Tis the season… Layered Cherry-Yoghurt Pana Cotta

…to be jelly…. or a whole raft of other deserts. That’s why I thought I’d come to the rescue with yet another sweet dish. Back to savoury soon, I promise.

Cherries are the perfect Christmas fruit. Here, in McLaren Vale, they’ve just come into season, I can buy organic ‘seconds’ from the fruit farm up the road for nearly nothing, and they’re that beautiful Christmas colour. When I imagined this desert for the first time, I knew I wanted to create the layered red and white stripes.

photo © Michelle Koen

The only downside with the layering is having to wait for each layer to set. So pop on your favourite daggy christmas movie while you cook and you’ll soon have a great desert to share with the family.

Layered Cherry-Yoghurt Pana Cotta

½ lemon, juiced
about ½ cup water
10g (about 2 tsp) powdered gelatine
½ cup skim milk
4 Tbsp sugar substitute- I used natvia, you could use raw castor sugar or honey
375g (1 ½ cups) low-fat plain yoghurt- I used Paris Creek Swiss style
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dark Cherry flavoured diet jelly
boiling and cool water
250g (about 1 cup) cherries

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice with enough water to make ½ a cup. Sprinkle the gelatine powder over the lemon-water mixture and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the cherry jelly as per the packet instructions. Place in the fridge to chill.

Heat the milk until almost boiling. This can be done in 1 minute on high, in the microwave, or by stirring for several over the stove. Pour the milk over the gelatine mixture and stir until dissolved and lump free. Stir in the sugar substitute until it dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

Using a funnel, or a measuring jug with a spout, pour ¼ cup of the mixture into the bottom of each glass. Place the glasses in the fridge to chill for 45 minutes– 1 hour.

Place the remaining mixture in the fridge until it is cool, but not set. This is a bit of a balancing act between keeping the mixture at a healthy temperature and not wanting it to set. You may need to juggle it in and out of the fridge every 20 minutes. If either jelly becomes to set before you want it too, a short stint in the microwave on medium-low setting and a lot of stirring will help soften the mixture to pouring consistency.

Pit and quarter the cherries, leaving aside a few pretty ones for garnish.

After the first yoghurt layer has set, use a funnel or a jug with a spout to pour ¼–½ cup of cherry mixture into the glasses. Sprinkle the cherries into the glasses and return to them to the fridge to chill for a further 30 minutes.

Finally, pour ¼ cup of the yoghurt mixture into each of the glasses. Return to the fridge to chill for at least 40 minutes before serving, garnished with the reserved cherries.

Substitutes and Alternatives:

  • Dairy-free: replace the yoghurt and milk with almond or rice milk
  • Higher Protein: Mix 4 scoops of protein powder with 1 ½ cup water. Use in place of the yoghurt.
  • ‘Fake food’ free: raw castor sugar or honey may be used instead of sweetener. To make real cherry jelly-  Sprinkle gelatine powder over ½ cup of cool water and rest for 10 minutes. Cook extra pitted cherries in ½ cups of water, puree and add sugar to taste and return to heat. Add to the gelatine to the cherry sauce and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add a further 1 cup of cool water.

About Michelle

Michelle is passionate about showing people how easy it is to prepare food that is healthy and packed full of flavour. She has just completed her first recipe book, Healthy Helpings: fast food for fit physiques. She began sharing her love of food in 2007, when she produced two series of the online cooking show ‘Healthy Helpings TV’, making fast food healthy and healthy food fast. In 2008 she competed in bodybuilding as a novice figure shaping competitor and she remains passionate about physique sports. She was a 2009 Australian Masterchef semi-finalist, and contributes articles to Oxygen Magazine Australia. Michelle lives with her husband on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, where she loves to search out new ingredients and food ideas from local farmers markets, health food shops and ethnic grocers, and take her two dogs on long rambles through the vineyards. Find out more about Michelle's book