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!


Ruby Loves Viva

Viva Cover

We're not sure about you, but here at RUBY we get VERY excited for VIVA day. It helps to ease our hump day lows, filled with beautiful food, design and fashion. Tomorrow marks an exciting milestone for VIVA with the release of a new look and launch into the online sphere (check out our sneak peak of tomorrow's cover above!). We caught up with the amazingly talented Digital and Fashion Features Editor at VIVA Zoe Walker, who is now into her fifth year at the magazine, to find out more a bit more about the revamp and her VIVA highlights so far....


Image by Babiche Martens

Talk us through the new look VIVA. What’s your favourite change?

We have a beautiful new look print edition with new features, columns and way we will approach the good things in life - fashion, food, beauty and design. We are extending VIVA digitally too with an iPad app and website. It's about building on our strong print presence and taking it to a broader audience: Wednesday will still be "Viva day", but a bigger and more easily found digital presence means that we can interact with our readers each day. I love our new design, but I'm particularly excited about growing VIVA digitally with the app and website.

What do you love most about your job?

I have to admit, I love my job. Writing for a living is pretty special, especially being paid to write about interesting, creative people. The best thing about VIVA is how engaged our readers are. And our small, hard-working team is amazing!

What is the most amazing location your job has taken you to?

I have been so lucky and had some incredible travel experiences with VIVA. Last year was amazing: I went to Shanghai for the celebrations marking the opening of the new Louis Vuitton Maison and 20 years of the brand in China. It was massive. They flew in Alexa Chung, Clemence Poesy, Poppy Delevingne and Lana del Rey, and replicated the custom-built, functioning train that featured in the show in Paris. In December I went to Miami - for one short day! - to interview Stella McCartney at the launch of her adidas collection at a waterside mansion. Probably the most surreal moment of my life…



Who is the favourite person you’ve ever interviewed for VIVA?

I have interviewed so many people and it's difficult to pick a favourite...but one person that comes to mind is the artist and writer Jacqueline Fahey. I spoke to her very briefly for a very short piece, but she was such a great interview - charming and intelligent, and still sassy at 82.

What are your top picks from our RUBY & Liam spring/summer 2013 collections?

I'm in love with the RUBY Kingsley Bow Flats - Shoe of the season. I'm getting both colours. I also can't look past the Liam Bon Blazer and Shorts - The cutest short suit, in great groovy paisley print and the RUBY The End Sweater - It seems appropriate for a writer.

RUBY & Liam Favourites


Sophie Donovan Visits Japan

Our favourite RUBY film reviewer Sophie Donovan recently holidayed in Japan. Check out her photo diary from her amazing trip....


Getting all ‘Lost in Translation’ at the New York Bar in Shinjuku. The live jazz band and spectacular views of the city at night was a highlight.


June is the rainy season in Japan and everyone is armed with an umbrella at all times. Negotiating your way through a busy intersection with umbrellas flying at you from all angles takes skill.

Fish Markets

The Tsukiji fish markets, everything you can possibly want on the seafood front. If you get there at 5am you can watch the tuna auction in action.

Local Cuisine

Enjoying some of the local cuisine, as you’d expect the food is seriously amazing.


One of the many kooky outfits seen in Tokyo, check out those shoes!


The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku, so much grey!


Exploring Kyoto’s Shosei-en gardens, one of the many pockets of old Japan amongst Kyoto’s busy city.


Underneath a shrine gate (Torii) at Nara, you see these at the entrance or within a Shinto shrine throughout Japan.


Geisha spotting in Kyoto’s Gion district, they are hard to come by and slippery when it comes to snapping them on camera.


The picturesque Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, it was extra beautiful in the rain.


One of Japan’s most spectacular sights, The Golden Pavilion.


The beautiful Miyajima is a short boat ride from Hiroshima, the perfect day trip on a sunny day.


The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. It was originally the Hiroshima Trade Promotion Hall and was only 150m away from the blast hypocentre. All the other surrounding buildings were completely demolished in the blast.


The little beach town of Kamakura is a fun day trip from Tokyo. You can bike around the coast and spot Mt Fuji on a sunny day in the distance.


On a walk through one of Nikko’s amazing hiking trails with waterfalls, beautiful brooks and idyllic lakes.

Images by Simon Barnett