In Mexico, horchata is made by soaking rice and or almonds in water then blending the mixture with sugar and spices until smooth. Served over ice, it’s a refreshing drink (see Note). Here, traditional horchata flavours are used to make a panna cotta with apricots braised in a hibiscus flower sugar syrup. Silky, delicate and beautifully balanced, this is modern Mexico at its best.
- 700 ml thickened cream
- 110 g caster sugar
- 60 g honey
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 60 g flaked almonds, toasted, plus extra to serve
- 6 g leaf gelatine (see Note)
- 300 ml water
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 10 g (¼ cup) dried hibiscus flowers (see Note)
- 150 g caster sugar
- 4 apricots, halved, seeds removed
- ¾ cup white rice
- 400 ml water
- ½ cinnamon stick
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 2 hours
Chilling time 3 hours
To make the horchata, place the rice, water and cinnamon in a bowl to soak, covered, for 2 hours. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 1 minute. Strain through muslin (discard solids) and measure 300 ml. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the cream, sugar, honey and cinnamon over low heat, stirring, until the sugar and honey dissolve. Add the almonds and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse for 1½ hours. Pass through a fine mesh strainer and measure 450 ml.
Soak gelatine sheets in cold water for 5 minutes, drain and gently squeeze out excess water. Reheat half the cream until just simmering, add the gelatine and stir until completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining cream then the horchata and mix until combined. Pour into 4, wide dessert glasses and refrigerate until set, 3–4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 160°C.
To cook the apricots, combine the water, vanilla bean and seeds and hibiscus flowers in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Return to a simmer and cook for 8–10 minutes until a light syrup forms. Arrange the apricots, cut-side down, in a small baking dish. Pour the syrup (including vanilla bean and hibiscus flowers) over the top, transfer to the oven and cook for 12–15 minutes until the apricots begin to soften. Turn apricots over and cook for a further 12–15 minutes until tender but still holding shape. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the syrup. Strain and reserve syrup.
To serve, divide apricot halves between panna cottas and spoon over a little of the syrup. Scatter with extra flaked almonds.
• To make a horchata drink, when blending the rice, add the almonds and sugar and blend for 1 minute. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and mix with 750 ml (3 cups) cold water. Pour into glasses filled with ice and dust with freshly grated cinnamon.
• Leaf gelatine comes in different strengths. As a general rule, 1 leaf of gold-strength gelatine weighs 2 grams. 1 leaf of titanium strength gelatine weighs 3.5 grams. I recommend you don't use powdered gelatine, as the flavour is undesirable.
• Dried hibiscus flowers, known in Spanish as flor de Jamaica, can be found in Latin food stores and specialist delis. You could also use 2 hibiscus tea bags if flowers are unavailable.