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I make a lot of cheesecakes, but this is by far the most popular. I smear dulce de leche over the top and decorate the edges with chocolate chips. It’s so rich and delicious. I prefer to use vanilla beans to vanilla extract. After scraping out the seeds, I put the bean in a bowl of sugar to make vanilla sugar. Or – a trick from the older ladies in the Dominican Republic – I put the scraped pods in a pot of water and simmer for the best air freshener ever. Latinos make dulce de leche by simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk for 3 hours. Nothing works better, and it couldn’t be easier.

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I love this soup. Its funny, for the Food Network cooking show we'd bought tons of squash to decorate the set and I thought, 'What feels like winter?' Winter vegetables, and of course, tons of pumpkins. We had just gone to the store and we cleaned them out, we got every pumpkin they had. We put them all over the house and put bows on them. When the show was over, I had all this squash, and of course I had to cook it. After a couple weeks of squash this and squash that, my husband and my son were like, 'Please, no more!' But there was more. I hate wasting food. We're a member of a vegetable collective that delivers locally grown produce once a week. During the fall and winter months, every single week, there's another butternut squash in our package. This butternut squash soup was one of the last squash things I made before the season for them was over, and it was such a victory. Even though they were sick of squash, my husband and son both ate it: it was that good. I add cream to the soup but it's also delicious without it. MAKES ABOUT 4 QUARTS OR ENOUGH FOR 8 SERVINGS

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