Creme Brûlée

Creme Brulee is always a winner for a dessert.  It is also much easier to make using this technique then most people imagine.
Great for a dinner party because they can be made a day in advance and chilled in the fridge leaving just the sugar topping to do just before serving.
If you don’t own a blowtorch, you can try to caramelise them under the grill, but I think that rarely works as it takes too long and heats up the custard. My advice is – get a blowtorch.
This makes about 6-8 depending on the size of your ramekins.


  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100g caster sugar (you will need extra for the topping)
  • 6 free-range egg yolks


  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Pour the cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream. Then add the vanilla pod (halved if too long)
  3. Warm the cream to boiling point, then turn off the heat. It’s best if you can let it get quite cool.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale.
  5. Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking continuously while you pour until well mixed. I find this makes enough for about 6-8 ramekins, the variation in quantity comes from the egg sizes and the ramekin sizes.
  6. Fill the ramekins leaving a few millimetres for it to expand slightly when cooking.
  7. Boil a kettle full of water.
  8. Place the filled ramekins into a large roasting tray and carefully put the tray into the opened oven. It’s easier if you don’t add the water till you set the tray in the oven.
  9. Before closing the oven pour in enough hot water from the kettle to come two-thirds of the way up their outsides. (This is called a bain-marie.)
  10. Close the oven door and the custards will cook in the warm bain marie. I find this takes about 15-25 minutes. It can depend on the shape and size of your ramekin.
  11. When they are ready they should still have a nice wobble if gently shaken, they will set further when they cool. If you cook them too long they become too firm and may crack on top. I find 15-20 minutes gives them a lovely soft texture when cooled. Take them out of the oven and out of the bain marie to cool. Once cooled they can go into the fridge to chill further. (I find a pair of tongs ideal for removing the ramekins from the hot water. Take care not to drop them. A fish lift might slide under them and be helpful too.)
  12. When ready to serve, sprinkle one level teaspoon of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each crème brûlée, then caramelise with a chefs’ blow-torch. Don’t add too much sugar to the top or you will create a thick layer that’s hard to eat. To be at their best this must be done in the 60 minutes before serving or the crisp sugar top will go soft. I find it only takes a few minutes.



Creme Brulee is especially nice with a thin layer of fruit at the bottom of the ramekin. Ideally, you want to have a contrast, not too sweet. You can make it seasonal almost anything will work. My personal favourites are Rhubarb, and Raspberry. You want to just gently cook the fruit with a little water and sugar to make a very light fruit compote. For me, the fruit has to keep its general shape. Rhubarb must be cooked but still hold together as pieces of stalk. Otherwise, it’s just a mush. Raspberries are also very delicate. I find you can add a handful and cook till they dissolve to give a base, then add the whole fruits just warming and removing from heat before they dissolve. Spoon a small amount into the base of the ramekin before you add the custard. It brings a sharp balance to the dessert and is eaten up through the layers of creamy sweet custard.

Rose Water

I’ve made this with rose water before and it was faint but tasty. I’d increase the quantity if doing again. For the above quantities I’d suggest 2 tbsp rose water. You could do more but it can be a quite overpowering flavour if too strong. I tried 1 tbsp and it was barely discernible. I think some trial and error is required. Actually, rose water goes well with rhubarb. I will try that when the rhubarb is in season. Also, if doing just rose flavour I would reduce the vanilla, you could even omit it completely.

Baba Ganoush

Great recipe which makes a really nice smoky Baba Ganoush. It’s a fabulous roasted aubergine dip that is best eaten with freshly made pitta bread. As with all these things you can flex the quantities to make it more lemony, or garlicky, or whatever you prefer.
The quantities make about a decent pasta bowl sized serving.
For me, a blowtorch is essential for this recipe. But you might find a very hot grill or BBQ could do the trick. A gas hob might work but it could get messy. A real scorching of the aubergine skin is needed to get a good strong smoky flavour. When I use the blowtorch approach the skin glows red and smokes, it then goes black and carbonised as it cools.
The other essential is draining the aubergine liquids. Otherwise, the dish will be too wet and sloppy.


  • 2 medium to large aubergines
  • 1 garlic clove, more or less as you prefer
  • ½ Lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp good Tahini (I always use Al Arz)
  • Chopped mint or parsley for mixing through
  • Good olive oil for serving
  • Toppings as preferred – parsley, oregano, pomegranate, dukkah


  1. Roast the aubergines in a hot oven at 200C for about 1 hour, more if you think they need it.
  2. I then take them out to the cooker top and set about them with the blowtorch. They are so hot the skin instantly chars and glows red, releasing smoke. (Put the vent on and shut the kitchen door or the fire detectors will go nuts.) Scorch all round.
  3. Now slice each in half lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, trying to avoid getting too much carbonised skin. Put the flesh in a colander over a bowl to cool thoroughly, this drains all the liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, add the tahini and the lemon juice to a bowl with the crushed garlic. Mix them and the tahini/lemon combo will thicken up.
  5. Once the aubergines have drained, put the flesh into the tahini/lemon mix.
  6. Mix it up with a spoon or fork. You may want to use a knife to cut any fibres remaining from the aubergine. Sometimes I cut through it with scissors. It doesn’t need to be too fine and I don’t like the blended stuff, some texture is good.
  7. Stir in any herbs you are using.

Serve the Baba Ganoush at room temperature with some good olive oil and whatever dressings or herbs you fancy. Make your own homemade pitta bread to get the best from this delicious smoky wonderfulness.

Pitta Bread

If you’ve only used shop bought Pitta Bread then you have missed out on a real treat. Fresh homemade pitta bread is both easy to do and much tastier than the packet stuff. It’s also a great barbeque side and is easy to cook on a hot barbeque. They can also be cooked under your cooker’s grill.

They are best cooked as they are about to be used. You need to start about 90 minutes before you want to make and eat them. It’s only about a 20 minute effort, the rest of the time is just waiting and … drinking wine?
I’m always surprised how long the dough can sit around. Put it in the fridge under a damp tea towel or cling film and it will easily keep 24 hours. I once used some I had left in a bowl in the kitchen for 24 hours and the pitta bread was delicious.
Use them to make pitta pockets to fill with grilled meats and salad. Or to tear and dip in homemade Baba Ganoush, Taramasalata, or Hummus.
My preferred cooking method is on our gas barbeque. It needs to be fully hot for the pittas cook properly and to steam internally and it’s this that makes them puff up and form the pocket that is so good for stuffing. They really only take a minute or so. The second side usually needs even less. Try one as an experiment before you load the barbeque up with many.


  • 7g dried yeast (the little sachets are 7g or if you have a teaspoon measure that’s about 1¾ tsp measures)
  • 150ml lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 100ml lukewarm milk


  1. Dissolve the yeast in a jug with 45ml of the water and the honey. Leave it for about 15 minutes for the yeast to begin growing. The quantity of water can be an estimate and doesn’t need to be deadly accurate.
  2. Put the salt and flour in a big bowl, I don’t bother sieving
  3. Add the yeast mixture and the remaining liquids
  4. Mix to form a workable dough
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured (or oiled if you prefer) surface and knead it for 10 minutes (set a timer)
  6. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and allow it to rest and rise for about 1 hour
  7. Then tip it out and divide into 6-8 portions
  8. Roll each out to whatever disc or oval shape you like. About 3mm thick is fine but you will quickly learn what you prefer. If left lying around then cover them with some clingfilm or a damp tea towel.
  9. I leave them all lying on flour dusted non-stick baking sheets for about 10 minutes
  10. Take them out to your very hot barbecue. It needs to be very hot to make them puff up, which forms the pocket inside. Cook them till they puff and then flip them with tongs to the other side. It literally takes about a minute depending on the temperature.
  11. Alternatively, cook them under a very hot grill. I find they can sit a few inches from the grill. You need to do that because when they puff up they can touch the grill and catch fire. So be very careful.
Serve them warm in a basket.

Harissa Lamb Meatballs

These tasty harissa lamb meatballs are easily prepared in advance and can be reheated after cooking. Make it spicy or not, as you prefer, by adjusting or omitting the harissa.
You don’t need to have Rose Harissa, ordinary Harissa is fine. Or even just a pinch or two of chilli powder.



  • 500g minced lamb
  • 1 white onion finely grated (I usually blitz with the food processor)
  • 4 tbsp white breadcrumbs
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1-2 tsp rose harissa to taste
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp (or less if you prefer) Rose Harissa
  • Some thyme sprigs
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to season
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped and added at the end to serve


  1. First, make the meatballs as these need to chill to keep their shape
  2. Add all the meatball ingredients to a bowl and mix with your hands till well mixed
  3. Now make golf ball sized meatballs and rest them in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Make the sauce in a suitable pan.
  5. Cook off the onion till soft and translucent, probably taking about 15 minutes
  6. Add the garlic and harissa and cook these gently for a minute or two
  7. Add the everything else except the parsley and bring to a gentle simmer
  8. When the meatballs are ready you can either simmer them gently for 45-60 minutes in the sauce or put them in the oven in a suitable casserole for about the same time at say 160C fan.
  9. Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving
Serve the harissa lamb meatballs with couscous, salad or pitta bread. Some yoghurt on the side can be a nice cooling element.

I’ve made these a day in advance and just reheated them for 30-40 minutes in a low oven. Works very well.

Pilau Rice

Not sure how “authentic” this Pilau Rice is but it works pretty well. Based on a BBC recipe.
If you own a microwave this is great to do a couple of hours in advance and microwave to reheat.
The pilau rice really is best if it sits warm for 20-30 minutes after initial cooking to allow the flavours to mingle and the grains to be fully rehydrated.


  • 450g basmati rice (please don’t use “easy cook” rice)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • large knob butter, plus extra to serve
  • 4 cardamom pods, cracked to allow the flavour of the seeds to escape
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • decent pinch saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 600ml vegetable stock or water (I’ve used water and it is fine)
  • salt


  1. To make sure you get lovely fluffy rice, wash it in several changes of cold water, then leave to soak for about 30 minutes in fresh cold water. If you don’t have time for this, place in a sieve and wash under the cold tap for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the onion in the butter for around 10-15 minutes until nicely softened but not browned. Add the spices, saffron and bay leaves and cook for a minute or so. The spices will give a fragrant flavour to the rice.
  3. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated in the butter before stirring in the stock or water and salt. Bring to the boil and then cover with a tight-fitting lid at the gentlest simmer you can manage.  Keep the heat down low and leave to cook for 10 minutes before turning off the heat. Don’t remove the lid; just leave the rice to continue cooking in the pan for about 5 minutes until you’re ready to serve. Or sit it to the side with the lid on until you are ready to reheat. (Reheating is most easily done in a microwave. I use a ceramic serving bowl and reheat in that dish, which I then use for serving.)
  4. The rice should have absorbed all the water and will just need fluffing up with a fork. Add a knob of cold butter before serving.

Thick Fluffy Pancakes

These work brilliantly. Sometimes called American style pancakes, but they are very like the pancakes my granny made, I just make them a bit larger.


  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 130ml milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (allowed to cool slightly), plus extra for cooking


  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Put the wet (milk and egg) ingredients, except the butter in a jug, and whisk quickly with a fork to mix.
  3. Warm a frying pan with a little melted butter.  You will need to top up with a small amount of butter after each pancake.
  4. Add the wet to the dry and put the melted butter on top. Whisk immediately to make a thickish batter.
  5. (Flours and egg sizes vary. If it’s too runny you will get thin pancakes. But it needs to be liquid enough to spread out a bit in the pan. It can be made dryer by adding a couple of spoons of flour if needed, or a splash of milk if too thick. But the measures given work for most flours.)
  6. You can start cooking immediately. Make a small test pancake. The first one is never right but lets you get the temperature of the pan right. It’s the cook’s treat.
  7. You know when a pancake is ready to flip when you see bubbles appearing on the surface of the batter and the first ones are just beginning to burst. Flip it over. If it’s too dark on the cooked side your pan is too hot.
 Make a small batch of pancakes and keep them warm in a warm oven at about 50C till you are ready to serve. They don’t really keep long so need to be eaten when the batch is ready. This won’t be difficult.


  • When you add a pancake to the pan to cook drop some fruit into the soft top – raspberry, blueberry etc. This will warm and cook nicely with the pancake. (If you have frozen it’s best to defrost before using. With blueberries, I find submerging them in a small bowl of water is usually enough to hurry up the defrosting. Drain them before adding to the pancake.)
These make great pancakes to serve with thin oven roasted streaky bacon, maple syrup and soft poached eggs.

Indian Egg Roast

This Egg Roast isn’t really a roast at all. The eggs are actually boiled and served in a delicious tomato based curry sauce.

Simple and delicious, and also vegetarian. Boil the eggs as “hard-boiled” as you prefer. 10 minutes gives them fully hard, and 8 minutes with some orange softness to the yolk.
Egg Roast is also a good make-ahead recipe. The eggs just need to be reheated in the prepared sauce just before serving.
Based on a Rick Stein recipe from his excellent book on India.


  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or veg oil if you don’t have
  • 10-12 fresh curry leaves (I keep a plant in the kitchen)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 250g white onions, sliced
  • 2 dried Kashmiri chillies, broken into pieces, seeds included
  • A thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri mirch (adjust this up or down depending on how fiery you enjoy your curry)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 400g passata (with no added salt/garlic/herbs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Coriander for garnish


  1. Gently add the eggs to a pan of boiling water and let them cook for about 10 minutes, on the gentlest simmer
  2. When the eggs are ready sit the pot under a running cold tap to cool the eggs and stop them cooking further.
  3. Heat the oil in a suitable pan. When it’s medium hot add the curry leaves and fennel seeds for about 30 seconds toast them.
  4. Quickly add the onions and cook them for about 10 minutes until they are soft and golden.
  5. Add the dried chillies, ginger and garlic and fry them for 3 minutes
  6. Now add the dried spices and fry them, stirring to avoid catching, for about 30 seconds to incorporate
  7. Add the passata and salt and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. When you are close to serving, add the eggs to the sauce and simmer gently to allow them to heat up again, this will probably take about 5 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve.
Serve the egg roast with rice or a simple bread like chapati.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is always a winner. And the cake stays moist for a few days if covered. The lemon icing really lifts it.
Sometimes this recipe is called a passion cake. Call it what you like – it’s still delicious.


  • 275g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g grated carrots
  • 175ml vegetable oil or melted butter, vegetable oil is fine.


  • 75g butter
  • 75g soft cream cheese
  • 175-200g icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest and half the juice of a lemon


  1. Put the oven on at 170C fan.
  2. Prepare a cake tin. I use one about 9 inches/22cm round and with a removable side/base which makes taking the cake out much easier.
  3. Put all the dry ingredients in a big bowl, then add the wet, and mix together well with a wooden spoon until you have a batter.
  4. Put the batter in the tin and place in the oven for about 1 hour. Test with a skewer, if it comes out clean the centre is cooked. If needed, give it another few minutes. Once cooked place on a rack to cool before removing the tin.
  5. To make the icing beat all the ingredients together until creamed. If it’s too wet just add some more icing sugar. The volume of lemon juice can vary a bit.
  6. Once the carrot cake is completely cooled cut it horizontally. Now ice the middle and the top. Re-assemble and try to resist eating it. Impossible.

Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con carne is a Tex Mex classic. Makes a big pot, flex the ingredients according to the quantity you’re making or your taste. We always make a huge batch and freeze portions we don’t use on the day.


  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 celery sticks finely chopped
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 or 2 peppers (capsicums, bell peppers), any colour, diced
  • 1kg diced stewing beef, I like shin, blade etc
  • 0.5kg minced (ground) beef
  • 3 tins chopped tomatoes (with nothing added, ie. no herbs, spices, salt)
  • 1-2 tbsp chunky peanut butter
  • 1 tin kidney beans (in water, try to avoid sugar and salt added)
  • 4-6 dried chipotles (depending on size and heat required), or ready flaked chipotles
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt to taste (I find 1 teaspoon per tin of tomatoes a good guide for anything)
  • Ground pepper to taste


  1. If you are using dried chillies, put them in enough boiling water to cover them and let them soak while you prepare the rest of the dish
  2. Put the oven on to heat at about 165C or 150C for a fan oven.
  3. Start the dish in a big enough pot that is ovenproof.
  4. Put the onions, carrots and finely sliced celery in some oil and soften them gently till the onions are translucent and soft. This can take about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic once the onions are soft. (Garlic cooks much quicker than the onions and easily burns to the bottom of the pot if put in too early.)
  6. Now add the tinned tomatoes, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper. Keep the heat low allowing everything to get hot.
  7. Drain the soaked chipotles (put the drained water in the pot for extra flavour), take off any tough stalks, chop and put everything, including the seeds in the pot.
  8. Heat a separate frying pan. Brown off all the meat, in batches or it will produce too much fluid and be a dull grey colour, and put in the pot as you brown it.
  9. Lastly, add the peanut butter.
  10. Place in the oven for about 2-3 hours depending on the beef you have.
  11. One hour before the end of cooking add the chopped peppers. If you add them too soon they will dissolve
  12. Take out and add the drained kidney beans, then put back in for another 30 minutes. (The kidney beans are already cooked and can go to mush if added at the beginning.)
We serve with guacamole, sour cream and coriander, and wraps. Enjoy.


I think the mix of ground beef and beef chunks is best for Chilli con carne. Don’t cut the beef too small or it can “dry out” and be hard, about 3cm square is good. I like to serve with rice.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

This does enough Dauphinoise Potatoes for four people as a side dish. Or perhaps two as a main with some green vegetable sides.
This method where the creamy sauce and potatoes are pre-cooked together speeds the dish up a bit.


  • 500g peeled floury potatoes (Maris Pipers, King Edwards, Desiree etc.)
  • 300ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • Grated nutmeg (according to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove (reduce or increase according to taste)
  • 100g grated gruyere
  • Salt and pepper
A square 20cm baking tray is ideal to cook the dish


  1. Preheat the oven to about 140C fan
  2. Peel the potatoes and keep them whole. For quickness, I slice them to about 2mm using my mandolin, but you can finely slice them with a sharp knife. Don’t rinse them, you want all the starch.
  3. Put the milk and cream in a pot, with grated nutmeg, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and heat to boiling point. You will need a decent amount of salt with the potatoes, I use about 1 tsp.
  4. Add the sliced potatoes and simmer them gently in the creamy sauce for about 8-10 minutes, so the potatoes keep their sliced shape.
  5. Layer the sliced potatoes with the gruyere in the baking dish. I make about three layers, potato then cheese.
  6. Put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are cooked, testing by probing with a knife tip.
  7. Then either turn the heat up to the maximum for 5-8 minutes until the top browns or put the dish under a hot grill.
The creamy Dauphinoise Potatoes will be scorching hot and it really benefits from sitting and cooling down for 10 minutes before serving.