Making the Black Death Macaroons that sent two Masterchefs home

I was delighted and horrified by the wicked dessert that David Higgs presented for the five contestants to replicate in last Wednesday’s pressure test on MasterChef SA.

The dish was beautiful. I loved the complementary black and white colours and the flavours of liquorice and litchi. It was painful, though, watching people that I have grown very close to struggle with a slightly sketchy recipe and only two hours within which to recreate it.

Full of empathy and bravado, I decided to attempt it myself. Because I don’t have an ice cream machine and neither does my masochistic streak extend that far, I ignored the time constraints.

Here’s a link to the recipe: Liquorice Macaroon with Litchi Panna Cotta, Lichi Sorbet and Black Crumble

Here’s the result:

Liqurice and Litchi Dessert of Death

Not too shabby, I suppose. David himself remarked on Twitter (@David_Higgs) that it looked good enough to eat. I’ll take that as high praise.

What a mission it was though! I’m very glad that I wasn’t in that pressure test.

Will I be silly enough to try any of the other challenges coming up? We’ll have to wait and see.

My stab at David Higgs' dessert

The JIA Emptiness dinner plate was kindly supplied by entrepo Hyde Park. Tel. 087 150 5369
R 279.95









I wish I had one of these. I had to churn the sorbet by hand in a bowl over ice and salt. Old skool.

Le Glacier Turbine Ice Cream Maker
R 6 960









You’ll also need a stand mixer (Kenwood, Kitchen Aid), silicone macaron baking sheet (Silpat, Tescoma, Sweetly Does It), piping bag, whipping siphon with NO2 chargers (iSi, Ibili), isomalt and black gel colouring. These last two are available at good baking shops.

Happy baking!?

P.S. (2013/07/30) The liquorice and white chocolate ganache filling for the macaroons is the most delicious thing ever. It’s seriously addictive. Be warned.

Salmon Mi Cuit

Talk about a pressure test! I invited the series director and head of content of MasterChef SA for dinner last night.

After bubbles on the deck (thanks guys), we settled down to a four-course dinner skipping helter-skelter over that rustic/refined line.

The prize for the most photogenic dish of the evening goes to (drum roll please)… Salmon Mi Cuit. This consisted of a piece of half cooked (that’s what mi cuit means) salmon, a ginger and ponzu fluid gel, radishes pickled in rice vinegar, wasabi aioli and salmon roe. The dish is inspired by sashimi and salmon roses.

Salmon Mi Cuit

I unabashedly adore ChefSteps. I’ve made their 104F Salmon dish a few times, but this time decided to make it my own. I followed the technique for Salmon Mi Cuit (, which renders the most delicious and succulent salmon imaginable, and dressed it with a few garnishes to invoke that sushi vibe.

What on earth is a fluid gel?

I recently saw a HarvardX lecture on iTunesU in which Dave Arnold – a total rock star by the way – makes and explains a fluid gel. He explains: “Fluid gels have the properties of both a fluid and a gel. Agar fluid gels can look like hair gel on the plate but feel like a smooth, creamy sauce in the mouth.”

I decided to put this to the test. I whizzed up some sushi ginger, fresh ginger, ponzu sauce and about 0.8% agar-agar. Heated it to the boil and filtered it through an Aeropress. (Couldn’t find my muslin, works a treat.) I let the gel cool and set, and then blended it. Voila! Fluid gel. The soy in the ponzu with the particular texture of a fluid gel gives it that lovely silkiness and deep flavour of a good jus.

To complete the sushi effect I made a wasabi aioli and added some salmon roe. I loved the idea of making a modernist dish and having real ‘caviar’ on the plate instead of something spherified.

Equipment required:
Sous Vide circulator or bath or thermometer
Immersion blender

Difficulty: moderate

Salmon Mi Cuit close up

Some handy products for this dish


AeroPress Coffee Maker

Finding good coffee when travelling is an expensive and sometimes impossible task. The Aeropress is a wonderful travelling companion. I also found it great at straining liquids quickly and effectively.






Decadent Spiced Flourless Chocolate Dessert Cake

A dear friend phoned me recently with an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Apparently a large batch of Ferrero Rocher milk chocolate had melted into a solid mass and was seeking owners at R25 per kilogram. How could I resist? I immediately got 4 kilograms, which have been lazing around in my pantry waiting for an occasion.

A Hunk of Chocolate

A Hunk of Chocolate

I’ve been a huge fan of the Chez Panisse flourless chocolate cake for years, and have made several very tasty variations with various types of dark chocolate; Lindt Intense Pear and Lindt Intense 85% being my favourites to date. This weekend I decided to use whatever I had in the cupboard (including the aforementioned pile of milk chocolate) to make a delicious dessert. It sits, very happily, somewhere between a cake, a fondant and a fruit flan. It’s rich and decadent, warm and spicy, cool and tangy all at once.

Another dear friend, who requested to remain nameless, was instructing me in the ways of taking decent food photos while I was baking. It was a fun and chaotic afternoon, and I am eternally grateful.

Spiced Chocolate Dessert Cake with Strawberries, Pine nuts and Yoghurt








  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Grease the base of a 20-23cm springform cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Dust with a little flour.

Quality milk chocolate
Butter, unsalted
(Or use salted butter and omit the salt)

300 g
250 g



2.5 ml


  1. Melt in a bowl in the microwave at 60% power. Once melted, whisk together until smooth.


Chocolate and Butter

Egg whites


6 whites

  1. Whisk until soft peaks form.

Cream of tartar


2.5 ml


Egg Whites

Egg yolks
Castor sugar
Demerara sugar


120 g
55 g

6 yolks


  1. Whisk until thick and pale.




  1. Pour in the chocolate mixture and gently mix until smooth.


Ground almonds

55 g


  1. Sprinkle onto the mixture.

Cocoa powder
Cake flour


30 ml
15 ml

  1. Sift together onto the mixture.




  1. Mix together.
  2. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites to complete the batter.





  1. Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is set but slightly wobbly in the centre.
  2. Cool in the tin. The centre will collapse slightly – a perfect hollow for the toppings.


The toppings for the cake

The toppings for the cake

Butter, unsalted
Pine nuts
Ground cinnamon
(Butter must be unsalted here)

50 g
30 g



2.5 ml


  1. Melt the butter in a very small saucepan.
  2. Add the pine nuts and cinnamon and fry gently until the butter begins to caramelise and foam and the pine nuts are starting to turn a very pale brown.
  3. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits that are stuck and pour the pine nuts and butter into a cool bowl to stop the cooking.
  4. Leave to cool slightly.


Mascarpone cheese
Greek yoghurt

150 g
150 g


  1. Gradually stir the yoghurt into the mascarpone to form a smooth mixture.


Caramelised butter, cinnamon and pine nuts

Caramelised butter, cinnamon and pine nuts




  1. To serve, run a knife around the edge and remove the cake from the tin. Peel off the paper and place on a cake platter.
  2. Dust the cake with cocoa powder.


Strawberries, hulled and halved



  1. Pile the strawberries in the centre of the cake.
  2. Pour the butter mixture over.
  3. Spoon the yoghurt mixture on top.
  4. Slice and serve. (The centre should be quite gooey.)





This cake is best stored at room temperature under foil, though the toppings need to be refrigerated. Oh dear, you’re going to have to eat the whole thing!

Eat Me

Eat a slice, or 6! It’s gooey and delicious.