All posts by Vanilla Zulu

How does your garden grow…

Yes, cooking is simple.  We all do it everyday.  But are you tired of the same boring dishes day in and day out?  I find it’s all about being inspired.  About seeing a photo, a recipe, visiting a restaurant and saying, wow, I can make that!  You may not always have the confidence but give it a go anyway, isn’t that what Google is for, you can simply find a similar recipe and recreate it.

But are you buying the right ingredients?  I find a lot of us are governed by that grocery list, you buy the same things week in and week out and wonder why your meals are always the same.  Try something new, try keep a few other ingredients around and you’ll be surprised how that changes the dishes you are able to create!

And that brings me to the inspiration behind this post.  A herb garden. Isn’t that the simplest way of adding flavour and exitement to a meal.  Isn’t that the easiest way of creating a globally inspired dish by adding a combination of specific herbs to create a themed dish?  And a herb garden is so easy to have, if I can do it then anyone can!  And they don’t have to be expensive either.  You could plant the basics, parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme and of course please just do this for me… plant a few edible flowers!  Dianthus, violets, pansies, roses, marigolds and nasturtiums add instant glitz and glamour and a touch of wow to any salad or meal!

And take it from me, there is nothing more therapeutic, stress relieving than watering those delicate blooms and herbs, creating wonderful dishes in your mind, and stopping to well…smell the roses!


Christmas Safari! African Style…

African Class last night, so good to take a trip down memory lane!  This is my interpretation of a classic Melktert (Milk Tart) served with beetroot and strawberry anise scented reduction and a Rooibos and cherry jelly!  I’ve unfortunately just had one for breakfast!  We also made salted nut caramel to make sure we had sufficient kilojules!  And a sneaky slice of my pistachio and meringue semi-freddo…

Boozy Vanilla panna cotta

Panna cotta really is the simplest thing to make, just have the confidence to try!

Try my tested recipe, it makes 5-6 servings, and once you’ve mastered the basics imagine how many different flavours you could make!

You will need:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups cream

1/2 cup white or raw sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste (you can get this from most supermarkets at about $9 but you only need a spoon for this)

4 sheets titanium strength gelatine soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drain OR you can use 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine dissolved in hot water DON’T use both!


Simply place the cream and milk in a saucepan and heat until just about to boil. Make sure you stir so the bottom doesn’t burn, the only flavour we want is beautiful creamy milk and cream, if you do burn it start again!  Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until dissolved, and then add the softened and prepared gelatine and mix until dissolved.

Pour into glasses, ramekins, dariole moulds or similar, cover with cling film and then place in fridge. Depending on how large you have made them, they could take up to 6 hours to set so these are perfect made in advance!


Johns Egg Nog

A couple of years ago John brought along his now-famous egg nog.  Not only was it deliciously festive, it had quite a kick too!  It does need to be made at least two weeks before serving, but you could even make it this weekend and keep tasting until Christmas time! 

You will need:

5 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 litre milk, brought to the boil and then cooled

300ml cream, brought to the boil and then cooled

350ml bourbon

150 ml dark/white rum


Place the eggs and sugar in an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy! Now add the bourbon and rum slowly while the mixer is on a low speed.  Now pour in the boiled and cooled milk and cream slowly over the paddle so it doesn’t curdle when it hits the boozy eggs.  Pour into sterilized container with lid, such as a 2l milk bottle, and label as EGG NOG, so you don’t confuse this with the milk and pour it over your weetbix lol! Refrigerate for two weeks, but you can start sampling after one!

Faux Croquembouche Vanilla Zulu Style…

The feared Croquembouche, once you know how to make them, they really aren’t that daunting.  Also, a Croquembouche cone is terribly expensive.  Did you know you can actually fashion a very useful cone out of a piece of A3 cardboard, as you would buy at the stationery store.  So it doesn’t have to be costly.  You an simply cover it in greaseproof paper and use it again and again. The actual creation won’t last too long that’s for sure. I found this on youtube for us–gCw

Here they have used little meringues, you could also use piped biscuits or the more traditional profiteroles.  But meringues are cheap, we can make them in advance, and everyone loves them. So to make it sound terribly important and difficult why don’t we call it a deconstructed vertical vanilla and berry pavlova and see if we get a round of applause at the Christmas table this year!  This photo is off the net but I’m making one of these this afternoon or tomorrow to test it and then I’ll report back… heavens, who’s going to help me eat it!

Festively white cupcakes…

So simple yet soooo Christmassy.

Defintely can be made in advance, leaving you more time to spend precious moments with your loved ones. I found these while researching ‘white christmas desserts’ and they definitely took my fancy.

Here is the recipe for you to try, no harm in baking a batch this weekend just to practice. You will need to buy a piping bag and nozzle, easy obtainable from places like Robins kitchen, so don’t think it can’t be done.  And once you have the nozzles, and the confidence, you’ll be piping your way to glamourous and breathtaking creations for years to come. To get the chocolate shavings, take a block of white chocolate and use your vegetable peeler or even a palette knife to make the curls.

White cup cakes, to make 12

1/2 cup butter, grate to soften or use at room temperature

2/3 cup white or castor sugar

3 large eggs, fresh is best

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

50ml milk or cream or plain yogurt

50g white chocolate chips


Place the softened butter and sugar in a mixer with the batter paddle and beat until pale and fluffy.  Now add the eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt and milk/cream/yogurt and chocolate chips and mix together for about a minute until smooth and well mixed.  Stick your finger in the bowl and taste, this is the best part of baking cup cakes, and of course is not compulsary!  Spoon into greased cup cake liners and divide evenly, bake for about 15-20 minutes in a moderate oven of 180c or until the toothpick or skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool and then top with a glorious piping of this decadent icing.

Christmassy snowy icing

1/2 cup butter, grate to soften or use at room temperature

2 cups icing sugar sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

2 tablespoons cream or plain yogurt


Beat the butter until pale and fluffy in your mixer.  The paler you let the butter go, the whiter your icing will be.  Once pale and fluffy add the icing mix and vanilla and cream/yogurt and then start the mixer up very slowly.  Starting at top speed will only result in frustration as plumes of icing sugar rain down on your counter!  Slowly slowly incorporate the butter and the icing mix, beat until silky smooth and then place into the piping bag.

*NOTE* The neatest and least frustrating way to get icing into a piping bag is to fold the top of the bag over your hand while you hold it, peel it over your hand, then use a spatula or spoon to place the icing in the bag.  By folding the bag over your hand you will keep the top of it clear and clean and then you can fold it over and work the icing out as you pipe.  You can do this two or three days in advance if you need to?