Seasonal Kitchen

Spring Zing

Spring heralds new life in Holly’s garden, so she’s showcasing crisp veges in spring rolls, using juicy lemons in zingy limoncello (perfect to sip or gift), and adding a spicy lift to her favourite carrot cake. cake.

Spring heralds new life in Holly’s garden, so she’s showcasing crisp
veges in spring rolls, using juicy lemons in zingy limoncello (perfect to
sip or gift), and adding a spicy lift to her family's favourite carrot cake.  

Spring! The passionfruit vine is snaking along the picket fence, the fruit trees are bright
with new leaf growth and flowers are starting to bloom for the bees — the garden is coming
together once again.

Our lemon tree nearly split in two from being so laden with fruit this winter and last year’s
silverbeet, spring onions and fennel are still going strong. I’ve been pulling out lacklustre
ornamental gardens to make way for summer produce and sowing seedlings in places with protection from those sneaky spring frosts.

The kids are eager to have their own garden space and are learning about seed germination
and care. Let’s see if our three year old warms up to vegetables this year, rather than me
hiding them in every meal. I’m hopeful… though I may need a sip of limoncello spritz to
swallow that truth!

This issue, I’m welcoming fresh, crisp vegetables with colourful rice paper rolls that do double
duty as a work lunch or a snack with drinks. A bottle of limoncello is also perfect for entertaining
— with the abundance of lemons hanging on trees right now, the time is ripe to make your own.
Try my cocktail idea or simply serve as a digestivo after dinner. It’s a lovely gift decanted into
small bottles too.

I’m a big fan of carrot cake, so much so that it was my wedding cake many moons ago.
This chai-spiced version has evolved from a family recipe and it’s just too good not to share.

If you try these recipes, I’d love to see your creations — tag @madebyhollys
Thanks to BOP ceramicist and jeweller Chloe Grey for the lovely pale bowls used in this shoot,

Rainbow rolls with peanut sauce. (Small bowl by Chloe Grey Studio.)

Rainbow Rolls with Peanut Sauce
Serves 4

These nutrient-packed rolls are vegan and gluten free (as long as you’re using tamari instead
of soy sauce), but they’re also delicious with smoked salmon and avocado, grilled chicken
or beef marinated in lemongrass, ginger and garlic.

1 packet dried rice paper sheets (a 100g large-diameter packet contains about 9 sheets)
½ cup mint leaves
Coriander leaves (optional)
1 red or yellow capsicum, cut into thin strips
2 carrots, cut into thin batons (julienne)
2 baby cos lettuces (also known as gem), leaves picked
½ large cucumber, cut into thin batons (julienne)
A good handful of thinly sliced red cabbage

Peanut dipping sauce

¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp grated ginger
1 large lime, juiced
4 tbs soy sauce (or tamari)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

To make the dipping sauce, add all ingredients to a bowl and combine with ¼ cup boiling water.

Place a damp clean tea towel over a board. Fill a large dinner plate with lukewarm water.
To make each roll, take a sheet of rice paper and dip each side into the water until it starts to
soften. Transfer to the damp tea towel and fill with vegetables and herbs in the centre of the roll.
Fold each side and firmly roll from one end to the other. Serve with the peanut dipping sauce.

Note I like to keep the rolls whole if I take them for lunch, otherwise I halve them and present on
a platter to showcase the vibrant fillings. For a wow-factor, add edible flowers such as nasturtium, pansy and cornflowers.

Chai-spiced carrot cake

Chai-spiced Carrot Cake
Serves 12

This is a twist on tradition with the addition of chai spices and a crunchy topping of spiced
candied pecans, which are a delicious snack in their own right.

Carrot cake

2 cups plain flour
1 cup rice bran oil
1 cup caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
2 cups grated carrot
1 tsp salt
250g can crushed pineapple, drained
2 tbs chai spice mix (below)
½ cup roughly chopped pecans

Chai spice mix*

2 tbs ground ginger
3 tbs ground cinnamon
1 tbs ground allspice
1 tbs ground cardamom
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves

Candied Pecans

½ cup brown sugar
½ cup whole pecans
1 tsp chai spice mix (above)

Cream cheese icing

125g butter, softened
125g cream cheese
500g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chai spice mix, add the spices to a pan over medium heat and stir constantly until
just fragrant (about 1–2 minutes). If using whole spices, toast the largest first and then grind
together in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Store in an airtight jar.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 26cm springform cake tin.

Combine all cake ingredients in a bowl then pour into the prepared tin. Bake for about 1 hour
or until a skewer comes out clean and the top has turned dark golden brown.

While the cake is cooling, make the candied pecans. In a saucepan, add the sugar with
1 tablespoon of water and bring to a boil, stirring until it starts to make a caramel (about 1 minute). Add the nuts, a pinch of salt and the spice mix, and stir well to combine, then cook until the
caramel is thick and the nuts are toasted and starting to clump. Spread over a lined baking tray
and cool before roughly chopping.

For the icing, beat together all ingredients until smooth.

To assemble, place the cold cake on a large platter, spread generously with icing and scatter
over the candied nuts.

* This chai spice mix makes more than you need for this recipe but it’s great to have on hand to make chai tea (recipe below), to use in baking instead of just cinnamon, and as an addition to poached fruit, crumble and muesli. Store in an airtight jar.

Chai tea Add brown sugar and chai spice mix to a small pot, and once the sugar starts to melt, add milk and black tea leaves and bring to boil. Froth the milk using a frother or pulling (pouring between 2 jugs), then strain and serve.

Limoncello cocktail: Use the surplus lemon juice from this recipe to make a sorbet. Add a scoop of the sorbet to a cocktail glass, pour over a double shot of limoncello, top with prosecco, and serve as a refreshing drink.


Master this basic recipe, then get creative by introducing other flavours. I add a couple of kaffir lime leaves and a slice of fresh ginger when steeping the skins. Although only the peel is used, I squeeze the juice to make lemon juice ice cubes or use it in homemade sorbet for a cocktail (see recipe, right).

1L vodka
20 large clean lemons (substitute oranges to make arancello or limes for limecello)
1½ cups white sugar

Peel the lemons and place the peels in a large jar (avoid adding the white pith as this is bitter).
Add the vodka, seal with a lid and leave in a cool, dark place for around 4 weeks to allow the alcohol to pull all the wonderful oils and flavours from the lemon. Patience is key here — the longer you wait, the better the taste.

When ready to bottle, make a simple syrup by placing the white sugar and 2½ cups water into
a small pot over low heat until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Filter your limoncello through a clean muslin cloth into a jug, then add it to the sugar syrup.
Stir to combine and decant into small sterilised bottles.

Words, recipes & styling by Holly McVicar
Photography by ilk