Category Archives: Dips & Spreads

mushroom walnut pate-3

Truffled Mushroom & Walnut Pate

Time: Approx 25 minutes plus soaking            

Makes: Around 3 cups (or 3 times what is shown in the photos)

mushroom walnut pate-2 mushroom walnut pate

Wow, I think I must be the world’s worst blogger. I just realised it’s been over two months since my last post. Terrible. My excuse it that since going back to full time work, I have been incredibly lazy busy (well both are true), and am lucky if I cook dinner twice a week. I haven’t adapted to being able to make post – worthy food in 20 minutes from start to finish, which is all the time I’m willing to spend after being on my feet all day, because it’s just not how I cook. I’m working on it though.

So, in the spirit of getting back into my blogging responsibilities, today I’m posting a recipe that I’ve been meaning  to publish since last Christmas. Perhaps even longer, since the first day I made it. Or maybe I was never going to publish it because I was going to sell it at my market stall, if I ever had the time to do that. But because it’s the season of giving, I give it to you now.

This pate is just so good that I’ve never gotten around to photographing it. It always disappears so quickly when I make it that the task is just about impossible. However, determined to at least post something from this year’s spectacular Christmas feast, this this time I was prepared. I took a third away and hid it so I could finally get a photo today, when nobody knew it existed. I then became very popular for the second day in a row when I revealed it for lunch, also part of my devious plan.

This pate is really easy to make, but is incredibly special. You could put this in a jar and give it to someone as a gift. I’ve fed this to mushroom haters who have devoured it within minutes, pate haters (yes they exist apparently, so weird) who were quickly converted, and to myself, the harshest critic of all, who will sit there with a whole baguette and eat it all if nobody stops me. It’s so, so yummy. So go ahead and make this and become a hero at your next potluck, dinner party, wine and cheese night, Christmas lunch, picnic, you name it. We all like to be worshipped once in a while.


375g Swiss brown mushrooms, cleaned

20g dried porcini mushrooms

1 1/4 cup walnuts

3/4 cup cashews, soaked a few hours, rinsed, drained

1/2 cup porcini soaking liquid

3 tbsp olive oil

2 French shallots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

Pinch dried thyme

3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Grated fresh black truffle* or black truffle oil, to taste

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

* A note about truffles: While they are technically a vegan ingredient, in most parts of the world, truffles are harvested using dogs or pigs. These animals are trained to seek out truffles, and work for their livelihoods.  Some may be treated very well, as members of the family, but others won’t be. They are usually specially bred, which creates all kinds of issues, including puppy farms, adding to the number of unwanted dogs who are killed each year, and the question of what happens to those who don’t pass their training or are too old to continue. For this reason, while the flavour is far inferior, artificial truffle oil is the far more ethical way to go. That being said, I often receive free truffles through my work or friends in Italy, and I use them. You may be able to find foraged truffles which are not ethically problematic, or truffles from farms which don’t use animals. This is one of those ethical issues the individual needs to decide for themselves, but be aware if you are making this for a vegan, they may not eat real truffle.


1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl with 1 1/2 cups of cold and let soak for an hour (or more, more won’t hurt it). Drain them in a mesh sieve lined with a piece of paper over another bowl to reserve the liquid. Remove the paper towel and rinse the mushrooms well.

2. Heat the oven to 200C. Place the walnuts on a tray and roast in the oven for around 5 minutes, or until golden and roasty smelling. When roasting nuts I check them every other minute because they go from toasted to burnt in a flash. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for ten minutes or so.

3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over low heat and add the shallots. Cook until translucent then add the garlic and dried thyme. Cook another couple of minutes until soft. Add the porcini mushrooms and cook another minute. Meanwhile, place the Swiss mushrooms into the bowl of your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the mushrooms to the pan with a pinch of salt and saute until cooked. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved porcini soaking liquid and cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Place the walnuts and cashews into the bowl of the food processor and blitz until they form a fairly fine, crumbly paste (not a nut butter, not a crumb, somewhere in between). Add the mushroom mixture and parsley, a splash of olive oil and blend until smooth but not a liquid. It will be a medium-stiff paste. Remove the blade and give it a good mix with a spatula. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the truffle to your desired truffliness. Place into a covered dish/jar in the fridge to chill for at least a couple of hours before serving. If you want to serve it fancy style rather than in a dish, line a bowl with glad wrap before pressing the pate in, then turn out onto a plate. Serve with thin slices of toasted baguette.



Vegan Nutella

Equipment: You will need a food processor capable of making nut butter. All powerful food processors should be able to do this.

Makes around 1 1/2 cups of the most delicious spread you will ever put in your mouth. 

This is basically Nutella with extra hazelnuts in place of the skim milk powder. That is, just like the real thing but better. I looked up the ingredients of Nutella, and used the same ratios and ingredients to create my own. It has a spreadable consistency, doesn’t separate in the jar and makes me so, so happy.

You know those mornings when it’s so cold that you can barely stand to stick your arm out from under the covers, so you just stay in bed even though parts of your anatomy are screaming at you to get up? Well, this spread on toast for breakfast is enough to drag my feet out onto the icy floor. It’s good enough to make me forget that I hate sugar in the morning. In fact, it’s so good that today I chose nutella on toast over avocado. That may mean nothing to you, but trust me, it’s shocking.

It’s so quick and easy you will make this all the time. Spread it on toast, put it on pizza, drizzle it over pancakes, fill crepes or doughnuts with it, spoon it over ice cream or eat it out of the jar with a spoon when nobody is looking.


2 cups raw hazelnuts

1 cup pure icing sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder

2tbsp (30ml) canola oil OR refined coconut oil (this will make a firmer spread)

1tsp liquid soy or sunflower lecithin*

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* The liquid lecithin is optional. It will stop the oils from separating in the jar, meaning you don’t need to stir for 5 minutes to get it smooth before you eat it (think tahini). However, if you don’t have it and don’t mind stirring, you can leave it out. I always have it in the cupboard because I use it to make vegan butter. You can buy it from iHerb here.


1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Place the hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast for around 10-15 minutes, until the skins are darkened and starting to flake, and the nuts are a light golden brown. Watch them, they can burn very quickly.

2. Tip the nuts into a clean tea towel and bundle them up. Let them sit for a minute or two to cool, then rub them vigorously inside the tea towel to remove the skins. Remove as much of the skin as possible, but don’t worry if there are a few stubborn specks stuck to the nuts.

3. Place the hazelnuts into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to break them up, then blend on high for a couple of minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides, then blend again until you have a smooth, liquid, oily nut butter. In my food processor this takes around 7 minutes.

hazelnut butter for nutella

4. Add the cocoa, canola/coconut oil and sugar and blend until smooth and fully combined. Scrape down the sides and add the vanilla and lecithin. Blend again for 30 seconds or so.

nutella instructional

5. Now, this is where you have a choice. If you don’t mind a slight coarseness to your nutella, you can stop here. If you want it really smooth, you have two choices:

Best results: Pour the nutella into a high speed blender and blend, moving around the blades with the tamper, until silky smooth.


Still pretty good results:  Place the finest mesh strainer you have over a bowl and pour in the nutella. Push through the strainer to remove any chunks of nuts to get the smoothest spread possible. Don’t throw the contents of the strainer away – eat those chocolatey hazelnut crumbs with a spoon or throw them into cookies, cakes or brownies or onto some ice cream. Store the nutella in a sealed jar in the cupboard for up to several weeks.


Eggplant Caviar

French eggplant caviar is my favourite eggplant dip – yes, I like it even more than baba ganoush. Perhaps because it is more subtle and doesn’t overpower other food, or perhaps because it’s an excuse to eat white French bread. I also like that it can be a quick lunch at home with some tomato salad, or served at a fancy party because it has the word caviar in it. Whatever the reason, I make this all the time when eggplants are in season.

There are as many versions of this dip out there as there are cooks. For this reason I don’t claim that my version is authentic, because really, who knows? I do however claim that it is full of creamy, garlicky, herby deliciousness. Spread onto thin slices of toasted baguette, it is  just heaven.


2 large eggplants

1 whole head purple garlic

2 small French shallots, very finely chopped

3 tbsp lemon juice

 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for garnish

4 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Sea salt  to taste (approx 2 tsp)

1 – 2tsp freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil, to garnish


1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C

2. Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork evenly over the surface. Place the eggplants on the stove directly on the flame and char the skin. We don’t want too much smoke for this recipe, so once the skin is all blackened and soft, it’s done (if you don’t have a gas cook top, you can skip this step). Place the eggplants onto an oven tray.

2. Slice the whole unpeeled head of garlic in half along the equator. Drizzle with a little olive oil and some salt and wrap in foil. Place the garlic and the eggplant into the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the eggplant is very soft.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan over a very low heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent

4. Remove the garlic from  the foil and squeeze the flesh into a bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt and mash with a fork until fairly smooth. Add the olive oil and onions, lemon juice and parsley and mix well.

4. Scrape the eggplant out of its skin and into a separate bowl. Mash with a fork until fairly smooth and add the oil mixture. Mix well and season generously with sea salt and black pepper. Place into serving dish and garnish with some finely shredded basil. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted bread.