Don’t Compromise it, Caramelise it

Don’t Compromise it, Caramelise it
Photo: Gordon Wright

Some of us are faster, some slower. Vegetables are like that too. They don’t all cook at the same speed, so for the first recipe, add the quicker cooking ones a bit later, such as beans, sugar snaps, mushrooms and so on. The frozen nougat recipe that follows the vegetable bake is rich, crunchy and decadent yet beautifully soft, smooth and sort of ice creamy. Oh, and the hazelnuts are caramelised.

The sweetness from the veg comes through deliciously and is superbly balanced out by the umami goodness from the caramelisation and balsamic vinegar. Try to use the best balsamic vinegar you can afford, the thicker and stickier the better.

Caramelised Vegetable & Balsamic Bake

Serves 4-6

2 x red onions

1 handful of green beans

4 x carrots

4 x baby marrows

4 x baby gem squash

2 x large brown mushrooms

250g sugar snap peas

4 x cloves garlic

Large sprig of thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

A generous glug of olive oil

A few crushed and dried chillies to add a tiny bit of heat (optional)

Peel and roughly chop/quarter the veg. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to give a good coating.

Pop all the veggies in an oven roasting dish and bake at 220oC for about 45 minutes, Larger veg, like butternut, potatoes, sweet potatoes and so on, will take a bit longer. I do find that a slightly hotter oven allows for the caramelisation process to occur easily and the veg to crisp up nicely and go golden brown.

Shake the pan well after about 30 minutes and add the fast-cooking veg.

Once ready, gently toss through a bit of olive oil, drizzle with the balsamic and serve.

Goes fabulously with most meat dishes or even on its own.

Frozen Hazelnut Nougat

Makes 6-8 servings

This cold dessert is one of my favourites of all time, rich, crunchy and decadent yet beautifully soft, smooth and sort of ice creamy. I like to offset the sweetness with some granadilla (passion fruit). Just a small scoop of fresh pulp on top and that tartness contrasts and yet complements this dessert perfectly. It was one of the most popular in my old restaurant and certainly my No 1.

You need to make this in three separate parts and blend them together.

Makes 6-8 servings

Caramelised hazelnuts

80g x hazelnuts

80g x castor sugar

Place the sugar in a heavy pan and heat, add the hazelnuts and mix until the hazelnuts are caramelised and the mixture is a beautiful golden colour. Pour out on a heat-resistant surface and allow to cool. Set aside. (Be very careful as this mixture is incredibly hot and can easily burn you quite badly if spilled.)


6 x egg whites

250g x castor sugar

375ml cream

½ t x vanilla essence

Mix the egg whites and the castor sugar in a double boiler. Whisk continuously until the mixture is warm and fluffy. Remove from the heat and whisk until cool, but still fluffy. Roughly crush up the caramelised hazelnuts with a meat mallet or suitable bashing device.

Whisk the cream until stiff.

Fold in the whipped cream, caramelised hazelnuts and egg white mixture and mix well.

Place the mixture into freezable containers (you can use old ice cream containers) and freeze overnight.

Serve big scoops on a hot sunny day with a nice bit of granadilla pulp on top.

You’ll be the most popular person in the neighbourhood. DM

Gordon Wright is the author of Karoo Food and Veld to Fork.


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