Category Archives: Recipes

Rustic Pea Mash…simply spectacular

It’s always surprising, during my classes, when we create the most amazing meals imaginable using every day ingredients (and some fancy ones) and EVERYONE is in raptures about the ONE dish that is truly simply.  The one dish that is truly easy.  The ONE dish that is truly versatile.

This side dish is SO SUPER easy that you could literally whip this up at the drop of a hat.  It is also so SUPER VERSATILE that you can use it again and again for many years to come…and be the talk of the town (in a good way)

These are easy peasy peas. Now just so we are clear, I am not the kind of girl to put my peas through a stainer or a sieve, but if I was doing a fine-dining meal then of course i would.  So here i embrace the pea-skins, I leave them in and admire them, and that’s why I can them Rustic Peas.

Try these easy peasy peas on someone you love this weekend and you’ll be sure to get a round of applause from your friends and family alike!  Enjoy!

Sexy Butterbean Mash – the newest and latest craze at Vanilla Zulu…and here’s why!

We all love mash.  Its comforting deliciousness is not only the cause of many an eye-closing tastebud-bursting ‘ah’ moments, its also the perfect platform for the rest of the meal you are serving with it.

Sexy Butterbean Puree served with roast Porcini Duck and Pancetta Peas

Potato mash is respectable.  Not only has it stood the time but I guarantee, respectfully so, that in a 1000 years us humans and our AI companions will STILL be enjoying its creamy deliciousness.  But oh dear, it’s a bit time consuming ain’t it! First we wash the potatoes. Then we peel the potatoes. Then we rinse the potatoes. Then we cube the potatoes. Then we wait for the potatoes to boil.  Then we drain the potatoes.  Then we mash the potatoes. Then we season and THEN and only then do we serve…I still think it’s worth it and will never tire of the love and dedication that goes into mash.  I lived and worked in Ireland and have Irishness in my blood, and my kids love it so it stays.


I have a quickie mash for you.  For when you want same but different.  For when you want to refresh a dish and make it shine.  For when you just haven’t got the time to do a mash, this might come in handy. It’s also dirt cheap to make and butterbeans in a can are EVERYWHERE!


Enter Butterbean Mash…

If I’m using this in a class then I call it butterbean puree because then it sounds much more cheffy but guys, it’s the same thing.

It takes under 10 minutes, could take 5 in an emergency and you had time to stir.  It’s far too easy to make so don’t be disappointed when your’e smiling and refreshed after making this and your friends and family are giving you a round of applause for being so fabulous.

There is also another wee problem with butterbeans.  They are beige.  Boring and beige.  Beige was only popular in the 70’s and will never look sexy on a plate so here I have ‘blinged’ them up and given them a happy sunflower yellow tan with good old fashioned turmeric.  I should have turmeric in my holster, I use that stuff on everything…

Delicious yellow butterbean puree

(Serves 4)

2 tins butterbeans, drained

125ml  cream/milk or water (depends on your dietary preference)

1 chicken/mushroom/vegetable stock cube or use 1 teaspoon of powder stock

2 tablespoons pecorino or Parmesan grated (optional, you can keep this clean)

1 clove garlic, crushed

10 ml truffle scented oil/lemon oil or olive oil

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder or freshly grated

Salt and pepper to taste




Place all ingredients except the oil, in a large saucepan and heat over a really low heat, stirring regularly for about 10 minutes until tender making sure that it doesn’t dry out (add more cream or water/stock if needed). Once the beans have started to break down a bit more and look more cooked, add the oil and season to taste. Either wait for these to cool and then place in a food processor, or use a hand held masher or even stick blender.   Either process completely, or leave slightly chunky for a more rustic mash!


To serve


Either serve chunky or as a puree.



You can change the flavour of these beans to suit or match your meal.


Add 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary if you are matching lamb

Add coconut cream and curry paste either for Thai or Malaysian or Indian dishes.

Add a teaspoon of grainy mustard or horseradish if you are matching beef or pork

Add a teaspoon of curry powder if you are serving this with a curry

Add smoked garlic and smoked paprika to match a Spanish theme

Remember to take all the credit for this!  I want you to be as happy as me in the kitchen!

You cand serve this with so many dishes it’s just crazy.  Adjust your stock to make it thinner or thicken to suit various dishes.

Happy Cooking!


Chef Mel

Vanilla Zulu

Lightest and fluffiest happiest birthday AND wedding cake!

Hi guys!

Yes, I turn 43 tomorrow and in two weeks I marry the man of my dreams so a lot of happiness happening for me! I’m always so grateful to get to the next year, I don’t mind the wrinkles, I am just lucky to still be here so that I can spend more time spreading culinary happiness!

And, for those who know me, do I ever like to share happiness!  So that best way for me to do that is to share this amazing recipe with you so that you too can join in the good vibes that will surely arise the minute you put this amazing light fluffy delicious ridiculously easy cake on your taste buds.

I don’t often bake, because I can’t be trusted not to eat the entire cake myself, but this one is worth it.  I would do 100 burpees or sit ups just to have ONE slice of this deliciousness…and like they say…life is short so EAT THE CAKE!

My future husband Mike told me that his favourite ever cake was the basic butter cake…so in order to be the future wife of the year I went to the ultimate version of this simple cake. This photo here was taken with fondant icing rolled into strips and then placed around to make waves…


225 g salted butter

4 large room temperature free range eggs

1/4 cup white sugar AND 3/4 cup white sugar

200g self raising flour

60ml milk

10ml vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lime or lemon


Firstly separate the eggs.

Beat the 4 egg whites until just about to hit peak stage and then add the  1/4 cup white sugar and beat until thick and looking like meringue.

In a separate bowl, beat the 3/4 cup sugar and butter with the whisk attachment until light and pale fluffy.  The sugar must be dissolved right through and the mixture should look like a little bit of heaven…all light and fluffy!


Now put the mixer on to really low and add the egg yolks, self raising flour, vanilla and zest.  Mix well to form a smooth batter.

Using a plastic spatula, fold in the meringue mix gently to incorporate with the batter, but don’t over mix, you just want to lightly combine the two mixes.

Now pour into a greased baking dish or cake mould.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 170c, until a skewer comes out clean from the middle.

Always check at the 15 minute mark, make sure the temperature is perfect, if it’s going too dark too quickly, drop the temp to 160c!

Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool!

Now this was the icing I used:

250g butter

3 cups icing mixture

milk on the side, about 30-60ml to get the consistency you like

10 ml vanilla paste


Beat the butter with the whisk until very light and very fluffy.  Add the icing mixture, the vanilla paste and then mix again till smooth.  At this stage you can add the milk slowly slowly to get the consistency you need!

Once the cake is cooled, ice as required and decorate with fresh flowers, chocolate shavings or sugared lemons!


Happy Baking!


Share the love!


Father’s Day Pancake Ideas!

Home made buttermilk maple pancake

250ml buttermilk or milk
1 egg
50ml maple syrup
250g gluten free/plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
10g butter, melted

Place all ingredients into a large bowl and then whisk together until smooth and lump free.

Use small ladle to measure out the pancakes into a hot and greased frying pan.

Serve stacked up in the centre of a bowl with one of the following toppings!

Is your dad a ‘sweet’ or a ‘savoury’ kind of guy?


Maple cream

Mix 50ml maple syrup with 50ml cream and stir. Serve poured over the pancake stack and then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a rosette of whipped cream.

Sprinkle with 10g pistachio and cinnamon gravel and 5 raspberries

Peanut butter and banana with salted caramel

Mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to a paste with about 3 tablespoons heated cream so that it thins down.

Now slice up one banana and top the pancake stack with the peanut butter sauce, banana and finally the salted caramel.

For the salted caramel put 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter into a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves.  Then heat until it’s bubbling and fragrant and then sprinkle with a pinch or more of flake salt.


Mushrooms, parmesan and chorizo

Haloumi, bacon and grilled tomato

Hard Core Carnivore Pancake:  serve crispy bacon, pancetta and prosciutto, sausages and chorizo on your pancake with a tomato chutney to give dad the ultimate Hard Core Carnivore pancake!


Father’s Day Eggs for Breakfast Ideas!

Eggs are always a popular choice for breakfast. I have two sauces here for you to try. I also have an easy Brioche recipe coming soon.!
Father’s Day is soon approaching!

I have some wonderful inspiration for making dad feel extra special!  They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so let’s take the easy way to making you his favourite child this Father’s Day!


  • 3 tablesppons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 shallots finely chopped
  • pinch freshly ground white pepper
  • 225g very cold butter diced



  • 175g butter
  • 30ml water
  • 3 egg yolks ONLY
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 15 ml lemon juice





Boil the wine vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper in a pan until there is only about 1 tablespoon of liquid left. Now whisk in the butter (reduce the heat of the stovetop) dice by dice, so that they soften and thicken the sauce rather than MELT, so remove the pan from the heat and maintain the correct temperature along the way. Keep this sauce warm, don’t let it melt as it will become oily! Keep it warm not hot!

Serve with poached fish, steak, vegetables and more!

Once you have mastered this let’s try a Sauce Hollandaise!



This sauce is best served IMMEDIATELY after it is made, you can keep the sauce warm for a short time over a bain marie if necessary.

Melt the butter over a low heat and clarify it by removing the foaming milk solids and only using the ‘yellow oil’ that remains. Let the clarified butter cool down to ‘warm’.

In a small saucepan whisk the water and the eggs yolks, seasoned with the salt and pepper until light and fluffy. Set the pan over a low heat or over the bain marie and whisk until the egg is at ribbon state, or leaves a trail at the base
of the pan. Now turn off the heat and slowly whisk in the butter very slowly making sure it does not curdle. When all the butter has been added stir in the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning.


Saffron, lime and chili infused butternut broth with creamy chive and feta dollop

Nothing is more satisfying than a healthy and nutritious bowl of fabulous pumpkin or butternut soup to warm the cockles of your heart.   Here’s a really easy and very sexy soup for you to try.  It’s all about adding a delicious dollop of creamy chive and feta for some texture, flavour and culinary bling.

Now not everyone can get their hands on saffron so do not fear, I have accounted for that in the recipe.  Read on fabulous foodie.


Saffron, lime and chili infused butternut broth with creamy chive and feta dollop                                 


Serves 6-8


2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

2 medium onions chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 good pinches saffron or use 1 teaspoon turmeric powder instead

600g -1 kg butternut, sweet potato or pumpkin cubed into 1 or 2 cm cubes (perfect way to use leftovers)

2 litres good chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to season

Zest of one lime

1 small chili crushed (or use more if you like!)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or use mature cheddar (optional)

80 – 100 ml fresh cream

100 g Danish style feta mixed to a paste with 1 bunch chives or spring onions, finely chopped. Alternatively use Greek feta blended with a few tablespoons of cream until smooth!




Fry the onions in the oil or butter with the garlic until just soft. Now add the saffron or turmeric and finely cubed butternut as well as the stock. Allow to come to the boil and cook for about 15 -25 minutes until the butternut is soft,  Now add the zest and the chilli as well as the fresh cream. Remove from heat and blend with a stick blender and blend until ridiculously velvety and smooth.  If this is too thick for your liking add some more stock and thin it down.

When you serve simply garnish with dollops of the feta and chives, and even some fried shallots for crunch!

Vanilla Zulus Telephone Pudding

Living away from my home country, I have found myself not only longing for my mother but for my precious aunts and cousins spread over the globe.  We haven’t seen each other in years as many of us fled South Africa and are now scattered all over the world, but from time to time we will drop each other a line and we always know we are missed and loved.

I am lucky to have a wonderful set of aunts that have not only contributed to my upbringing, but continue to be a valuable support, strength and bring happiness to me.

We all bear a slight resemblance to each other as I suppose most families do, but what really connects us is food.  A ridiculously sweet tooth unites us.  We have always celebrated, swopped, discussed and enjoyed sweet treats at family gatherings, get togethers and when we are feeling homesick and missing each other.

We also have a secret to reveal.  A very very old and dear family recipe that has been passed for generations from one sweet tooth to the next.  We all have a copy of this recipe in our well-worn recipe folders and will often get a desperate call from a family member or a guest that has attended, BEGGING for the recipe.

Thus this decadent and delicious and world famous recipe is known as TELEPHONE PUDDING.  Yes, telephone pudding.  Because, as I said,  you are guaranteed to get a phone call from a guest or a relative begging for the recipe over the phone once they have tried it.  It remains, to date, my favourite all time dessert.

Not only does it conjure up precious memories of family get togethers and of my childhood, but it is now my quick-fix for any homesickness that I feel!

Perhaps we should re-name it EMAIL PUDDING or FACEBOOK PUDDING but either way I have decided to share it with you and spread the love.


With much love from my family to yours xxx

Telephone Pudding

This dessert is also a must for winter! As discussed, this is  called telephone pudding in my family because the recipe is usually given over the phone! It is essentially a self-saucing ginger sponge…heavenly xxx

375 ml plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a 250 ml cup of milk

250 ml white sugar

1 cup almonds or pecans blended to resemble breadcrumbs (optional, feel free to omit)

125 ml soft or just melted butter

1 tsp powdered ginger

1 egg

2 Tablespoons apricot jam

Pinch of salt


250 ml cup of white sugar dissolved in 500 ml cups of boiling water


Beat the sugar and the butter together until light and fluffy and then add the egg. Mix until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix through. Spoon into a greased baking dish. Now make the sauce by mixing the sugar and the boiling water together. Use the back of a spoon to pour over the batter….DO NOT MIX.

Bake in a pre-heated oven of 160 c for 25-30 minutes depending on how deep your baking dish is. Check for doneness and then serve hot and sticky with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Family friendly comfort food!

MOTHER’S DAY Pumpkin, Parsley & Parmesan Scones

These are not just ANY old scones.  Behold…these are my old faithful’s.  They have never let me down, never not worked, and they are magnificently quick.

Best part is  you don’t need a scale, you don’t need to fuss…simply mix and bake!

I have ‘blinged’ up the humble scone, I think it was well overdue for a makeover don’t you? To add colour, personality and flavor I have added grated pumpkin or you could use carrot, zucchini or butternut instead! That teamed with the herbs and the sexy ricotta spread will give your next scone-serving session guaranteed ‘ooh’s and aah’s’ …

Pumpkin, parsley and Parmesan Scones
  • 2 cups plain flour sifted = 500 ml
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder sifted
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (or cheddar)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives or parsley
  • 2 eggs beaten – place in a 250 ml cup measure, top to the 250 ml mark with milk/ricotta/sour cream/sour milk or even plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, butternut, zucchini or carrot finely grated – place in a bowl with 125g grated or diced butter and ‘melt’ in the microwave for about a minute, this will melt the butter and soften the vegetable!


  1. Mix all the ingredients together until a nice thick batter is formed, try not to over mix as these will become tough if over handled! Less is more in this case.
  2. You can either drop tablespoons of the mixture into greased and floured muffin tins, paper cups, terracotta pots or just dollop onto a baking sheet OR with floured hands shape the dough into a square with your hands and simply cut into 9 squares.
  3. Place squares on baking tray.
  4. Bake at 180 c for about 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked.
  5. Check for doneness. Serve with this delicious spread or just some lovely butter.
Ricotta parsley and pepper dollop
  • 125g light ricotta
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley
  • Lots of black freshly ground pepper/pink pepper
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese grated

Happy Cooking, and Happy Mother’s Day to all of us fabulous mum’s out there!

One a penny, two a penny…hot cross ducks!


Vanilla Zulu’s hot cross ducks

Of course, you can just make standard buns, but how cute are these for the kids!

These are easy to make and delicious and tasty too!

  • 500g flour
  • 80g soft or grated butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 level tablespoon Ras el Hanout or mixed spice or cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 10g instant dry yeast
  • Half a cup choc chips or raisins
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 100ml warm water

Place the warm milk and water into jug and add the yeast, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the flour.  Stir and set aside and allow to sponge for about 15 minutes.  This is to check that your yeast is active, it should start foaming on the top of the liquid!  Now place all your ingredients into your mixer which has been fitted with the dough hook or into a large bowl if you are doing this by hand. Mix together and then knead for at least 5-8 minutes until smooth, if you are doing this by hand and the dough is sticky simply dust with flour and keep kneading.


When smooth place in a greased bowl or bag and allow to prove for twenty minutes. The dough must double in size, so you may need longer on a cooler day!


Once proved place on a floured surface and divide and roll into 12 balls and place on a greased baking sheet.


Now to make the Crosses!


80g flour 3 tablespoons milk 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


Mix to a smooth dough ball and then roll out on a floured surface.


Cut out long thin strips and then place on top of the buns, you will need to brush with a little milk to help stick them down.



I decided to try the duckling idea!



Now allow proving for a second time for about twenty minutes. Brush with a little more milk, not too much. Bake in a pre-heated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and then brush with maple syrup, golden syrup or honey! Yum!

Don’t you feel so proud of yourself!


Please share your photos with me on Facebook or Instagram!

Moroccan inspired Suntanned pan-lamb with date, mint and pistachio bling


Suntanned Pan-Lamb with dates, mint & nuts

  • 1 – 1.5kg leg of lamb, deboned
  • 1-tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout/curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • ½ cup nuts of your choice ( almonds, cashews, and pistachios)

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Debone the lamb (if required). Make a rub with the turmeric, ras el hanout and oil. Rub this all over the lamb and allow it to rest while the pan heats.

Heat a frying pan (that can go in the oven) and when hot place the lamb in it. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side – this is to seal the lamb. Make sure it has a lovely suntan before you turn it over! Place the lamb (on the frying pan you just used) into the oven for 8-12 minutes. The exact time required will depend on the shape of the meat, your oven, and personal preferences.

Remove the lamb from the oven and allow to rest before slicing.

For the date accompaniment – combine the dates, mint, and nuts together.


Serve on a rocket salad, with cumin and honey glazed roasted carrots, spiced yoghurt and with a butterbean hummus.