Spring With Nici Wickes

We caught up with Nici Wickes, VIVA's food writer & restaurant critic as well as acclaimed cookbook author, TV presenter and chef, to find out about spring cooking in her house and her favourite spring recipe (doughnuts? Yes please!)...

I grew up in a family that adores food. We were always allowed in the kitchen to bake cakes and make fudge and all that great stuff that kids love to cook. Later, it was dinners like beef stroganoff and lasagne or helping to make the gravy for a roast. Both my mother and nana are two of the best cooks I know and I am always grateful that they were patient enough and tolerant of the mess that we made so that we go to feel the love of creating in the kitchen.

Spring is so fabulous with the gardens and fruit trees bursting into life and cooking gets faster and simpler with the all the produce available. My favourite spring treat is the first of the season asparagus because it reminds me that summer is on its way. I blanch them, then add a squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle of good quality olive oil and salt and I’m in heaven.

One of my favourite recipes at the moment are these marvellous little doughnuts, called banh tieu in Vietnam, or fried doughnuts. The street vendors make them fresh each morning to sell throughout the day. They’re so pretty and refreshing drizzled with chilled coconut milk and lime zest. They’re perfect to have with a strong black coffee, laced with condensed milk of course, in true Vietnamese style!


Image by Clayton Carpinter


You will need:

  • 50mls warm water
  • ½ teaspoon yeast
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 50mls coconut milk
  • 1 ½ standard baking flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup long thread coconut (or 1/3 cup dessicated)
  • Extra flour for kneading
  • Rice bran oil for frying
  • Coconut milk for drizzling
  • Lime zest from one lime
  • Black sesame seeds to garnish


  1. In a bowl mix dissolve the yeast with the warm water and sugar and cover. Set aside for 5 minutes until the yeast bubbles, indicating it is alive and ready to go to work!
  2. Add the flour, coconut and salt and stir with a knife to combine.
  3. Turn out on a floured surface and knead until the dough comes together and springs back to the touch – about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Place back in the bowl, cover and let sit in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about 30-40 minutes.
  5. Turn out, knead again and shape into a long tube then cut into 12-15 small pieces of dough, kneading eat to a smooth ball.
  6. In a small pot, heat enough rice bran oil to a depth of 10cm.
  7. Deep fry each ball until golden brown and puffy. Drain on paper towels.

Serve warm, drizzled with chilled coconut milk, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and lime zest. I like to have it with a strong coffee, that is sweetened with condensed milk – an essential Vietnamese beverage!