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Sweet comfort in this compote

Sylvia Tan on 18 Oct 2016

The Straits Times


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This panna cotta is sugar-free, which you can sweeten with fragrant orange compote syrup


It's the orange compote that I love in this recipe. I ate a similar compote years ago in Los Angeles and I have never forgotten about it.


Now closed, Cafe des Artistes in Hollywood offered patio dining in a leafy courtyard and it was lovely going there for a leisurely weekend breakfast.


The place was cool and shady and you could linger over your coffee and enjoy crusty bread, spread with fragrant orange preserve.


I never ate it at home in Singapore as most of my friends made jams with preserved fruit which contained lots more sugar, until I tried making it myself recently.


All you need are fresh oranges, sugar and spices like cloves and a cinnamon stick, lightly cooked so that the fruit is not broken down. You thus retain the freshness and aroma of the fruit and, since it is coarsely chopped, there is bite.


A compote improves with keeping overnight, but I usually cannot wait to pile it on crusty bread the moment it is made.


And you can indeed be lavish with it, for it is less sweet than most preserves.


In a carbo-light age, I also offer a dollop on top of a panna cotta (cooked cream in Italian) but made without any trace of cream.


Instead, I use fat-free yogurt, which turns out to be just as nice.


A panna cotta made with yogurt is merely a richer version of that local?dessert, tau huay, which is, of course, made with soya milk.


This recipe is versatile. You can eat it at breakfast or as a dessert after meals. It is guilt-free as the sugar content is restrained.


Be warned, however, that without sugar as a preservative, you would have to finish it within the week for it would not keep much longer after that, even in the refrigerator. But I doubt that it would remain around for long.


The components are all innocuous - oranges, yogurt and gelatine. The only thing to watch out for is the sugar.


To lessen it, I use navel oranges, which are naturally sweet. The panna cotta is left sugar-free and relies only on the compote syrup, which is poured over just before serving.


This way, you can decide how much sweetness you want.


•Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.





  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau, optional
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Orange zest strips



  • 3 tsps unflavoured powdered gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 cups low-fat plain yogurt



  1. Remove a few strips of peel from the oranges with a vegetable peeler. Leave aside.
  2. Trim off the white pith and cut the oranges into chunks, saving the juices. Leave aside.
  3. Place sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the chopped oranges, then the Cointreau and cook a few minutes. Refrigerate until chilled.
  5. To make the panna cotta, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of the milk in a bowl. Leave it for 10 minutes without stirring, until the gelatin is moistened.
  6. Pour the remaining milk into a small pot. Add orange peel strips. Heat.
  7. Add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the orange strips.
  8. Whisk in the yogurt until it is well blended.
  9. Divide the yogurt mixture among six ramekins. Cover each with clingwrap and refrigerate for at least eight hours, until it is set.
  10. To serve, top the panna cotta with spoonfuls of the compote.




Choose low-fat, low-sugar plain yogurt


A panna cotta recipe made with full-cream yogurt and milk would double the amount of total fat and saturated fat content in this recipe.


Total fat: 4g vs 6g and saturated fat: 0.8g vs 2.5g.


Full-cream panna cotta will have 27 per cent more calories than low-fat panna cotta.


Yogurt containing active cultures, which are good bacteria (probiotics), is good for our gut health.


This dairy product is also a good source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium.


Our recommended daily allowance for calcium is 800mg a day (1,000mg for pregnant women and adults above 50 years old).


The calcium strengthens our bones and helps to prevent osteo- porosis (brittle bones).


We should choose low-fat, low-sugar plain yogurt with active cultures and take them about two to three times a week.


One cup of full-fat milk has triple the amount of total fat (3g vs 9g) and 65 per cent more saturated fat, compared to low-fat milk.


Consuming low-fat milk reduces our intake of saturated fat, and this is beneficial for our heart health.


A diet high in saturated fat raises our bad cholesterol levels. In turn, this increases our risk of getting heart problems and diabetes. 


Low-fat milk also has higher calcium content than full-fat milk.


Oranges are rich in pectin, a dietary fibre which helps to reduce cholesterol.


They are a great source of vitamins A and C and are powerful antioxidants, which can neutralise free radicals and protect cells from damage.


However, the water-soluble vitamins in oranges, such as vitamins A and C, can be destroyed by air, light and heat.


Boiling the oranges to make compote would mean that some of these vitamins are reduced.


NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving: 408g)

  • Energy: 110.5kcal
  • Protein: 7.3g
  • Total fat: 6.4g
  • Saturated fat: 0.9g
  • Dietary fibre: 1.8g
  • Carbohydrate: 16.7g
  • Cholesterol: 5.8mg
  • Sodium: 57.7mg


Bibi Chia

Principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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