Who doesn’t know the tale of Romeo and Juliet? The tragic story of two young lovers who are unable to maintain a relationship and their ultimate death change the lives of their families forever. Romeo and Juliet is an Italian tale that was firstly introduced to the English world in a form of poem and prose before being adapted as a play by William Shakespeare. Over the years, the story has been adapted and told various times in plays, movies, musicals and opera. In addition, Romeo and Juliet’s moments were depicted in dozens of paintings and illustrations, including many by notorious painter Salvador Dali (click here), and in the graceful sculpture of the couple in Manhattan’s Central Park (click here to see the sculpture).
In Brazil Romeo and Juliet’s tale ended up in the kitchen and is the name given to the delicious cheese and guava paste duo in which the cheese represents Romeo and Juliet is the guava paste. Guava paste is a Brazilian preserve made with red guava and sugar with a consistency similar to a fig paste. Traditionally this sweet and sticky paste is eaten with the salty and rubbery Minas’ cheese making the Brazilians’ eyes roll with delight followed by a finger-leaking moment. I must say that I love the names given to dishes in Brazil, they are so creative! The name Romeo and Juliet was given because, like the young couple, cheese and guava paste are soul mates (in this case of flavour). What started as a simple combination became a national fever and like Romeo and Juliet’s story, the cheese and guava paste theme has been adapted to dozens of recipes. For example, there is the Romeo and Juliet’s pie made with a biscuit crust, a cheese mixture set with gelatine and topped with a thick guava sauce. The duo is one of the sweet fillings of our favourite deep-fried pastry called pastel (for the basic pastel recipe click here). There is also cheese mousse topped with guava paste sauce or the other way round guava paste soufflé with cheese sauce. Then there are cakes, pies, roulades made with guava and cheese, to name a few. Got to love the intensity of Brazilians when it comes to try something new using an old concept!
Well, I am adding a new recipe to the dozens (or maybe hundreds) of recipes made with cheese and guava paste. My Romeo’s layer is made with goat’s cheese and sour cream resulting in a tangy flavour that will match perfectly with the sweetness of the Juliet layer, which is simply guava paste gelatine. The third component is their love represented by a sweet-salty crumb made with cashew nuts. I spent a lot of time developing this dessert and it is very special to me: I love everything about it, the name, the colours, and the combination of flavours and textures on the plate! Hopefully you will find this as passionate as much as I do. Have a romantic day!
By the way, alternatively you can make this in dessert glasses:
Guava Paste Layer:
3 white gelatine leaves (5g)
150g guava paste*
Goat’s Cheese Layer:
120g soft goat’s cheese
1 cup (250ml) milk
½ cup (150g) sour cream
2 tbs caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped
Pinch of salt
3 white gelatine leaves, extra (5g)
Cashew Nut Crumb:
60g unsalted cashew nuts, roasted
1 tbs plain flour
1 tbs caster sugar
¼ tbs ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 tbs unsalted butter, cubed
*Available from South American grocers or online
1. For the guava paste layer, place 3 gelatine leaves in a bowl with water. Combine guava paste and water in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk for about 5 minutes or until guava paste is dissolved. Remove from heat. Squeeze out excess water from gelatine leaves and stir in with guava mixture. Distribute amongst 4 dessert glasses or ramekins and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.
2. For the goat’s cheese layer, once the guava gelatine is set place 3 extra gelatine leaves in a bowl with water. In a medium saucepan combine the goat’s cheese, milk, sour cream, sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk over medium-low heat without bringing mixture to the boil until cheese is melted. Remove from heat, squeeze out excess water from gelatine leaves and whisk in the cheese mixture. Transfer to a jug and set aside for 15 minutes to cool slightly. Pour over guava paste layer and place in the fridge for 6 hours or until set. To unmould, carefully run a warm knife around the edge of panna cotta a couple of times before turning down onto a plate**.
3. For the cashew nut crumb, pre-heat the oven 180°C, fan-forced. Line a tray with baking paper. Place all ingredients in a bowl of a food processor and process until nuts are roughly ground. Transfer to a bowl and rub the mixture with the palms of your hands until the butter is combined. Spread evenly onto the prepared tray and roast for 5 minutes, stir once and roast for a further 5 minutes. Serve crumbs with Romeo and Juliet Panna Cotta.
**Alternatively you may use silicone muffin moulds