As a young boy I was surrounded by remarkable women, including my legendary grandmother, two eccentric sisters in a magical house, an unusual art teacher who carried the world in an embroidered bag and two ladies who paid no attention to those who neglected dessert. These wizards taught me that here was no ordinary life and no ordinary meal. The simplest of foods could and should be served at the most festive tables, every bite is a grand occasion and success is a happy guest. Everything has a history, ideas come from the garden, eternal youth comes from candle light, skill comes from understanding, joy comes from confidence and every meal is a small coronation.



I have baked these cookies many times and have never known how many this recipe should produce as I eat half the dough. That is after all one of the reasons for baking cookies. This unusual, almost elastic dough is possibly the most delicious cookie dough on earth. And now, finally, using Lautus de-alcoholised red wine, everybody can enjoy this. Every child on earth should taste this dough at least once! Somebody should produce an ice-cream with this flavour!

120g very soft butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup Lautus de-alcoholised red wine

2 cups self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 heaped tbsp good cocoa powder

pinch of salt

100g% dark chocolate

12 glacé cherries

white sugar


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, egg, vanilla extract and red wine

Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cocoa powder and salt, mix until smooth

Use serrated knife and cut chocolate into tiny shards, mix into batter

Cut cherries into eights, mix into batter

Spoon 8 heaped teaspoons batter onto lined baking tray, as far apart as possible

Gently press down using fork

Just before putting cookies in oven, sprinkle with some white sugar

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) for 9 to 10 minutes

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes

Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely


A simple, light and elegant shaved salad with lots of texture and flavour. With pan-roasted pecan nuts and a dressing made with pecan oil. Even those who run from fennel will love this dish. Many variations are possible, add shaved carrots, asparagus or red cabbage, chopped spring onions and even some goat cheese. Serve as an accompaniment to any meal, I serve these as picture-perfect little starters.

(4 to 6 servings)


1/2 cup LIVE LIKE N pecan oil

1 tbsp honey

juice and finely grated zest of 1 not too large lemon


freshly ground black pepper

75g pecan nuts

2 medium fennel bulbs

1 red onion

4 red radishes

1 red apple

fennel leaves


Whisk together pecan oil, honey, juice and zest in mixing bowl

Season with salt and pepper

Heat 2 tbsp of dressing in pan

Add pecan nuts and roast for about a minute until dressing has turned into a thick syrup covering the nuts, let cool

Use mandolin and cut fennel bulbs, onion and radishes into thin slices, add to dressing in bowl

Cut apple in half and then into thin slices

Toss with rest of salad in dressing

Place small heaps on individual starter plates

Arrange nuts on top, season with some more black pepper and garnish with fennel leaves



Love a good risotto, a small portion on a beautiful plate is one of my favourite ways to start a meal. This version is made with red onions and Rosé (a great combination), topped with oven-roasted slices of beetroot. (Try to find the variety with the beautiful white and red lines.) Instead of butter that is traditionally used to give the risotto a shiny finish, I use mascarpone to add extra creaminess. Take great care not to overcook the risotto! It should be soft to the bite, but still keeping the shape of each grain of rice. I used Lautus De-Alcoholised Rosé, a perfect new addition to my kitchen!

(6 small servings or 4 more generous portions)


3 medium beets

4 tbsp grapeseed oil

2 red onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 1/4 cup Arborio rice

500ml vegetable stock

400ml Lautus De-Alcoholised Rosé

3 tbsp finely grated parmesan

1 tbsp mascarpone

2 tbsp finely chopped chives

2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley


freshly ground black pepper

Peel beets, cut into halves and then into thin slices

Toss with 1 tbsp grapeseed oil and arrange on baking tray lined with foil

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) for about 15 minutes, season lightly with salt and keep warm

Heat 3 tbsp grapeseed oil in saucepan and fry red onions for 1 minute over medium heat

Add Arborio rice and fry for 1 more minute, stirring continuously

Add some stock and stir until all liquid has been absorbed

Repeat until all stock has been used, continue process with Rosé

If more liquid is needed before risotto is perfectly cooked, add some water

Stir in Parmesan and mascarpone

Remove from heat, taste and season carefully with salt as needed

Stir in a third of the chopped herbs

Spoon onto plates, top with slices of beetroot

Garnish with more of the chopped herbs




Blackberries are like really friendly cousins, you only see them once a year and then they disappear for a very long time. This happened throughout my childhood - both the blackberries and the cousins appeared at the same time at Grandmother’s house in Wellington. We would eat the ripe and almost warm berries straight off the trees, the ones we could never reach would be used by Grandmother in many different ways. This cake reminds me of the pictures in my storybooks, golden, full of fruit and often with some cracks on top. Grandmother only made this cake a few times and I never got the recipe, I concoct it from many other recipes, but it looks and tastes exactly like her version and every good memory is still brought back.

1 cup sugar

110g salted butter

3 eggs

1 cup thick natural yoghurt

seeds of 1 vanilla pod (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 cups self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup almond flour

generous pinch of salt

350g fresh blackberries

1 tsp (extra) flour

1 tbsp (extra sugar)


Do not preheat oven

Whisk butter and sugar together until creamy

Whisk in eggs, yoghurt, vanilla, juice and zest

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, almond flour and salt 

Add to wet ingredients and mix until batter is smooth

Spoon half the batter onto the bottom of a greased and lined 22cm springform pan

Toss half the blackberries with 1 tsp flour and arrange on top of batter in pan

(This will not prevent large berries from sinking to the bottom, not to worry, every slice will still be spectacular and colourful) )

Spoon rest of the batter over blackberries

Arrange rest of blackberries on top

Turn oven on at 160˚C (fan) and let cake rest until oven is ready

Sprinkle one tbsp of sugar over top of cake and bake for 70 minutes

Loosely cover cake with foil after 30 minutes if cake starts to brown too quickly

Remove from oven and let cool in pan


Recently I watched a documentary about pilgrims travelling through France and Spain, all with different purposes and destinations, at night they stay in houses and lodges thousands of travellers have visited over many, many decades. As romantic as it may seem, I know that I should never attempt such a journey, sharing a room would kill me. But I love the idea of sharing good wine and simple, beautiful food with wise people. Through the years a few pilgrims and even more prophets have knocked on my door and this is what I usually serve:

(for 6 diners)



8 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp chilli oil

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

3/4 tsp paprika powder (3/4 tsp means flat on top, not heaped)

3/4 tsp ground cumin

3/4 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp dried sweet basil

3/4 tsp dried oregano

3/4 tsp dried sage

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 finely chopped cloves of garlic


Mix together in large mixing bowl




500g pumpkin, cut into slices

3 red onions, peeled and quartered

6 miniature butternuts, halved

3 small aubergines, halved lengthwise

3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

12 medium asparagus

18 cocktail tomatoes

1 tbsp honey

fresh thyme

fresh rosemary

coarse seasalt

olive oil


Place vegetables in mixing bowl, gently cover with rub

Line one or two baking trays with foil, place pumpkin and onions on tray(s)

Bake in oven a 170˚C (fan) for 10 minutes

Remove from oven and add butternuts, aubergines and zucchini

Bake for 25 minutes more

Remove from oven, brush vegetables with remaining rub,

add asparagus and tomatoes

Bake for 5 to 6 minutes more until tomato skins just start to burst

Remove from oven, drizzle honey over vegetables and season with salt and pepper

Bake for 5 minutes more




Divide vegetables between 3 large plates

Garnish with fresh thyme and a few rosemary sprigs

Drizzle lightly with some olive oil if preferred

Sprinkle with some coarse seasalt, not too much!

Place the three large plates on table in line with opposite chairs

Set a dining plate at each seating, now you have 3 rows of 3 plates

Add one more plate with thick slices of country bread and some soft cheese made by dedicated people on a farm near you

Open some good wine and call your guests to the table




Few things are as beautiful and enjoyable as bread, toasted or grilled in some or other way, topped with a variety of flavours, colours and textures. Here we have creamy, crunchy and chewy all together, a feast in a few steps. And the pan-fried beets turn these open sandwiches into a royal picnic.


1 (440g) can of chickpeas, drained

100g thick yoghurt

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp paprika powder

finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon


freshly ground black pepper



2 medium beets

1 tbsp grapeseed oil


freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp honey

juice of 1/2 lemon

pinch of ground cumin

18 baby cocktail tomatoes

1 small cucumber

50g watercress

12 basil sprigs with small leaves for crowning the salad


Peel beets, cut in half and slice thinly

Heat oil in pan and fry beets for 2 minutes on each side

Remove from pan and season lightly with salt and pepper, keep aside

Whisk olive oil, honey, lemon juice and cumin together

Season lightly with salt and pepper

Slice tomatoes lengthwise into halves, add to dressing

Slice cucumber lengthwise into quarters, remove seeds

Cut into slices, add to dressing

Add watercress and gently toss salad together




6 slices of oval sourdough bread

few tbsp grapeseed oil


Brush bread with oil on both sides

Grill in hot griddle pan until golden on both sides

Spoon Chickpea Yoghurt Spread on top of each slice

Place bundles of salad on top

Garnish with slices of fried beetroot and fresh basil sprigs



A refreshing, extra-creamy, no-bake lemon and lime cheesecake with the added depth of vanilla, ginger and kumquats. And without any gelatine! I am not the greatest fan of baked cheesecake, a flavourful, unbaked, not-too-sweet cheesecake is a journey to a better place. I have no idea why the world is obsessed with creating uptight unbaked cheesecakes that will cut like baked ones and stand perfectly upright. A slice of soft, dreamy cheesecake with soft edges, (called The Delicious Meltdown), almost like a choir member after a very long but satisfying practice, is one of the best things you can ever experience. I often serve scoops of this cheesecake in dessert glasses.



100g digestive biscuits

100g ginger cookies

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp seasalt

80g butter, melted


Place cookies in a bag and pound with a roller until finely crumbled

Place in mixing bowl, add rest of ingredients

Mix well and press down on the bottom of a 22cm non-stick springform pan

(Very few things on earth are really non-stick, so I very lightly spray pan   with oil)

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) for 6 minutes

Let cool and place in refrigerator until needed




500g Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature

2 tbsp sour cream

1/2 cup castor sugar

seeds of 1 vanilla pod

2 tbsp lemon juice

finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

finely grated zest of 1 lime

250ml fresh whipping cream, very cold

2 tbsp icing sugar

preserved kumquats for serving

Combine cream cheese, sour cream, castor sugar and vanilla seeds in mixing bowl

Mix until smooth (do not overwork mixture!)

Stir in juice and zest

Beat cream with icing sugar in a separate bowl until soft peaks form

Fold into cream cheese mixture

Spoon onto cookie crust, smooth top, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight

Remove cake from refrigerator a few minutes before serving

Heat knife in hot water and then dry

Cut cake into slices

Garnish with thin slithers of lime zest and serve with kumquats



Long storie: I originally served these savoury pancakes as part of a cold salad, sometimes topped with fresh vegetables and herbs, sometimes with lettuce and smoked salmon, sometimes with marinated, preserved or grilled vegetables. One day I was planning to serve a warm first course with pan-roasted vegetables, but after an unexpected phone call and some unwelcome interference in the kitchen, these little salads ended up being served at room temperature. More delicious than ever! The name: Instead of dotting the dressing around the plate like they do in restaurants, I like making bold patterns like those robust ones Matisse became famous for. Have fun!

(6 to 8 servings)



2 eggs

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

225ml full cream milk

125g self raising flour

1/2 tsp seasalt

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

extra grapeseed oil

Whisk eggs, oil and milk together

In a separate mixing bowl combine flour and salt

Mix in small amounts of milk mixture to create a smooth batter

Stir in parsley

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours

Heat 1 tbsp oil in pan over medium heat

Pour 3 tbsp batter in centre of pan to make medium-sized pancake

Cook until bubbles form on surface, turn over

Leave pancakes to cool or place in lukewarm oven until needed

(The few extra pancakes are still delicious the next day) 



1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tsp French mustard

juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1/3 tsp seasalt

1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried sweet basil

Whisk ingredients together

Cover and refrigerate until needed

Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving

(I often double or triple the quantities of the dressing, it can last for a quite few days

 in the refrigerator)



1 red bell pepper

6 zucchini, about 10 cm long

grapeseed oil


freshly ground black pepper

Cut pepper in half and remove seeds

Slice into thin strips, you need at least 24 strips

Remove ends of zucchini and slice lengthwise into quarters

Arrange with pepper strips on baking tray

Drizzle lightly with oil

Bake in oven at 180˚C (fan) until starting to brown, about 15 minutes

Cover and keep lukewarm



4 medium to large brown mushrooms

3 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp butter


Heat oil and butter in pan

Cut mushrooms into slices

Fry until golden brown on both sides

Season lightly with salt

Cover and keep lukewarm



fresh sprigs of basil

extra parsley, chopped

Place one pancake in the center of each individual plate

Place 3 of 4 slices of zucchini on top of each pancake

Place 3 or 4 pepper strips across the zucchini

Arrange some mushroom slices on top

Garnish with basil

Create your Matisse patterns with dressing around the plate

Sprinkle with parsley



I first made this cake during an obsession with one of the many unrequited loves that define my time on this earth. Since then, this cake has reappeared after each novel filled with intense romantic suffering, each lavish historical television drama and each full-volume Rachmaninoff piano concerto erupting from the cupboard. Bake it, serve it, eat it, dream of noblemen, princesses, towering manor houses, white horses and dark clouds. Then have a good cry.




35g fresh rocket

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1 clove of garlic

1/3 cup parmesan, finely grated

1/4 cup grapeseed oil, add some extra oil if needed


freshly ground black pepper


Place first 5 ingredients in bowl and mix into a paste with hand blender

Season with salt and pepper




500g shell pasta


100g fresh baby spinach

100g fresh watercress

1/4 cup fresh cream


fresh ground back pepper

olive oil, garlic oil or pecan oil

extra parmesan


Cook pasta en salted water until al dente, drain

Break spinach and watercress into small pieces and heat in saucepan with a few tablespoons of water

Drain and season lightly with salt

Stir wilted greens together with pesto and cream into pasta

Taste and season with salt and pepper

Press into greased 22cm springform pan

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) for 30 minutes

Let cool completely before removing from pan

Cut into slices, cover with foil and reheat in oven just before serving

Drizzle with oil just and sprinkle with grated parmesan



If I had children, I would have named them Fig and Lemon. Two of the best flavours on earth come together in these cookies which you will make with patience, careful movements and gentle hands, treating them like fat little cherubs. Once baked, rested and cooled, they will be devoured by the monster that has been waiting inside of you. Double the recipe if you care at all about family or friends.

(22 – 24 cookies)


1 cup grapeseed oil

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup selfraising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp seasalt (three times more than the usual pinch, but any less and you lose a lot of flavour, too much and you have a disaster)

1 cup oats

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

10 soft dried figs (225g), finely chopped


Whisk oil, sugar and vanilla together in mixing bowl

Sir in flour, baking powder and salt

Stir in oats, mixture will feel too crumbly, do not worry

Add lemon zest and juice and mix well

Use fist to push dough down onto bottom of mixing bowl

Shape into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours

(As the dough does not contain butter or egg – I’m trying to avoid the vegan word –   

 the gluten in the flour is the only binding agent, so a long resting time is good)

Break or slice off small pieces of dough (it will still be quite crumbly!) and firmly press into 4cm round balls, gently flatten between palms and place on lined baking tray, 8 to 10 at a time

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) for 11 minutes

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes (cookies will still be really soft)

Carefully transfer to wire rack to cool completely




I first published this recipe in GATHERINGS, my 2009 cookbook. It is a perfect example of the food that writes my life story, simple, delicious and versatile. Made with only 4 ingredients - 3 if you remember that the juice and zest come from the same fruit - this beautiful dish is equally royal and rustic and has many uses. I mostly serve it as a dessert or as part of another dessert, I add mascarpone or ice cream or thick custard or biscuits or nothing. I bake it with a crumble on top. I bake it for 2 minutes less so the plums hold their shape better and use it as a topping for pound cake. Or I bake it for 2 minutes longer and serve it as a breakfast compote with yoghurt, nuts and oats.

10 ripe plums, halved and pitted

juice of 1 large orange (about 1/3 cup)

1 heaped tbsp dark brown sugar

zest of 1 orange, cut into very thin strips


Arrange plums in ovenproof dish

Pour orange juice over

(I often use the juice and zest of a grapefruit)

Sprinkle sugar over plums

(Taste the plums, if they are not sweet enough, add a little more sugar)

Arrange zest on top

Bake in oven at 175˚C (fan) for 10 to 12 minutes



With open mouths, red little tongues and outstretched arms, the olives on top of these retro-looking snacks are completing their latest opera, announcing a feast, welcoming guests and reminding you of your need for a beautiful bite.

(24 crostini)


8 slices brown bread

5 tbsp pecan oil

300g ricotta

2 tbsp thick cream

12 black pitted olives, chopped

100g preserved artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh chives

finely grated zest of 1 lime

6 green olives filled with red bell peppers

pink himalayan salt

freshly ground black pepper

extra chives


Use a champagne flute or glass with 5 cm mouth to cut 24 circles of bread

(Dry rest of bread and process into crumbs, store in airtight container)

Brush circles on both sides with pecan oil

Fry 12 at a time in hot pan until golden brown on both sides

(Can be kept in airtight container for 1 to 2 days)

Mix ricotta and cream together in mixing bowl

Stir in black olives, artichoke, parsley, chives and lime zest

Season with salt and pepper (Taste and adjust seasoning!)

Spoon teaspoons of mixture on top of crostini

Cut green olives (across, not lengthwise) into quarters

Place 1 slice on top of each crostini

Cut a few chives into 2,5 cm lengths

Press 2 outstretched little arms into ricotta on either side of each screaming olive



Too few people know that you can fry radishes. This slightly unusual snack becomes a favourite after the first bite.

(24 crostini)

8 slices brown bread

6 tbsp grapeseed oil (for brushing crostini)

250g cream cheese, removed from refrigerator 30 minutes ahead

1 tsp tomato paste

5 preserved sundried tomatoes, chopped

handful fresh basil (15g), chopped


1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

6 red radishes, quartered

freshly ground black pepper

Use a champagne flute or glass with 5 cm mouth to cut 24 circles of bread

(Dry rest of bread and process into crumbs, store in airtight container)

Brush circles on both sides with grapeseed oil

Fry 12 at a time in hot pan until golden brown on both sides

(Can be kept in airtight container for 1 to 2 days)

Mix cream cheese and tomato paste together in mixing bowl

Stir in chopped tomatoes and basil

Season lightly with salt

Heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil with butter, vinegar, cumin and coriander in pan

Add radishes and fry until white sides become golden brown

Place on kitchen cloth to cool

Spoon small heaps of cream cheese on top of crostini

Carefully press down a wedge of radish, red side up, into cream cheese

Season with black pepper