Category Archives: sauces, toppings and frostings

Recipe: Sweet Potato Dip

This is just a simple little recipe for using up leftover baked sweet potatoes that takes about five minutes to make.  Maybe other people don’t have leftover baked sweet potatoes, but I tend to make baked sweet potatoes fairly often, and I find it very hard to judge how much we will want to eat…

The flavours are vaguely Middle-Eastern, and this dip is good as part of a mezze spread.  We had it with little lebanese sausages, tabouleh, hummus, pink coleslaw, and maybe a little bread.  It would work beautifully with turkish bread, tabbouleh and haloumi, or, indeed, with marinated and grilled meat, fish, veggie sausages, felafel, tofu or portobello mushrooms. 

It’s just a nice little thing to round out a meal with a little more vegetable and carbohydrate, and it makes me happy.


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280 g baked sweet potatoes, at room temperature
1 spring onion
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
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Recipe: Rose-Scented Sugar

And what is this?  A genuine post from Germanz, that’s what.  On a genuine German keyboard, too, which is tripping me up every time I try to punctuate anything or use a Y or a Z.  This may need to be a post without either of those letters…

I will, of course, post extensively (almost certainly far too extensively) about my travels when I get home, but suffice it to say that it has all been wonderful so far, and I have neither fallen into a glacier, nor been eaten by a wolf, nor even shipwrecked by the Lorelei.  And yes, I had opportunities to do all of these things.  I didn’t even break my leg in Darwin, which seemed like a near-certainty, and while Paris was full of tourists, the actual French people I met there were all extremely nice and helpful.

In fact, here I am, in a boat on the Rhine river, not being drowned by the Lorelei.  Though I do admit to singing the Lorelei song often enough that my fellow passengers may have wanted to drown me instead… (I was singing under my breath.  Mostly.)


So much for the stereotypes.  Now let’s get on with the sugar!

You may be asking yourself why I am making rose-scented sugar.  It’s a fair question.  You see, as we were eating dinner last night, the rose sitting in a vase on the table abruptly dropped half its petals into a bowl.  And the petals smelled so amazing  – these are real, old roses from the garden of Anna’s mother and their scent is rich and heady and intoxicating – that I had to think of something to do with them.  So I decided to see if I could make a perfumed sugar.

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It turns out that I can.  It’s hardly a recipe, but it really is a lovely thing to sprinkle on raspberries, or on a plain cake, or even on rye bread – so it’s definitely worth recording here.

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Petals from the last rose of summer (left blooming alone, or not, as the case may be).  Make sure it is a rose that actually smells of something, though.
Caster sugar.  Nope, I can’t tell you how much.  Enough to cover it.

Now what will you do with it?

Put the petals in a bowl, unless they fell there of their own accord.

Cover with sugar.

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Massage the petals and sugar together well with your fingers for several minutes, to help release the rose oil into the sugar.  The sugar will go slightly pink and the rose petals will break up.  Also, your fingers will smell of roses, which is a definite bonus.

Cover and leave overnight, or for a few days, before eating.

Enjoy.  I suspect that you might want to seive out the roses after a few days, though the sugar may well preserve them.

photo 2


I suspect this method would work with violets or lavender.  And yes, this recipe is vegan, nut-free, gluten-free, low fructose and not even a little bit low GI.  But you knew that already…

I totally love this on rye bread, but I think it would be particularly fantastic on the sort of little sugar biscuits that you roll in sugar as they come out of the oven.

Alternatively, this sugar would be lovely as a topping for raspberry muffins – raspberries and roses go supremely well together.

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And it’s so much nicer than letting those last petals fall and disappear into autumn.  Let them stay with you for just a little longer.

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Recipe: Almond milk patisserie cream

I’ve only discovered the joys of patisserie cream recently.  In fact, up until about a year ago, I would have told you that I really hated custard.  I grew up with a great uncle who owned an Italian bakery, so I grew up with a strong appreciation for really good bread – and, alas, a complete and utter loathing for cannoli, Italian sponge cakes, and chou pastry with custard in it.  I don’t know what it is about Italian-style custards, but I just can’t stand them.  And believe me, I’ve tried to like them – many, many times.

I’m also not at all keen on English-style custards.  The whole vanilla slice thing makes me shudder.  How can people even eat that?  And I’ve made Portuguese tarts, out of sheerest curiosity, which everyone loved except for me…

So when we were told that we would be making crème patissière at the croissant class I went to last year, my heart sank, because now I, too, would be able to make custards that made me feel vaguely queasy.  But, being the good and obedient student I am, I dutifully made my crème pat, tasted it – and was astonished to discover that it actually tasted good.  A miracle!  Or possibly, just a different recipe. 

Honestly, I don’t know why this recipe works for me, but it really does.  And, having found the one custard recipe in the world that I like, I promptly had to… go and change it.  Yeah, I don’t understand the logic of that, either.  But I have friends who can’t eat dairy, so what can you do?  And, as it turns out, the almond-milk version of this custard is surprisingly good.  Who knew?

Maybe I should pop down the road to my local bakery and give the cannoli another try.

Maybe not.


Your shopping list

For plain, vanilla pastry cream

500 ml almond milk
1 vanilla pod
125 g caster sugar
100 g egg yolks (from about 5-6 eggs)
40 g custard powder or cornflour (custard powder, not to be confused with custard mix, is basically cornflour with a little yellow colouring anyway.  It thickens the pastry cream and makes it look prettier)
25 g cocoa butter

For light, fruity pastry cream

1 tsp orange flower water
2 tbsp (40 ml) peach schnapps

For passionfruit and chocolate pastry cream

200 ml almond milk (extra)
150 g dark chocolate, chopped
50 g freeze dried passionfruit powder

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Two really easy recipes for things you want to have in the fridge

Also known as Roast Garlic and Slow Roasted tomatoes.  These are my personal saviours when it comes to vegetarian cooking in summer – I’ve been making batches of both these things every week and storing them in the fridge for use in any recipe that needs an instant flavour hit.  The roasted garlic is good in basically anything – mayonnaise, mashed cannelini beans, béchamel sauce, casseroles, pasta, or just spread on bread.  The roasted tomatoes are brilliant for pasta or salads (especially panzanella), particularly when the tomatoes at the shops are a bit lacklustre.  They are great for adding zing to a tomato soup or ratatouille, and are lovely on grilled anything (chicken, fish, tomatoes, and, I suspect, seitan), and again, are great on bread. 

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3 bulbs of garlic (think big!)
3 punnets of cherry tomatoes, any kind
olive oil

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Recipe: Mole Sauce, or something, with I only wish I knew what it goes with, other than bemusement

tomatilloSo I got these tomatilloes at the market, and a whole big box of peppers and chillis and then I had this black chocolate and I had pumpkin seed meal, and all of this pretty much said ‘Mexican’ to me, but there’s a problem – I really don’t know thing one about Mexican cooking.  I’m sort of aware of flavours that go together, but not how to make them do so, or anything like that.

When in doubt, I roast things, so I did that with the vegetables, and then stared at it all in confusion for a while, before sticking everything in a blender with a bunch of extra spices and  other bits and pieces.  It tasted pretty much as I imagine mole sauce is supposed to taste – spicy and chocolatey and dense – but then I didn’t know what to put it on.  I wound up roasting some zucchini and pumpkin and stirring the mole through that, and then I didn’t know what to put *that* on.  Rice?  Corn chips? Tortillas?  And what about protein?  And – argh.  I don’t know.  I still don’t know.  Something tells me it would be excellent on chicken, which is a fat lot of good to me right now. 

Anyway, I do know that it’s a tasty sauce – fresh-tasting and bitter and chocolatey and aromatic and peppery-hot – so I’m writing it up here just as a sauce, and maybe one of you will be able to figure out what it’s for…

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6 tomatillos
4 small tomatoes
2 chillis (one red and one green is fun)
3 small round peppers
3 capsicums, assorted colours
5 long frying peppers, also sometimes called sweet chillis, assorted colours
1 bulb garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
50 g pumpkin seed meal, or pumpkin seeds, toasted and then ground
40 g black chocolate – 99% cocoa, so the really bitter stuff – chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp thyme
salt, to taste

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Recipe: Easy, Yet Awesome, Tangy Lime Guacamole

This barely qualifies as a recipe.  It has two ingredients, other than seasonings, and the method could be summed up in a single sentence.  Except, this is me, Catherine McWordy, writing this, so we all know that I will rabbit on randomly about nothing in particular regardless…

Basically, I had this kaffir lime, and these avocadoes, and this vegetarian chilli in need of a guacamole, but I was too lazy to do anything elaborate, so I just made this, and then it tasted really good and really *interesting* – I love how perfumed and tangy kaffir lime is – and it was too late to take photos.  You will have to imagine it for yourself.  Or make it, of course.

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2 ripe avocadoes.  If you know how to tell from the outside the point at which an avocado is ripe but not browning, you are a wiser person than I am.
1 kaffir lime
salt and pepper to taste

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Recipe: Mayonnaise with Roasted Garlic, Tarragon, and Hubris

Hello!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Unfortunately, I forgot, when I started this blog in the slow season at work, that there would come a time of year when I would be drowning in a seemingly endless sea of grant applications.  The nice thing about this time of year is that I get to feel useful – I’m really good at organising grants, and I actually quite like talking new postdocs through the application process.  Another nice thing is that I work up so much time in lieu that I get to have a little holiday at the end of this period.  But the flip-side is that I am working long hours, in addition to all my usual sidelines, and this leaves little time for cooking, let alone blogging.

And then we get days like last Thursday, when I had a totally brilliant idea for dinner while I was still at work, and sent Andrew out to buy the ingredients while I was at choir.  I was going to make my amazing pan-roasted fillet steak salad with home-made mayonnaise, and in my head, I had already started drafting my cheerful, friendly, reassuring post about how, despite what you may have heard, mayonnaise is actually really *easy*!  I’ve made it five times, and it has worked without a fuss every time!  And here are my secrets!  I even had a delightful little side comment about saving the egg-whites for meringues or, if one was feeling ambitious (as indeed I was), for macarons!

Ha, I say, and Ha again.  I got home on Thursday night and found that my lovely husband had indeed bought the ingredients I didn’t have, and had roasted the garlic, just like I had asked him to.  So I settled down to make mayonnaise.  I even took photos! And it didn’t work.  Not even a little bit.  And I have absolutely no idea why.  So I threw out the first batch and tried again.  This time, I know exactly why it didn’t work.  Apparently, adding way too much vinegar very early in the piece ruins everything.  Since I no longer had any roast garlic left, I grimly added another egg yolk, and decided that it was time to get out the beaters, rather than using the fork method.  And finally, finally, it came together.  I was so relieved that I promptly flicked a large dollop of the mayonnaise into the egg-whites which I was so frugally reserving for future meringue needs (and this is why you should cover things you leave on the benchtops, even if it’s only going to be for a few minutes)…

So yes.  Do try making mayonnaise.  It’s delicious when you make it at home, and so exciting when it comes together.  But if it’s late at night after a long day of work and choir, I strongly recommend having some of the good quality bought stuff to hand.  It will save you a great deal of frustration…

Oh, and one final confession.  After all that, I no longer had the faintest idea what quantities of olive oil I had used in the mayonnaise!  So I have come up with my quantities by looking online and through my cookbooks until I saw something that looked about right.  And on my merry way, I ran across this website which talks a lot more about how egg yolks emulsify things, and it’s all very fascinating, so I think you should have a look at it – though I don’t recommend using 100 cups of oil for each egg yolk…

Your shopping list

1 bulb of garlic
olive oil for roasting garlic
1 egg yolk (make sure it’s fresh, and please get free-range if you possibly can)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil (you may need a little more to get the consistency you like)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
black pepper and dried tarragon, to taste

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Recipe: Microwave Lemon Curd, with bonus meringue

Just a short post today, because today has been loooong… and it hasn’t even had any cooking in it.  Of course, it might have felt less loooong if I hadn’t decided last night that the best solution to ‘where can we all go for dessert?’ was ‘I can make cupcakes!  Vegan, gluten-free cupcakes!  Also my house is full of confectionery!  Let’s go to my place!’.  Needless to say, we were all bouncing off the walls for a while after that, and I really was not my best at choir this morning.

Anyway, I made lemon curd a few weeks ago, to go with the dozens and dozens of scones, and took photos of it, but never wrote it up.  So now is definitely the time.  Besides, lemon curd is one of those things that is really, really tricky until you figure out how easy it is.  All that rubbish about ‘until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon’ doesn’t help much either.  I don’t know about you, but I never did figure out just how thick that was.  So here’s my microwave method, which I promise you will work – just don’t do what I do and wander off to do something else in the middle and forget to take it out of the microwave and stir it.

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4 egg yolks (you realise, of course, that now you will have to make meringues out of those egg-whites?  See below for a recipe – in the meantime, just save them in a clean, metal or glass bowl.)
75g caster sugar
40g butter
60ml lemon juice (about one juicy lemon)

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Recipe: Ricotta and Herbs

Still feeling too seedy to really be creative, so here’s a really short, easy recipe, inspired by The Complete Italian Vegetarian CookbookThis recipe makes me feel a little sad, because right now is absolutely not the season for it – indeed, dinner tonight was semolina gratin with a wintry stew featuring mushrooms, cardoons, carrots, broccoli and cannelini beans, so heavily improvised that I haven’t the faintest clue what the recipe would be.  But for you sun-drenched Northern Hemisphere types, here’s something lovely to have on good Italian bread while you are waiting for the weather to cool down enough for cooking to be tolerable.  Or else, just make a dinner of bread, tomato salad, cannelini beans puréed with lemon and roasted garlic, some minted cucumbers or grilled eggplant or roasted capsicum, or cold chicken or whatever other nice, cool foods your fridge and pantry have to offer, and this lovely refreshing spread to just make your bread wonderful.

Jack Bishop says you should toast the bread to go with this, but I think if bread is good enough to be worth eating, it deserves to be eaten as it is – soft and fresh  to go with the softness and freshness of the ricotta.  And please – make sure it’s good bread, not that cotton wool stuff.  Putting this spread on a white sandwich loaf insults both you and it – and you both deserve better.

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250g good ricotta – the best you can afford, so go to the deli counter or your Italian food shop, and do not even think about making this with something that comes in a tub.  You’re looking for something solid, not runny – in a pinch, you can drain slightly watery ricotta through cheesecloth or paper towels for an hour or two, but it’s better to start with the good stuff.
1 small bunch of basil
1 small bunch of mint
salt, pepper
1 loaf of good Italian bread – pasta dura is ideal for this.  French bread will do in a pinch, but no cotton wool.  I mean it!

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Recipe: Chocolate for Breakfast

The official name for this recipe, which comes from Less Meat, More Veg, is ‘Chocolate, Coconut and Raspberry Spread’, but I like to think of it as Chocolate for Breakfast, as that is basically the point.  You can say all you like that it has 1 serve of fruit in it, but that’s basically irrelevant – the real point of this recipe is that you get to have chocolate for breakfast, just like I’m doing right now.

Incidentally, I really did want to share a nice, healthy recipe from the above book, and I may later – there are plenty to choose from.  But I just couldn’t go past this one.

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100g fresh or frozen raspberries
125ml coconut milk
200g dark chocolate, preferably 70% cocoa solids

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