Making Vegan Panna Cotta. Sort of.

Tonight I made Vegan Panna Cotta.

At least I feel like I made panna cotta. I only finished the cooking part five minutes ago and panna cotta needs hours to cool off, so only time will tell. Also, the strawberries for the coulis or whatever are still defrosting in a saucepan.

Nevertheless, I am triumphant and proud of the effort and ingenuity it took to get here. This was a hero’s journey and I would like to share it with you, step by step.


Dissolve 2 teaspoons agar agar powder in 4 tablespoons of cold water. Set aside

What is this again? Something about seaweed maybe? Doesn’t matter. All I need to know is that this is the thing that makes panna cotta wobbly and vegan.  

Istanbul is not the easiest place to find agar agar powder because veganism is not something Istanbul has embraced, unlike fidget spinners and man buns. Luckily, this means that there are only five shops to check in a city of 15 million people. I went to three of them asking  “Do you have agar agar?” in Turkish. I left “powder” out of the description because I don’t know how to say powder in Turkish. The shopkeepers first looked confused and then hopeful, waiting for me to expand on what agar agar is so that perhaps they could offer an alternative.

“A vegan substitute for gelatin to make wobbly desserts” is what I could have said if I did my Turkish homework consistently. If it isn’t clear, I don’t do my homework at all, so I just ran out of each shop.

My happiest moment today was walking into a shop saying “agar agar,” and watching the shopkeeper silently move towards the glass jars of spices and herbs, and apparently agar agar powder, without demanding any linguistic displays from me.


In a saucepan combine 15 oz. coconut milk and 15 oz. coconut cream

There is no way I am putting the entirety of my coconut cream contraband, smuggled in from Russia into a stupid Panna Cotta that I’ll probably fuck up anyway. I’ll give you 7.5 ounces, Vegan Panna Cotta, 7.5 and no more.


Add 1 fresh vanilla pod

Nope. Syrian vanilla sugar is what this Panna Cotta is getting. How much of it? I dunno, I started with half a small paper packet. Then got nervous and sprinkled some more. Then got even more nervous and threw in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup. And then I licked the spoon. Why did I carefully measure out an ingredient that is not even in the recipe? You tell me.


Add zest of one lemon

Alternatively, add all the lemon zest you were able to zest before you got bored with the zesting.


Bring everything to a boil before stirring in the agar agar/water mixture

I can do that.


Strain the mixture into a bowl

I don’t have a strainer. Aren’t you glad I didn’t zest the whole lemon?


Carefully ladle out the remaining mixture into porcelain tea cups

Glazed terra cotta pots okay?


Let cool for an hour and meanwhile make the fresh strawberry coulis

First of all, my fresh strawberries are frozen. Second of all, following (hahahaha!) the panna cotta recipe depleted my attention span, so I have no idea what else is supposed to be in the coulis. Also, isn’t coulis just a fancy jam? And is’t jam essentially sugar, berries and water?

I do have one secret ingredient to add- it’s dried basil.

“Hey Masha, you don’t seem like the kind of person who would have dried basil on hand!”

You’re so right!

Two weeks ago I went to Russia and left my boyfriend alone with my healthy plants, including one fine looking basil.

My soon to be ex-boyfriend “forgot the plants were even here.” It’s not like he looked at all the plants and said “you’re all going to die now.” He just forgot that they existed. In the office, the bedroom, the living room, the balcony and literally eye level above the kitchen sink right next to the dishwashing liquid, which judging by the clean dishes, he obviously used.

Tonight, while the panna cotta was bringing itself to a boil, I picked up the carcass of the basil plant, tossed it in the garbage and felt the fragrance of their dying leaves. And then I thought, vegan panna cotta with bits of lemon zest, topped with frozen strawberry coulis and dried basil dished out of the trash sounded quite lovely.


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