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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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Please note, we are only able to answer questions selected for publication and aren't able to enter into personal correspondence.

Latest Queries

  • Lemon Polenta Cake

    Hi Team Nigella! I love the Lemon Polenta Cake. Am wondering if it is possible to substitute the butter with extra virgin olive oil (for both taste and health reasons)? If so, how much? Many thanks!

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  • Creme Patissiere

    I have been looking at recipes for creme patissiere (to make a traditional tarte aux fraises) but would very much like to know why some recipes use flour & cornflour whereas others use one or the other. As a cook and as a scientist can you tell me why this is. Thanks very much for your help. Joalex

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  • Vanilla Extract in Italy

    Dear Nigella, first of all congratulations for your books! I am Italian and have some of your books in Italian and also in English. I like the way you talk the reader through your recipes and I have tried some of them and always had great success with family & friends! However in Italy it is not possible to buy the vanilla extract that you usually use in your recipes; you can only find the chemical vanilla powder (called "VANILLINA") but it is really unhealthy and "depressing" to use! You can find vanilla pods but they are quite expensive that's why I'd like to know if you can suggest anywhere where I can buy a bottle of vanilla extract? Thank you very much and all the best from Italy! Debora

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  • Flaming Alcohol when Cooking

    When making a lobster bisque you have to add brandy and then burn it off. After that you add the stock and let the soup simmer and reduce. My question is why you have to burn the brandy? If you don't burn it the alcohol then it will evaporate while simmering. So I don't see the point of burning the brandy - why do it?

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  • Baked Custard

    I regularly make a baked custard, they all turn out well but I have a problem as the leftover custard tends to weep (I seem to get a lot of water in the dish with the leftover custard). I bake the custard in a Pyrex dish in the oven for the correct time. I use 3 eggs and 1 pint of milk, a couple of tablspoons sugar, a little salt and I sprinkle nutmeg on the top. Have you any suggestions that may help me? Thanks, Tommy.

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  • Cakes Uncooked In The Middle

    I have tried if most of the cake recipies from your site and always always hve the same problem - the cakes cook from the sides but stay uncooked in the middle. If I try to cook it further for a few minutes then the result is it that the sides over cook and harden and the cake becomes hard.  What am I doing wrong? Please help! Much Love, Arpita.

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  • Cake Layers Too Thin

    Hi Nigella Team, I've baked the Devil's Food Cake (Kitchen, p254) on two occassions now, using 20cm sandwich tins and following the recipe meticulously. The layers are very thin, only about 2cm each - what could be the reason for this? I have a Thermofan oven, so this also can't be the cause. Thanks!

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  • Baking With A Slightly Larger Pan Size

    Hi, I have a question about baking. I love your baking recipes, and have followed many to make cakes, pies, cookies, scones, etc.  However I only own two 9-inch round pans with which to cook. Occasionally, you will call for an 8-inch pan which would allow the finished product to have a bit more height. I've not run into any problems using 9-inch pans, but, the cakes do sometimes look flatter and a bit less glorious than the finished photo in your many cookbooks. I realize that not all cakes would function in the way I am about to ask this question, and while I could easily purchase 8 inch rounds, I've been lazy, and not done so yet. If I wanted to add some height to the finished product, is there a general rule of thumb for upping the ingredients to create the desired effect. Again, since baking does call for a modicum of precision, would altering deter the final process? I was curious if you had any advice so that I don't have a flat cake. No one is complaining, and since I'm only cooking for my partner, family, and friends, I've yet to have someone say, that two tier cake looks a little short. Any suggestions? Or should I succumb to the purchase of two 8-inch rounds.

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