Tash's Table


A selection collection of dishes, drinks, designs and ideas on my table right now!

From Photographer Manja Wachsmuth:
Vanilla Blogtails and Vanilla Cocktails for New Year from Vanilla Table.
Manja shares her background thoughts of photographing Spice Health Heroes and sharing a few of her favorite recipes from the book.
The recipe Oozy Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart – the tart dough is kindly supplied by the fabulous Natasha.

Fenugreek-Poached Pear with Dessert Dukkah

As a 14-year-old budding dancer, I was obsessed with making steamed pears with Cool Whip topping sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. A tad more sophisticated in flavour, texture and colour, these Fenugreek-poached Pears are sublime sitting on a bed of Dessert Dukkah. The toasty maple characteristics of the fenugreek swirl on the tongue, but be mindful not to overtoast or you may have to start again.

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth,  Spice Health Heroes

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth, Spice Health Heroes

Serves 4


350g (12oz./1¾cups) granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ cinnamon stick, toasted
2 allspice berries, toasted
½ tsp fenugreek seeds, lightly toasted (set aside then add to the poaching liquid with the fenugreek leaves)
3 fenugreek leaves, crushed
4 pears such as Bosc or Concorde, peeled and sanded* to remove lines but with stems still attached
60ml (¼ cup) dessert wine, e.g. Sauternes, Botrytis Semillon
or Riesling
2 strips lemon peel
Dessert Dukkah (see below), serve with yogurt, labneh or softly whipped cream (optional)

*Pear sanding tip: use a new, clean fine scrubbing cloth or a foam block nail file to gently smooth the pear. I learned this technique as an apprentice at the Culinary Olympics in Berlin-yes there really is an international Culinary Olympics!


Put the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and allspice berries into a 2-litre (2-quart) heavy metal pan and add 120ml (½ cup) of water. Bring to a simmer on medium–high heat, gently swirling the liquid occasionally, and reduce until syrupy and amber in colour. Carefully add a further 350ml (1½ cups) of water (be careful as it will bubble up). Stir to dissolve the caramel, then add the fenugreek seeds and leaves, pears, wine and lemon peel. Place a piece of damp muslin (cheesecloth) or a circle of parchment paper with a small cut in the middle over the pears to keep them gently submerged. Gently poach until tender but still firm, about 18 minutes.

Remove the pears from the liquid to cool, then chill the poaching caramel in an ice bath. Return the pears to the chilled liquid caramel and cover and chill until needed. Make the Dessert Dukkah (see below).

To serve, arrange 1 heaped tablespoon of dukkah on each of four plates. Using a sharp knife, level the bottom of the pears so they stand flat. Arrange each pear in the middle of the dukkah and serve with the pear-poaching caramel sauce and labneh or softly whipped cream if wished.

Dessert Dukkah

25g (1oz./¼cup) pecans, toasted and cooled
25g (1oz./¼cup) sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
40g (1½oz./1/3 cup) pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled
2 tsp date or raw sugar
1 tsp salt flakes
¾ tsp vanilla powder (optional)

Makes 140g (5oz./1 CUP)
1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
½ cinnamon stick, broken into chips
1 tbsp flax seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp caraway seeds

In a small pan over low heat toast the fenugreek seeds very lightly for just a few minutes and remove to the spice grinder to cool. Turn the temperature to medium then toast the cinnamon chips. Cool and finely grind together and transfer to a small bowl. Toast the flax, coriander, cumin and caraway seeds together over medium heat until you can smell the spices. Cool then grind finely.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the pecans, almonds and pumpkin seeds together until roughly ground.

Add to the small bowl with the spices, sugar, salt and vanilla powder (if using) and mix well. Stored tightly covered in a cool place, the dukkah will keep for up to 3 weeks, or freeze it for up to 2 months.

Toasted Pepper, Lemon and Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream

Black pepper is a surprising companion to sweet summer berries and here adds an addictively spicy base note to a creamy lemon- and strawberry-infused ice cream. Have fun with your guests when asking them to guess the flavour; they will be mystified when trying to settle on the secret ingredient but will be instantly converted to its aromatic charms.

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth,  Spice Health Heroes

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth, Spice Health Heroes

Serves 6


For the Ice Cream:
zest of 2 lemons
100g (3½oz/½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1½ tsp black peppercorns, toasted and ground
pinch salt
150ml (2/3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
480ml (2 cups) crème fraîche

For the Strawberry Compote:
340g (12oz) strawberries
100g (3½oz./½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tsp limoncello
pinch salt


Put the lemon zest, sugar, peppercorns and salt into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until the zest is fine and well combined. Add the lemon juice and blend until the sugar dissolves. With the motor running, add the crème fraîche. Cover and chill for 1–3 hours to allow the flavours to meld.

Wash, hull and slice the strawberries into a bowl. Add the sugar, limoncello and a pinch of salt and fold until the strawberries are coated. Lightly mash with a fork. Cover and let stand for an hour, stirring occasionally, then chill for 1–3 hours.

Freeze the lemon mixture in an ice-cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions, or pour into a dish and freeze, stirring occasionally, until frozen.

Layer a third of the lemon ice cream into a freezer container, then add a third of the strawberry compote. Repeat these layers twice more, then cover and freeze.

Cardamom Carmel Orange Ice Cream

A bit of spiced decadence, this recipe is nevertheless a leaner style of ice cream containing no egg yolks and only half the amount of double (heavy)/whipping cream.

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth,  Spice Health Heroes

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth, Spice Health Heroes

Makes 1 Litre (1 Quart)


For the Carmel:
5 black cardamom pods, cracked
1 tsp (about 8–10) green cardamom pods, cracked
120ml (½ cup) fresh orange juice, strained
1 tbsp lemon juice
zest of ½ orange
300g (10½oz/1½ cups) granulated sugar
1 vanilla pod (bean), split and cut into 8 pieces
120ml (½ cup) double (heavy) cream
1 tbsp coconut oil

For the Ice Cream:
240ml (1 cup) coconut cream
240ml (1 cup) whipping cream
100g (3½oz/½ cup) granulated sugar
large pinch salt
1 tbsp white rum (optional)
2 egg whites, at room temperature


Dry-toast the cardamom in a small pan then roughly grind the pods and seeds in a mortar and pestle.

For the caramel, in a small pan, heat the orange and lemon juice, orange zest, sugar, cardamom, half the vanilla pod (bean) pieces (reserve the remainder for the ice cream) and a pinch of salt to a simmer, taking care it doesn’t bubble over. Stir occasionally and cook until the sauce is as thick as honey. Whisk in the cream and coconut oil until well blended. Let it stand for 10 minutes off the heat, then strain out the larger pieces of cardamom and cool completely. Cover and chill until needed.

To make the ice cream, in a medium pan, heat the coconut cream and whipping cream with three quarters of the sugar, the reserved half vanilla pod (bean) pieces and a large pinch of salt until steamy and the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat, whisk to help cool and add the rum if using. Cover and chill until cold.

Beat the egg whites in a bowl with a whisk or electric mixer until frothy. Stream in the remaining sugar and continue to whip until the whites form shiny stiff peaks.

Fold the cream into the meringue in stages until incorporated.

Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Scoop one third of the ice cream into a container then spoon the caramel on top. Repeat the layers. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and freeze until firm.

2018 New Year Gougeres

Delicious make ahead savoury profiterole appetizer to start your New Year”s celebration that pairs perfectly with a glass of bubbles or a Southern Hemisphere summertime beer! Speck is a traditional pork cut at the local butchers and similar to smoked bacon but generally is cured with spices such as bay leaf and juniper. Or use a bit of leftover Christmas ham or smoked chicken, or leave out all together and add a little touch of chilli paste instead!

Makes 2 dozen large


2 tbsp/30ml/1 fl oz vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 oz speck, bacon, or ham finely chopped
1 tsp fresh minced basil leaves or parsley, to taste
40 grams/1.5oz/5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼  teaspoons kosher salt
¼  teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
¼ tsp piementon or smoked paprika (optional)
¼  teaspoon ground mace or allspice
150grams/5 1/3 oz/1 cup bread flour
90g/ 3 oz/1 ¼ cup smoked cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 large eggs, room temperature
Egg wash for glazing, optional


Adapted from  Vanilla Table  @2013

Adapted from Vanilla Table @2013

In a small pan over medium heat add oil until hot. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add speck and cook until light brown. Stir in fresh herbs for a minute then remove from heat and drain mixture on paper towels. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F. fan.

Add butter, salt, pepper and mace or allspice to 8 oz/225ml/1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat until butter melts. Turn heat to low and add the flour to pot all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly until dough pulls away from sides of pot and flour is absorbed; about 1 minute. Turn off heat. Transfer dough to a stand mixer with paddle attachment and knead at medium low speed for 1 minute.  Sprinkle in the cheese and speck mixture-reserving a bit of each to top gougeres before baking. Turn up speed to meduim and add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides between each addition until smooth and shiny and when paddle is held up the dough holds a “V” shape.

Drop batter by spoonfuls or pipe without a tip into 1 inch-sized rounds on parchment or non-stick lined baking sheets. Brush with egg wash if wished and sprkinkle tops with a little of the cheese and speck. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until doubled in size, golden brown and light in weight. Serve warm or at room temperature. May be reheated just before serving or cool, then freeze in an airtight container for 1 month.

Bread and Butter Persian Pickles

This tangy but slightly sweet pickle is delicious and is made with Persian (also known as Lebanese) cucumbers,which have a slightly thicker skin than hothouse ones, and few if any seeds.

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth,  Spice Health Heroes

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth, Spice Health Heroes

Makes 3 Medium-Sized Jars


900g (2lb.) Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
450g (1lb.) white onions, thinly sliced into half moons
2 large (bell) peppers (red and yellow), seeded and cut into thin strips
2 tbsp sea salt
140g (5oz./1 cup unpacked) brown sugar
140g (5oz./¾ cup) granulated sugar
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp black peppercorns, toasted
1 tsp each yellow and black mustard seeds
1 tsp each celery, fennel and ajwain seeds, toasted
¼ tsp whole cloves
1 litre (4 ¼ cups) white vinegar


Layer the vegetables into a strainer and gently toss with the salt. Cover with a clean cloth and leave for 3 hours.

Drain the vegetables, rinse thoroughly and drain again.

Put the sugars, spices and vinegar in a large stainless-steel or enamel pan (remember that turmeric stains!) and bring to the boil. Add the vegetables and return to the boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and spoon the vegetables into sterilized jars, then pour the liquid over all. Seal the jars, rinse under running water and cool on the work surface.

Store in a dark pantry and keep refrigerated once opened.

Country Onion Mushroom Soup

This is a quick and simple, thick, potage-style soup that I created as executive chef of Bridge Street restaurant in Bigfork, Montana, owned by the award-winning Chateau Montelena Winery in Napa, California. The restaurant was surrounded by a lovely herb and veggie garden, where I grew the horseradish used in this dish. When the time came to make it, the entire kitchen crew would back away as this fresh spice is odourless when uprooted, but once you break the skin, the smell is pungent! The volatile oil it contains is a powerful natural antibiotic but it can make you swoon and your eyes fill with tears!

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth,  Spice Health Heroes

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth, Spice Health Heroes

Serves 2-4


1 head garlic   
1 tbsp olive oil   
1 tbsp grapeseed oil   
50g (9oz.) mushrooms   
1/8 tsp (large pinch) nutmeg   
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves   
125g (4 ½oz./ ½ cup) Turmeric Melted Onions (see below) 
garlic bread, to serve (optional)
50ml (scant ¼ cup) port
475ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
200g (7oz./1 cup) mashed potato
1–2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp pure horseradish, fresh or from a jar, to taste
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Cut the top off the garlic head to expose the cloves, then peel away just the outer layers of the garlic-bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves. Wrap loosely in foil and drizzle a tablespoon of oil over the garlic. Close the foil at the top, place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 30–35 minutes until soft and golden brown.

While the garlic is roasting, make the Turmeric Melted Onions (see below.)

Heat the grapeseed oil and sauté the mushrooms with the nutmeg and thyme leaves in a 2-litre (2-quart) pot until almost dry over medium heat, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, add the Turmeric Melted Onions and half the roasted garlic (keep the other half for other use; it will keep for about 2 weeks refrigerated) and mix well. Add the port and reduce for 2 minutes or so. Add the stock and simmer for 3–5 minutes.

Stir in the mashed potato, lemon juice and horseradish and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve warmed in big bowls, topped with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg, accompanied by your favourite garlic bread, if wished.

Turmeric Melted Onions


Makes 2 Cups

50g (1 ¾oz./½ stick) butter
60ml (¼ cup) grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
4 medium brown onions (450g/1 lb.), halved and thinly sliced
10 grinds black pepper (optional)



Heat the oil and melt the butter in a pan over medium–high heat, stir in the turmeric and cook for 1 minute. (Adding turmeric to the sizzling oil intensifies the flavour and nutrients; the pepper adds even more goodness.)

Add the onions and when they begin to let off steam, turn the heat down to medium–low and cook for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent, melted and light-yellow-brown in colour.

Add the pepper and stir for a few minutes.

Remove from heat, cool, then cover and chill until needed.

Pomegranate Pistachio Parfait

With chia seeds full of protein and seductive ruby-red pomegranate juice packed with anthocyanins and prostate-healthy antioxidants, this light and easy-to-make pudding sweetened with honey is a dairy-free delight – refreshing, romantic and healthy!

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth,  Spice Health Heroes

Photo by Manja Wachsmuth, Spice Health Heroes

Serves 4


For the chia cream:
3 tbsp chia seeds
240ml (1 cup) almond milk
1/8 tsp almond extract
pinch salt flakes
2 tbsp honey
¼ tsp ground cardamom

For the pomegranate gelatin:
475ml (2 cups) pure pomegranate juice
1 tbsp honey
4 gold gelatin leaves (see page 46, or 3¼ tsp powdered gelatin)

For the vanilla labneh:
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp granulated sugar, or to taste pinch ground cardamom
85g (3oz./1/3 cup) labneh

To serve:
25g (1oz./3 tbsp) pistachios, chopped
2 fresh figs, quartered or torn, or dried figs, roughly chopped a few drops rose water


To make the chia cream, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill for 3 hours or overnight.

Cover the gelatin leaves in ice-cold water and leave until soft. In a small saucepan, warm the pomegranate juice with the honey to dissolve. Drain and squeeze excess water from the gelatin then stir it into the juice. Divide the liquid among four dessert glasses. Chill until firm.

Whisk the vanilla, sugar and ground cardamom into the labneh.

Spoon the chia cream layer on top of the pomegranate gelatin layer then top with vanilla labneh. Sprinkle over some chopped pistachios and garnish with figs. Sprinkle over a few drops of rose water.

Organic Blueberry-Toasted Polenta Upside Down Cake 

Simple to make, and not too sweet, this make-ahead vanilla blueberry cake a version of the recipe in Vanilla Table is perfect for a light dessert or brunch and easily made gluten free. 

Photo by Natasha MacAller

Photo by Natasha MacAller

Serves 8


  • Unsalted butter ¼ cup 60 g 2 oz

  • Brown sugar, packed ½ cup 100 g 3½ oz

  • Vanilla pods, split and scraped 2

  • Zest of Lime 1

  • Lime juice 2 Tbsp 30 ml 1 floz

  • Organic blueberries rinse and patted dry 1½ cup (about 8 oz/240 g)

  • Dark rum (optional) 1 Tbsp 15 ml

  • Plain or gluten-free flour 1/3 cup 50 g 1¾ oz

  • Polenta, medium grind 1 cup 160 g 5½ oz

  • Baking powder* ¼ Tsp

  • Sea Salt ¼ Tsp

  • Eggs, large, separated 3

  • Superfine sugar 1/3 cup 75 g 2½ oz

  • Pure vanilla extract ½ Tsp

  • Skim, almond or soy milk ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp 90 ml 3 floz

  • Corn or vegetable oil ¼ cup 60 ml 2 floz

*Most baking powders are gluten free, but check label to be sure. 


Line a 9-inch/ 20-cm cake or pie pan with foil and butter the foil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

Toast polenta in the oven or in a dry sauté pan until you can smell it toasting and is lightly browned. Cool completely, then pulse with the flour, slat and baking powder in a food processor to a fine grind.

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium–low heat. Add brown sugar and stir with a heat-resistant or wooden spatula until the mixture begins to bubble. Add vanilla seeds and pods stirring well for 1 minute. Add lime zest, juice and rum—the mixture will sizzle —and stir until blended. Remove from heat and pour sugar glaze into prepared cake pan. Arrange pods in center of cake pan. Add blueberries in a layer completely covering the top. Drizzle with any remaining glaze. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, polenta, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

In a large grease-free bowl, and using a hand-mixer or stand-mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Slowly stream in half the sugar and whip the whites to glossy, soft peaks, tripled in volume.

In a large bowl, whisk the yolks with remaining sugar until well blended. Add the vanilla, milk and oil, whisking well.

Fold dry ingredients into yolks, using a spatula to combine. Fold in the whites in 3 stages until just blended. Gently pour or spoon batter on top of blueberries, smoothing the top. Place in center of oven and bake for 23–25 minutes until cake is set and springs back when touched in centre.

Cool for 10 minutes then invert onto a serving plate, carefully peeling foil off the top. Serve warmed or at room temperature with a spoonful of vanilla sour cream or Greek yogurt, scattering a few banana pieces and mandarins around the plate.

Mandarins in Citrus Syrup

I learned how to make this garnish from Chef Sherry Yard (@sherryyard) at the original Spago Hollywood-my first job out of culinary school. Use a paring knife or clean thumbnail to make sure all the white pithy threads are scraped off without piercing the skin. The citrus segments are suspended in the syrup, keeping them moist. Adding a little alcohol, such as vodka or orange liqueur, is a natural preservative and helps them last for a week. Feel free to add toasted whole spices such as a few cardamom seeds, a cinnamon stick, one whole allspice berry, or a few fresh ginger pieces into the syrup for a spicer profile.


  • 4 easy peel Mandarins

  • 4 oz / ½ cup simple syrup*

  • 1 Tbsp Orange liqueur

*Simple syrup 1 cup water and 1 ¼ cups sugar, mix together in a pot and simmer until the liquid is clear and syrupy about 5-7 minutes.


Mix simple syrup with liqueur in a jar or other small container – this is a 9 pan. Peel skin off mandarins and using a paring knife and small damp towel, gently separate the segments and scrape the white webbing off each, drop into syrup and store chilled until ready to use on desserts, salads or as a delicious decorative plate design.

The Vanilla Lemon Drop

Inspired by a Taste of Vanilla Lemonade in Hawaii, this  perfect celebration cocktail, combining two fragrant tastes only takes mere seconds to mix and enjoy ©Photo by Manja Wachsmuth - foodphotographersfavorites.co.nz


Serves 1


  • 60ml Vodka (2 shots/ 2 fl oz)

  • 30ml Lemon juice, Fresh, Strained (1 shot/1 fl oz)

  • 10ml Vanilla syrup - I used Heilala (2 tsp)

  • Vanilla bean sliver for garnish


Pour liquid ingredients into an ice filled cocktail shaker. Shake well, Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a sliver of vanilla bean.

Brown Butter Plum Tart

The brown butter plum tart, originally created for Union Restaurant in Santa Monica, is still one of my favorite ways to enjoy the simple yet versatile plum.

Serves 6-8
From book Vanilla Table by Natasha MacAller


Vanilla Tart Shells

In a stand-mixer, beat butter on medium speed until smooth but not whipped. With mixer on low, stream sugar into butter until well combined. Add egg until incorporated. Add flour in three stages, until just incorporated. Don’t overwork dough. Turn out onto a board and work with a plastic dough scraper or spatula until smooth. It should feel like ‘play dough’. Shape into 2 disks, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until ready to bake.

Remove dough from plastic and press into pans, smoothing dough with your hands. If it gets too soft, place in fridge and chill until firm and then rework the dough. You may also roll chilled dough into rounds between layers of plastic wrap. Peel off bottom layer of wrap and place in tart pan shaping sides to fit snugly (remove top layer of wrap before baking). Cover and chill until firm.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C fan.

  • Place a sheet of baking paper inside tartlet shells and fill with pie weights.

  • Bake about 13 minutes, until edges are browned. Carefully remove baking paper and pie weights.*

  • Brown Butter Batter

  • Pit and cut plums into 1-in/2-cm slices.

  • Brown butter in a small sauté pan over medium–high heat. Strain for large flakes of milk solids; small flecks are okay. Cool to room temperature.

Beat eggs and brown sugar together in a stand-mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed or whisk by hand until smooth. Sift in flour and a pinch of sea salt and continue mixing until well combined with no lumps—about 3 minutes. With mixer running on low speed, or whisking by hand, stream the butter into the mixture, combining well. Add the vanilla paste and brandy.

Just before baking, gently fold plums into the batter and spoon into par-baked tart shells, filling about  full. Bake 12–15 minutes until filling is golden and puffed.

More of my recipes to share online.