Cucumber panna cotta with strawberries, lemon thyme and honeycomb

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Impress friends and family with this stunning panna cotta dessert by Danny Kingston. The fragrant, fresh flavour of cucumber offsets the rich creamy panna cotta and is paired with a vibrant strawberry jelly. To add texture, Danny finishes with a sprinkle of strawberry dust and little chunks of crunchy honeycomb.

First published in 2016

Sometimes, when it comes to cooking, we should all steer well clear of unnecessary indulgent and ornate decoration, or whacky ideas of any kind. A pie should be a pie, a tart should be a tart and gravy should be gravy. Not jus. Begone with all your foams, textures, gels and general smoke and mirrors I say. And don’t mess with my chips. Leave them chips alone. Ah...leave them alone I said.

Saying that, it is good fun to mess around in the kitchen sometimes. And with this recipe, there is definitely an element of tomfoolery going on; with mentions of strawberry dust, lemon thyme and ye gads, cucumber panna cotta. A bunch of Italians may well be falling over themselves at this suggestion, but by and large they are quite receptive to new concepts and so should you.

If I were to give a source of inspiration for this dessert, I suppose it would have to be Masterchef: The Professionals because all manner of deconstruction and invention goes on on that show. In the last series, many chefs served up plates featuring just a single ingredient but broken down into different forms and components. The humble panna cotta was regurgitated so many different times, I did wonder if the judges were thoroughly sick of them by the end. And honeycomb was everywhere, crumbly and sweet and paired next to things like lamb cutlets for instance. Yes, honeycomb and lamb was touted as the next big thing. Strewth! So in a way, this dessert does plug into a certain cheffy zeitgeist, if anything else.

But coming back to real food for a second here, with hand on heart, all the flavours and *gulp* textures do work rather well here. The grassy note of the cucumber balances with the cream and both act as a foil to the tartness of the strawberry jelly. The light scattering of strawberry dust, namely dehydrated strawberries, finely chopped, give an intense hit of summer here and there. The fresh strawberries, lightly macerated in sugar, and the crunchy rocks of bubbled, caramel; tie in the sweet element of this pud very nicely indeed. And even the lemon thyme leaves serve to punctuate little burst of citrus on the palate. Though I have to admit, I only threw them on there at first to add a touch of green, to the overwhelming scarlett.

This is a slightly tricksy and time consuming dish to turn around, most certainly. But I think it pays to push the boat out once and serve up something different once in awhile. Because once you’ve stuck cucumber into a panna cotta, the world really is your oyster.

P.S I wouldn’t advise putting oysters into panna cottas though.




Panna cotta

  • 250ml of double cream
  • 150ml of whole milk
  • 20g of caster sugar
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into dice
  • 2 sheets of gelatine

Strawberry dust

Strawberry jelly

  • 400g of strawberries, topped and cut into dice
  • 1 dash of water
  • 2 sheets of gelatine


  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 5 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • butter, for greasing

To serve


Preheat the oven to 90°C/gas mark ¼
Begin by making the strawberry dust. Place the strawberry slices on to a tray lined with greaseproof paper and place in the oven to dehydrate. This should take about 4 hours, or you could leave them overnight
Once dried out, finely chop the strawberries or blitz in a spice grinder to create a rough powder. Store in an air-tight container until ready to serve
To make the panna cotta, place the cream, milk and sugar in a pan and place over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved then add the diced cucumber. Bring to just under the boil then take off the heat and leave to cool and infuse for 30 minutes
Pour the cooled mixture into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the pan through a fine sieve, pushing the cucumber pulp gently down with a spoon to extract all the flavour
Cut the gelatine into strips and soak in ice cold water for 5 minutes. Place the pan of cream back on the hob and gently reheat. Squeeze out all the excess water from the gelatine and stir into the pan. Continue mixing until completely dissolved
Leave the mixture to cool slightly then pour into dariole moulds or small pudding tins. Cover the tops with cling film and chill for at least 4 hours
To make your strawberry jelly, place the fruit in a pan, along with a splash of water and place on a medium-low heat. The strawberries will begin to slowly collapse and form a compote. This should take about 10–15 minutes
Meanwhile make the honeycomb, grease a baking tin with butter and mix the sugar and golden syrup together in a pan. Place over a low heat and stir until all the grains of sugar have dissolved. Turn up the heat, stirring all the while – the mix should quickly turn amber in colour
Stir in the bicarbonate of soda, then pour the foaming mixture into the lined baking tin – be careful as the sugar will be very hot. Leave to bubble and set for an hour or so, until it hardens and sets firm
Remove the strawberries from the heat and pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, pushing the pulp so all the juice strains through – you should end up with roughly 200ml of liquid. Cut the gelatine into strips and soak in ice cold water for 5 minutes
Place the juice back into the pan, gently heat and add the gelatine, having squeezed out any excess water. Now, there is a bit of a DIY route to setting the jelly – take a plastic ice cream tub (or similar) and pour in the strawberry mixture to create a layer of jelly approximately 1cm deep
Leave it to set in the fridge, along with the panna cotta. When fully set and firm, cut out circles with a pastry cutter, about the same size as the panna cotta moulds. Reserve in the fridge until ready to serve
To plate up, take the panna cotta moulds out of the fridge and gently warm up the sides. Experience has taught me that plunging moulds into a bowl of boiling water will turn your creamy-jelly into liquid in seconds. So, if you have a cook’s blowtorch to hand, use that
Turn the moulds upside down on to your plates, they should delicately plop out. Next, take your strawberry jelly discs and cut into the circle to create a crescent so that it fits snugly around the panna cotta
Smash up the honeycomb and scatter little chunks over the plate. Dress the fresh strawberries in a bowl with a little sugar and place on top of the honeycomb
Finish by scattering a line of strawberry dust in a straight line across the plate, along with some of the lemon thyme leaves
First published in 2016

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

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