Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb, Rhubarb Sorbet and Sweet Toasted Seeds

I bought a Lemon Verbena plant by complete accident – thinking it was Tarragon. Yes, goes to show how much I know of gardening. The unique lovely ‘lemony’ flavour came to a complete surprise.It is both unusual and refreshing without any harshness of say, mint. Apart from the flavour another bonus of this plant is that it is ‘Adré Proof’, you can’t kill this plant even if you wanted too. It just does it own thing every season.

Rhubarb: My Science teacher in Primary School, ‘Juffrou Bessie’ (roughly translated Teacher Berry) introduced us to rhubarb, literally the whole branch of it. I looked like something from the Amazon Forest. Unfortunately the introduction was on the same day we found the class bullfrog belly up. The poor branch resembled something the frog should sit on not necessarily something we should eat. It needed a recipe like this to bring any love back for rhubarb.

The inspiration for this recipe came from an eccentric chef Glynn Purnell. Admittedly I have never heard of him and his cookbook Cracking Yolks & Pig Tales came recommended by Amazon in my inbox. Not a glamorous encounter but I was a bit tired of recipe books promoting ‘Clean Eating’ (what does that even mean? – not eating?) so this book was such a refreshing change. Funny and a bit bonkers (Smoked Haddock with Cornflakes) but the recipes are undisguised and without sounding like a food bite, ‘real’.

Which brings me to the Toasted Seeds, this should come with a warning, they are seriously delicious and you could possibly work them into every mealtime. As a cereal, tick, over a salad, possibly and yes with most desserts. Enjoy!


Panna Cotta

  • 500ml double Cream
  • 15g lemon verbena
  • 150ml full-fat milk
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 6g gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water – approx 10min

Poached Rhubarb

  • 200ml cranberry juice
  • 120g granulated sugar (or use vanilla sugar if you have a jar)
  • 120ml warm water
  • 1 vanilla pod split (keep the pod to add to your vanilla sugar pot)
  • 5 rhubarb stalks, cut into 7cm batons

Rhubarb Sorbet

  • 600g rhubarb – cut into large pieces
  • 200ml cranberry juice
  • 140ml stock syrup – see below

Stock Syrup

  • 800ml water
  • 500g caster sugar

Sweet Toasted Seeds

  • 350g jumbo porridge oats
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 50g black sesame seeds
  • 50g white sesame seeds
  • 50g poppy seeds
  • 75g wheatgerm
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 100g runny honey
  • 75ml olive oil


Panna Cotta

  1. Bring the cream and lemon verbena to a boil, remove from the heat and leave to infuse till cool
  2. Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar has fully dissolve
  3. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and stir into the milk mixture until fully dissolved
  4. Add the milk mixture to the infused cream and gently whisk
  5. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a large pouring jug
  6. Pour the cooled mixture into desired ramekins, Kilner jars, plates, or bowls
  7. Refrigerate till set

Poached Rhubarb

  1. Place cranberry juice, water, sugar and vanilla pod into a wide saucepan, bring to gentle simmer until all the sugar has dissolved
  2. Add the rhubarb batons – they should be completely covered
  3. Poach for 5minutes or until a sharp knife push through without resistance (see note)
  4. Carefully lift out the rhubarb – set aside to cool
  5. Once cooled the rhubarb can be stored into the liquid for up to a week

Stock Syrup

  1. Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan until all the sugar has melted taken care not to boil the mixture before all the sugar has melted
  2. Once all the sugar has dissolved – boil for 2minutes
  3. Remove from the pan and pass through a sieve
  4. Store in a sterilised jar in the fridge, it will last for up to 1 month (I suspect for even longer)

Rhubarb Sorbet

  1. Place rhubarb and cranberry juice into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Simmer 5-10minutes until rhubarb is tender
  3. Pass the mixture through a sieve
  4. Place rhubarb mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. While the machine is still moving, gradually add rhubarb liquid until mixture is completely smooth
  5. Add the stock syrup and churn in an ice-cream machine until the right consistency (see note)

Toasted Seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 150c and line a deep tray with greaseproof paper
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients thoroughly – use your hands
  3. Add the honey and oil in stages ensuring all the ingredients are evenly coated
  4. Spread the seed mixture into the tray and bake for 15-25minutes until golden stirring the mixture frequently.
  5. Remove and leave to cool

To Serve

Take the sorbet out of the fridge to softens slightly.

Remove the bowls from the fridge and sprinkle some of the toasted seeds over the panna cotta. Place 2/3 batons of rhubarb in the centre of the panna cotta and top with a scoop of the sorbet. Have some poaching liquor ready for those who would like to drizzle some over the already indulgent dessert.

Kitchen Notes

-If you don’t have an ice-cream machine transfer the mixture to a foil container and place in the freezer to freeze till solid. Once solid, place the frozen sorbet into a blender and blend until smooth and it reaches a sorbet consistency. Serve immediately or alternatively freeze again and repeat the above process just before serving.

–Be careful not to overcook the rhubarb. It has the tendency to overcook the moment you take your eye off it (see pic for evidence!)


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