Sauces of pleasure

The man himself, from 1999.  Doesn't look a day older.  Photo:  Andrew Gorrie/Waikato Times
The man himself, from 1999. Doesn’t look a day older. Photo: Andrew Gorrie/Waikato Times

Syd Workman is a culinary magician, who has worked serious food magic at his café in Matamata for many years now.

Back in 1999 I wrote about him and Workman’s Café for a food column in the Waikato Times, specifically his famous, amazing burnt garlic sauce.

We were almost regulars back then, and used to visit with friends Harry and Lloyd from Wairere Nursery.  But work and commitments and other things meant we hadn’t dropped by in recent times. Coming back from Tauranga the other night, we decided to pop in and got huge hugs from the man himself.

There on the menu was the burnt garlic sauce – Syd says there was a huge protest when he tried to remove it.

And quite right.

The famous burnt garlic sauce came about by accident. He became animated with a glass of wine and conservation (both necessary ingredients in good cooking) and the sauce was forgotten.

Returning to the kitchen he found the sauce about to self-combust, and quickly threw in some cream.

The result is one of the most flavoursome sauces ever and it’s been on the menu more than two decades now.

Utterly divine drizzled over a rare fillet steak and served with a frisky crisp salad.

Thank you Syd, the world is a very good place with you in it.


Syd’s burnt garlic sauce
6 – 8 cloves fresh garlic, cut into slithers
A little less than 1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 cup of cream
50ml olive oil

Heat oil in a skillet, add pepper and garlic. Cook until the garlic browns and begins to smell nutty. Reduce heat and mix in cream, and reduce while stirring. Then you can have your glass of wine.

Other sauces worth investigating follow.

Another firm favourite is aioli, with plenty of garlic and mayonnaise. This is wonderful on fresh, baked fish and great with homemade chips. It complements nearly all vegetables and is compulsory with onion bhajis.

Easy aioli
4 to 5 cloves garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
½ tsp salt
1 tsp tamari (optional)
1 – 2 cups mayonnaise
Put all the above into a blender and process well. Towards the end drizzle in a small amount of olive oil until the mixture thickens.

Then there is this stunner, from the Atomic Cafe in Auckland many years ago, and still a favourite.

Smoked chilli tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp grated ginger root
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 large tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 – 2 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 smoked chipotle chile
1/2 cup water
salt, fresh ground pepper

Process all the ingredients until smooth in a blender. Transfer to a pan and gently heat until hot, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove. This sauce is best served hot.

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