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Russian, Eastern European and international cuisine brought to you by a mother and a daughter

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Pumpkin Cranberry Compote

Pumpkin Cranberry Compote

One of the first golden rules I’ve made as a new parent is not to rush. You will never accomplish everything you’d like to on time, unless you have someone who looks after your baby 24/7 and feeds her. I was very stressed out for the first two weeks because I was trying to do everything at once – be with my daughter whenever she’s awake, do housework, update my two websites, cook, plus a dozen things more. Which was impossible, of course. The only way to handle this postpartum chaos is to relax and do your tasks one by one. Don’t be afraid to postpone things or cancel your plans, that’s what I realized, just try to be super-flexible about your schedule. Baby wakes up just after you’ve prepared all ingredients and heated your skillets for a new dish you’ve been dreaming to try? Never mind, seal your ingredients in a plastic wrap and put them off for later. Managed to do just five yoga asanas instead of the planned ten? A little is better than nothing!

With this new rule in my armoury, I’ve been waiting patiently for a free hour in my schedule to make a Panna Cotta that I’ve been meaning to make for ages, and to use up the large piece of pumpkin that Mom brought me from the farmer’s market. I primarily associate pumpkin with cuisine of the US, but it’s also a common ingredient for old Russian cuisine, where pumpkin appears in dishes like stuffed pancakes, millet gruel, pies, and others. Sour cream (Smetana in Russian) is another essential component of Russian cuisine, so this dessert is an attempt to fuse elements of Italian, American, and Russian cooking traditions. Actually I chose to substitute sour cream for half of the cream in my Panna Cotta because I shouldn’t be eating a lot of fats. Sour cream contains a lot of fat as well, but it just sounds healthier to me. And it kind of links the purely Italian treat to a compote that includes a not at all Mediterranean ingredient: wild cranberries to set off the straight sweetness of pumpkin in sugar syrup. The original recipe, which I copied from my Grandmother’s notebook, called for a splash of lemon juice and a quince in the syrup, but I’m not allowed to eat any citruses at the moment, while quince has somehow disappeared from local farmer’s markets these days. But aren’t cranberries, the fall berries, a better match for pumpkin than lemon? With cranberries instead of lemon juice, I also find this dessert quite breastfeeding-friendly, unless you’re on an individual diet. Worked well for me and my little one, at least!

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Pumpkin Cranberry Compote

Sour Cream Panna Cotta

2 cups whipping cream
2 cups sour cream
6 tbsp sugar
5 tsp gelatin
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp cold boiled water
Vegetable oil

Serves 6


In a medium-sized saucepan, combine cream, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Heat until almost boiling and simmer for a few minutes. Set aside.

Pour 6 tablespoons water into a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle gelatin onto the water. Let the gelatin soak for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream mixture and stir well until all gelatin dissolves completely.

Brush 6 small ramekins or (preferably) silicon moulds with some vegetable oil and pour the cream mixture into them.Seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Unmould each Panna Cotta before serving and serve chilled with Pumpkin Cranberry Compote.

Pumpkin Cranberry Compote

500g pumpkin, washed
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
½ cup wild cranberries, rinsed
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1 tsp vanilla sugar


Remove skin from pumpkin and cut the pumpkin into small cubes.

Place pumpkin cubes into a large saucepan and pour 3 cups water over them. Add 1 cup sugar, bring to a boil, and boil the pumpkin for just one minute. Remove pieces of pumpkin with a perforated spoon and place them in a separate saucepan.

Return the pumpkin syrup to heat. Add remaining sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and cranberries. Boil the syrup for 5 minutes, pour boiling syrup over the cooked pumpkin cubes and cover with a lid. Leave the compote to infuse for 3-5 hours, then refrigerate overnight and serve chilled.

Pumpkin Cranberry Compote

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Pumpkin Cranberry Compote

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17 Responses

  1. Congratulations on your new baby! Love the recipe, sounds so creamy and delicious. I wasn’t aware how much pumpkin was used in Russian cuisine. Well I’m not so familiar with it but what I do know I love. Oh and thanks for the tips on stress, I’m not a Mom but can really use your tips :)

    • Alina says:

      Thank you Nancy! ^_^ I’m not sure when pumpkin was first introduced to Russians but it was definitely known already in 18th century!

  2. You’re right, just try to take it easy… the first times are always difficult. But it only gets better.

    • Alina says:

      Miriam you’re so right - it’s ALREADY getting better - the first month was hectic and the baby seemed to be scared of this new world, but now it’s much more relaxed and she’s so calm… although I still have nearly no free time of course :)

  3. Brie says:

    congrats on your little one! it sounds like you’re finding a new routine to settle into which is helpful. glad you found some free time to make the panna cotta. your dessert looks delicious!

  4. deeba says:

    That is one stunning panna cotta, and the first I’ve heard using sour cream! It’s beautiful, as is the compote. Congratulations on the arrival of your little one…cute!

  5. Looks just lovely! I can imagine the flavor! So great you posted a recipe- but you’re absolutely right in giving yourself permission to do just one thing at a time- Good for you! It can be really challenging to just live in the moment, but in the end, it is so worth it! looking forward to your next recipe- whenever that is!

    • Alina says:

      Thank you Jennifer! Yeah I’ve completely stopped planning things ahead :) I just have a huge to-do list and I pick one task at a time whenever I have time :)

      • Renato says:

        I did try with 3 layers base with strwbaerry, middle with vanilla and then top layer with banana. but never took a pic to post. u know y?and u dont have to dip in hot water to remove from the cup just move a knife slowly around the corners and press slightly in the middle and invert this tip is from masterchef australia

  6. Rob MacDonald says:

    Hi Alina,

    Congratulations from Larissa and me on the arrival of your bouncing baby!

    I like the sound of pumpkin,smetana and cranberries. We plan to make this on my birthday this Hallowe’en.

    I too appreciate your approach to relaxation.


  7. Sarah says:

    Congratualtions on your new baby! How do you find time to cook AND blog?

    I’m a fellow Foodista cook book winner (the veggie Scotch egg on which I see you linked to - thanks!) - that’s how I found you. I love your blog and have subscribed and hope you will visit and follow mine.

    • Alina says:

      Thank you so much Sarah! How did you enjoy your copy of the FBFC book? Isn’t it cool?
      I hardly ever find the time to blog as you can see, but Stano and everyone else in the family are very helpful so I can cook a simple meal every now and then. Today I made Hasselback potatoes - that’s so simple yet delicious!
      Okay I’m off to check out more of your blog posts now :)

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