sure it doesn’t boil though. Turn the heat off then add the bonito and give it a brief stir. Let it settle for 10 minutes. Strain it through a fine sieve and it’s ready to be used. The amazing thing about this stock is that it’s so simple to make, and yet so incredibly delicious.

You’ll need 6-8 jelly moulds, preferably metal (they demould easier) of around 150-200 ml volume each. Soak three of the leaves of gelatine in icy cold water for a few minutes. Bring 100 ml of the dashi almost to the boil, then drain the gelatine and mix this into the hot dashi to dissolve it. Mix in another 200 ml of dashi then divide this amongst your moulds. Leave to cool, then place on a tray in the fridge and leave to set.

Place the remaining dashi, the cream, fish sauce and 1 teaspoon flaky salt in a pot and slowly bring almost to the boil. Using a stick blender, pureée the kina with 100 ml of the hot liquid, or whisk the kina powder with 100 ml of the hot liquid, then add back to the pot. Soak the remaining 4 sheets of gelatine in icy cold water for a few minutes, then drain and mix into the cream mixture. Strain into a metal bowl, placed in an iced water-bath and leave to cool, stirring every few minutes until it begins to set, and has cooled to below body temperature. Carefully ladle it in on top of the jelly, then cover with plastic wrap and place back in the fridge to set. Leave for at least 6 hours.

To Serve

Unmould the panna cottas by dipping them very briefly in hot water, or briefly run hot water over them inverted under a tap, and place on a plate upside down. Hold the base of the mould and gently wobble until you feel it pop out. Garnish with the seaweed and serve with hot toast if you like.