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Delia's October Webchat Questions


Many of you submitted your questions for Delia to answer on our live webchat day held on October 1 and, whilst Delia wasn't able to answer all of them live in the hour we had available, she has dedicated her time to personally answering every question that was sent in. Here's all the answers to the questions in one easy place.

Keep watching the site for news of our next live webchat with Delia which will be before Christmas.

To see the full transcript of the webchat, Click Here.

Delia, your recipes are so reliable and the results are delicious. However, I am a type 2 diabetic and so low sugar, fat and salt recipes are required. As there are potentially a large number of diabetics in our population who are unaware that they have this condition, lowering the amounts of these products in our diet is paramount to our nation's health. I think you would be highly successful and would also be helping our nation's diet if you brought out a 'LOW' RECIPE BOOK - is this a possibility?- Ann Jones Hi Ann, I have done a chapter of low fat recipes in my How to Cook book. And these are available on line. I will now not be doing any new recipe books because at the age of 71 I am trying to cut down. But it needs is somebody like yourself who has to follow this type of diet to sit down and convert recipes that are suitable. Good luck.

Delia what do you think of the current fashion for sous vide cooking by chefs. Is it just a fad or will you be suggesting ideas and recipes for your followers? I've always relied on your advice if in doubt in the past!- Margo kTo be honest with you Margo I suggested to Heston recently that was a bit ‘toys for the boys’ and he did agree…..!  So you will not be finding any Delia sous vide recipes.

My partner has type II diabetes, but searching your site and the internet in general, it's hard to find recipes. There are a few books, but it would be great to have recipes included on recipe sites! There are always gluten-free recipes but seldom ones which have low carbs and low sugar or with sugar substitutes. - Liz North Hello Liz, as I said to Ann above I have done some recipes on line and dedicated a chapter to it in How to cook. However, I do think its possible to convert recipes quite naturally.  We have just completed a new edition of my Book of Cakes and all recipes – apart from about 6 – work fine with gluten free ingredients.  Most of my recipes which include sugar can be used with sugar substitutes.

Of all the recipes you have ever come up with, which would be your "Desert Island Dish" and which would want to consign to Room 101?!- David.   Hi David I always shy away from Desert Island questions because I can never think of an answer I just find what my favourite thing varies from week to week. At the moment I am crazy about my own recipe for mash potato in How to Cook.

What can I use as a substitute for alcohol in recipes, will this change the flavour of the dish much? - fj For Most recipes that require alcohol you can substitute stock or fruit juice, but it will affect the flavour.  What you can do is add a couple of tablespoons of wine vinegar which will help to provide some acidity.

Delia Online-scaling up cake recipes--I followed instructions to the letter for a 9 inch round,for my daughter's 25th wedding anniversary,but it was quite dry--any idea what went wrong? - kezia   I am so sorry Kezia the recipe is fine, if it was dry it could have been over cooked.  Do check your oven.

What is your most memorable meal you cooked or had cooked for you and why?- sam   Unfortunately Sam I don’t have a most memorable meal either way.  I am sorry to be so boring!

Hi Delia, we love crispy skinned roast Duck, but it makes such a mess of the oven, have tried putting it on a rack over a pan of hot water, but still the oven looks like a grease bomb has exploded! - cookvee   Hi cookvee, I really can’t help you here its just a decision that needs to be made.  Either a clean oven or crispy duck – I haven’t found a way of achieving both but I know I would choose duck!

Any chance of you making a programme on sauces and how to experiment with them? For instance, I often add finely-chopped spring onions to mint sauce. One can do magic things with a basic white sauce.- Frank Dunne   I have written extensively every detail about sauces – in my book How to Cook and I think most of that is here online. And yes, I agree with you much can be done with a basic white sauce.

Hi Delia, we make every year your X-mas puddings, we live in France, and the homemade-ones are better anyway. Do you have a recipe for Stollen ? thanks !!! - provence   We have a beautiful recipe for stolen here online and in my Happy Christmas book.

Hello Delia I've been experiencing terrible problems with salt & ,perhaps more importantly, pepper grinders for the past couple of years. Each lot we buy just doesn't do the job. Is there a particular type you would recommend.- Nina   Nina, I have had your problem as well for years and years, why can’t somebody make them properly.  I think at the moment the best ones are Peugot they’re available from Divertimenti, David Mellor and other good kitchen shops.

re question for delia its not a question , but wanted to say thanks , have most of her books, shes the gran that taught me how to cook that i never had lol , and just to say thanks  

I remember watching Delia on TV when she cooked ( in her opinion ) the perfect fried egg. Although my wife would not agree because she likes rubber eggs, I was 100% in agreement with Delia. Hot fat, Crispy bottom, Lots of extra flavour. My question is.... Does Delia agree with my ideal scrambled eggs? I like to brown the bottom of the egg mix in the pan before scrambling, thus also adding more flavour to the eggs and a little colour. I also like to add some very finely grated onion. And I never, never cook scrambled eggs in a microwave. Fundamental stuff, but very important if you like eggs. Thanks for everything you do.- Chris   Hi Chris, one thing I have learned as a cookery writer everyone has a very personal opinion on how they like eggs.  I haven’t tried your method but I will give it a go.

Chris Hughton is a thoroughly good guy and an excellent manager. Could Delia originate a specific dish for him, acknowledging his West Indian heritage,perhaps? - Bill Girdwood   I would love to create a dish for Chris – but I would need his beautiful wife Cheryl to help me.

Hi, my step daughter has coeliac disease, when ever I cook things like Yorkshire puddings, toad in the hold, onion rings etc with glutan free flour things never rise and always taste very bland and chewy, no matter how much seasoning I use. Can you recommend anything to make things more like normal for people with coeliac disease? - Luckymarc   At present I haven’t been able to try Yorkshire pudding with gluten free flour but its one to put on the list.  However, my new book of cakes, which is published in February have had all the recipes tested gluten free.  And whilst they are not always quite the same, they are all extremely good.

I'm a rubbish cook - what can you suggest I attempt to impress my family? Must be easy! - nicktheman   Buy a good cookbook and this website!

I'm a Vegetarian, allergic to peppers. Please, do you have any good veggie recipes that are quick, balanced, filling, low fat/salt, and will freeze and reheat? I'm tired of roasted veg, soups, curry and risotto - I want something new to excite me! Thank you so much. :o) - alychapman   I think you should treat yourself to my vegetarian cookbook. Which has been much appreciated by everyone.

Is there a way of using fresh garlic without it smelling strongly. I have a partner who reckons he hates garlic. I've used it on numerous occasions when he isn't there, and has never detected it in my cooking. - Quilting Annie   Just carry on Quilting Anne.

As a Type 2 Diabetic/overweight too but who adores your recipes I join all the others in asking for more help. Generally, can I use Flora Light or Benecol Light instead of Butter and any suggestions in reducing the sugar content would be gratefully received. I am bored with only cooking for everyone else and not being able to enjoy the food myself especially when it seems to be so excellent! - LindyBear I think you have to go into the website of the manufacturers of Flora and Benecol and they will tell you the correct conversions to make when baking or cooking.  If you want my honest opinion about reducing sugar the best way I have found is to give it up for 6 weeks and most importantly give up sweeteners as well.  I really believe sugar is addictive and if you can take it right out of your diet for 6 weeks you will then begin to appreciate natural sweetness and do what I have done which is limit yourself to perhaps one dessert and one cake a week.  No chocolate bars or confectionery which is loaded with both sugar and fat.  Hope this helps.

Hi Delia,Please Please how do you make Paradice slices,my friend in the U.S.A and I want to know Thank you Roger,Soham Ely. Cambs- roger   Sorry Roger, I have never heard of them!

Delia, I would like a recipe for a leek gratin please, I have been buying a ready made one from Waitrose but would like to make one myself, can you help please? Nicole. - Nicole Sutherland   I haven’t tried theirs but I assume its sautéed leeks in a baking dish covered with a cheese sauce and perhaps sprinkled with grated cheese and breadcrumbs and cooked under the grill till golden.


Delia many years ago at school, I was taught how to make a pastry flan case where you put all the ingredients into a bowl and mixed, the pastry didn't need rolling out just molded into the shape of the flan tin. After five minutes in the oven it had to be taken out and the base flattened with a cold spoon as it had risen in the middle, then put back in the oven till cooked. I can’t find the recipe anywhere and just wondered if you had ever come across such a recipe? - Rozzie   I do have a recipe similar somewhere.  Contact us at feedback and will try and get it to you.

I would love to use your madeira loaf cake recipe as the base for a large celebration cake, but I don't know how to scale the recipe up to fit a 12" cake tin. Can you advise? - Biscuits   All we can do is to give you our best guess – contact us at feedback and we will try for you.

Christmas is round the corner & I am making a Hamper of homemade food gifts. Is there anything I can do just now rather than leave it all to the last minute? - Hazykay   Make a preserve by using my recipe for Christmas mincemeat.

Hi Delia So many lovely cakes and puddings contain ground almonds. Could you suggest a good non-nut alternative as my daughter (who LOVES cake and puddings) is allergic to nuts. Thank you - Alison Hayes Please could you contact us via feedback and we will come back to you.

Hi, Delia Like you, I suffer from an inflammatory arthropathy. Would you consider developing a cookery section for "maximum cooking with minimal chopping"?- Dany Hello Dany, we have had so many people in your condition thanking us for our recommendation of the mini chopper. Do try it.

Hi Delia...Love your website...I'm looking for a basic cake recipe but no butter and no sugar...i use oil and honey but it keeps sinking...can you help...I'm starting to dispair..x- notagoodcook   I do have a recipe for a whisked fatless sponge cake but it has sugar in it.  You could try that with honey or with a natural sugar substitute.  Do drop us a line at feedback.  

I started following your recipes over thirty years ago. You then assumed a level of skill in your readers. Have you noticed any decline in the skills of your readers over these years? If so, how should we as a society address this? - Paige   I don’t really understand your question Paige as when I wrote the cookery course I wrote for beginners and have tried to help my followers ever since.  Not everyone has a level of skill. We are hoping to help new cooks here on this website in the new year which will certainly help those without any skills.

Please help. I absolutely love your Christmas cake and now all my family do too. How can I convert the recipe for an 8" to a 12" square tin? Also how long would it take so it still tastes gorgeous. Thank you so much for making me a good cook for my family. - Baking Mum   If you can please drop us a line at feedback and thank you for your lovely comments.

When is the best time to season dishes, before, during or after cooking? - Magray I am afraid I like quite well seasoned food, so I always season at the beginning, taste at the end and more if it needs it.

What is your favourite food to make - ie your 'comfort food?' - sjwfrance I don’t have a favourite food, but I think one of the most comforting things in the world is soft boiled eggs and soldiers.

Hi there, if I split the Christmas Cake recipe between two four inch pans (instead of one eight inch) how will that effect the baking time? Thank you!!!!XXXXXX - Mrsb Please could you drop us a line at feedback.  Thank you.

Is there anything that you really struggle to cook or has taken you a long time to master? - littleme Hi Littlem – there is you know, but I will have to have a think about what it is.  At the age of 71 I can’t always remember!  We did this one during the live chat – we think Slicing bread.

How do I stop my lemon meringue 'weeping' after a couple of hours? - Christine Quinn The only way to stop that happening is to cook the meringue as you would if you were eating meringues – ie long and slow.  See my pavlova recipe here online.  I think the nicest way if you want a soft meringue is to whip the meringue up, which takes moments and serve it not long after it has been removed from the oven.  But the last word on this if a lemon meringue pie tastes good, does a little weeping really matter.

Can you suggest and easy-to-make vegetarian recipe for my husband to make? - KatyMalkin A really nice omelette with cheddar cheese and parmesan to sprinkle over.  I have a vegetarian friend who makes a really good omelette with spinach and grated feta.

How long should I rest my roast beef after cooking x- portlandbelle It will depend on the size, for a large rib roast I would cover it in foil and leave it for 40 minutes whilst you roast the potatoes in a higher oven.  But for a small piece 20 minutes will do.

Always wondered how is it, that when you make chocolate chip muffins or cookies and they are baked at such a high temperature in the oven, how the chocolate chips never melt? - Brigitte It takes quite a while for the cold mixture to absorbe the heat of the oven and I think you will find they do slightly melt but as they cool down firm up again.

Please can you recommend a tasty vegetarian recipe for a baked, stuffed squash? I ate it in a restaurant and it was lovely, but I can't recreate the magic at home - yet! - Rachel Williams Sorry I don’t have any recipe resembling this on the files but I will bear it in mind for the future.

We're having a Bonfire Night party and I'm looking for a warming, filling but impressive dish to feed guests. Chilli, baked potatoes and pumpkin soup are all a little ordinary. Any ideas?- Susan Mackenzie Well I would just like to say I am not very good at impressive dishes! – and I just absolutely love bangers, chutnies and really good sausages. 

Delia, will you adopt me - I'm housetrained and support the Canaries, but most of all...I'm hungry all the time - philiboy What I think you should do Philiboy if you are hungry all the time is learn to cook my recipes , they’re all very easy, but thank you for your support of me and the Canaries.  Keep it up.

Is it easier to make meringues using the Italian method or is it just a matter of individual preference - Kevin Laing I think it is a matter of preference whether you like your meringue soft and squashy or crisp and chewy.

I am interested to know how Delia became interested in cooking. Did her mother encourage her to help out in the kitchen when she was young? And if so, what is her favourite food memory? - boris3428    was bought up on good food, my mother and both of my grandmothers were good cooks so I have lots of really good food memories.

If you could chose one dessert to take with you to a Dessert Island..what would it be and why? - maggie777   I am not very good at choosing favourites as it changes week by week so am afraid this kind of question always stumps me!

Help, one week my Yorkshire puds are lovely the next as flat as pancakes, where am i going wrong? and is there a foolproof method to getting them right? - Runnerduck Yes, there is a foolproof  method of getting them right – that is to use my recipe and method and the right size tin.  I always make one large one.

Hi! My daughter's first birthday is coming up, and I want to make an extra special birthday cake for her - do you have any suggestions? Thanks! - Amez2012 I do think honestly at 1 years old anything that taste sweet is about it.  The truth of the matter here is to make something extra special you particularly like and the best cakes are here online.  I would go for something simple like a homemade sponge cake.

How do I stop my pastry shrinking in the oven. It always comes away from the sides. - kathleen marsden If you mean baking blind then you need to obviously not stretch the pastry not too much and you can when you line the tin, leave a little bit all round the sides to allow for shrinkage.

Hi Delia, Do you ever worry that you'll run out of recipes for a new book? I'm forever amazed at just how many cookery books there are, but yet I am compelled to keep buying them! I have to say that I think I have a lot of really good recipes and I don’t now need to do a new book as there as so many good ones.  But I have just revised an earlier book called The Book of Cakes and some of the recipes have been altered and improved and some of them left just as they are.  I think sometimes we go on wanting new recipes without really appreciating what’s gone before.

Have you a quick ,idiot proof vegan recipe that doesn't have onion or garlic ? - ann111 I am really sorry I have nothing to offer you – it completely stumps me.  Really sorry.

Who or What gave you your inspiration for your love of cooking?- sturgeon My mother and my two grandmothers.

Delia I loved watching your Tv Programme when you did the Christmas theme. I even watched the re-runs. Are you considering doing another series like that again with a slight twist to it, say, low fat recipes for people with high cholesterol like me - Julie Feathers I have not plans at the moment for anything like this, but I will put it on the list.

can i bake a bread or cake in a Pyrex baking bowl? - Gretta AranhaI am afraid I can’t really help you as I have never tried, but I do know that metal is the best conductor of heat.  The best way for you to find out is to give it a try.

I love celeriac but am stuck in a recipe rut with it. Can you recommend any celeriac recipes for this winter? - Northern Lights You’ll find some very nice celeriac recipes here on the website.

 What one thing has influenced your cooking the most? - greenapples Wanting to encourage other people to cook.

I have apple trees and have not been able to store or freeze them successfully. Do you have any tips please? - JANEGREEN You can buy a wooden container called an apple storer if you have the space.  And it you core and slice apples and sprinkle them with sugar they do freeze very well.

Delia - what is your all time favourite savoury dish? - HeyerFan So sorry can’t do favourites, they change like the wind!

How do you go about discovering new flavour combinations, is it as simple as trial and error? - livewire To be quite honest there are so many lovely flavour combinations that are not new, its not top of my list to discover new ones.  But I suppose I may read something or be inspired by someone else.

Whenever I make crumble topping it always goes powdery - how can I make it stick togetherh more? - Mark Finch In spite of what anyone else says I like my own crumble recipe best of all and if you follow the recipe in How to Cook which is here on the website I am confident you will agree.

I'm currently trying to lose weight and would love Delia to do a low fat cookbook. Is this something you plan to do in the future, Delia? - Catherine Miller Could I try to point you in another direction – give up anything – drinks included that contains sugar.  Have patience and when you have lost the weight watch what you are eating containing sugar which much of the time will contain fat as well.  And if you alongside this cut out artifical sweeteners, weaning yourself off sugar will help enormously.

When I make buttercream it always tastes too sickly and is too runny, should I use real butter or margarine...don't know what I am doing wrong! - cheryl100 The reason your buttercream tastes too sickly is because it is!  I really can’t stand buttercream.  What I am now using for cakes now – which will be in my new book in February – is mascarpone, sweetened and flavoured and its really brilliant.

When I make a Victoria sponge cake it always ends up pointed in the middle. Does Delia have a foolproof method to stop this happening? thanks Because I am not sure what recipe you are using I can’t really help you on this one.  But I can ask you to follow my recipe which I have never had this problem.

Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I always make far too many different cakes, biscuits and other goodies - what do you consider to be the essential Christmas treat? - Glynners Roast turkey and Christmas Pudding.

Delia, how do you still find food inspiration after so many years of cooking ? - kimmy2849 I think basically because I am very greedy and I am always wondering where the next meal is coming from.

Any recipe ideas apart from soup??? - Jill Houghton   One of the things that’s really good at this time of the year, and I’m really mad about is pumpkin pie which is excellent made with butternut squash.

I would like to know where or even how you get your inspiration for so many yummy recipes. I try to come up with my own dishes and they are pretty much inedible!!! - Heidi Bell   I am passionate about food and cooking and most of all about eating, but believe me I have my share of failures too, so don’t be discouraged.

IF you could invite any 4 people alive or dead to a dinner party who would you have and why? - sand74 I am really sorry but I am just rubbish at answering this kind of question.  If I could spend all day wondering about it I wouldn’t still probably come up with anyone!  And I love sharing meals with really good friends.

What is the best recipe for a breadmaker and gluten free bread? - Ellie Peabody I find for a breadmaker Carrs Flour Mills do a pack that goes straight in the bread maker and always makes good bread.  This is available at Lakeland.  I am doing a lot of work at the moment with gluten free cakes but I imagine gluten free bread should be made with gluten free flour.  Because you can get this wholemeal I think soda bread would work quite well.

What is your favourite recipe that you go back to time and time again? - bertie1606 Sorry, can’t  do favourites as it changes all the time!

Personal question: do you ever get stressed when cooking on TV? - Martina All the time!

Out of all of your recipes what would you say is one of your favourites? - Nataleew1 Sorry, again don’t do favourites.  It really does change all the time.


Whenever I try to melt white chocolate it always goes wrong no matter how slowly I do it. What is the best white chocolate for melting and what foolproof method do you use for melting chocolate in general? - Angie Hoggett First of all use the best quality white chocolate you can buy.  Break it into squares, place it in a bowl over barely simmering water, ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water, keep the heat fairly low and give it a stir from time to time. 5-6 minutes or until its melted.

With gas and electric being so expensive these days do your Traditional christmas puddings have to be steamed for 8 hours or is there a way to cut this down?- jane9450 It really is up to personal choice, you can use a microwave but the real flavour comes from the long, slow steaming and if I had got to spend my money on anything it would be to achieve that. 

I'm starting the Christmas gift preserve making and have got hold of some Kilner-style jars. I was wondering if you had any tips for getting the rubber rings back onto the hot sterilised jars without disaster happening? - earring I am sorry I can’t help you on this one, I prefer to use waxed discs and screw on lids. 

my husband is allergic to carrots and peppers; as winter approaches, what could i try in a good bolognaise or chilli instead? - jo plaistowe In a bolognaise leave out the carrot altogether, add a little more chopped celery.  I think a chilli without pepper isn’t a chilli - even the chilli powder is pepper – not sure what to advise here other than to double up on onions.

How long does Christmas cake keep for? - heyj19 Stored, wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight tin a year would be fine.  We tend to take a year to eat ours anyway.

I'm a mum of four and about to go back to work after being home with children for years. I like to prepare meals with fresh ingredients and we enjoy mainly traditional British dinners but i would like to be more adventurous and expand my families tastes. What meals do you suggest that are quick and easy to prepare? Thanks - rebecca Have a good search here on the website – we have got thousands of my recipes.  It will just take a little time and research but guarantee you will find some winners here.  Good luck with everything.

My 9 year old daughter loves meringues and we have tried to bake them with no success! My oven is very old (no fan) so should I increase the cooking time or the temperature, and are they better with or without a teaspoon of white vinegar? - motwoosotdot All I can offer you is my own recipe, which is here on the website, and it has never failed.  If you are worried about your oven, purchase an oven thermometer.  Really essential.

Do you have some top recipes for using up roast beef as I always struggle for inspiration? - BoltonBex We have a left over chapter in The Complete Cookery Course and in our house we always make the rissole recipe.  We alternate between beef, lamb and pork using thyme in the beef and rosemary in the lamb and sage in the pork.  The recipe is here on the website.

Hi, My parents live in a place where they are not able to get self raising flour, is there a way to make your own or a rule on how to use normal flour instead? Thanks Vivi - Viola V You need to use a raising agent like baking powder.

Hi, you have a lovely garden seen on your TV shows. Do you grow your own veg and herbs? - dazzybabe Yes, we do and it gives us enormous pleasure.

Try as I might I find it almost impossible to get the skin on my duck breast crispy there a knack ? - Mark Whittaker The only really crispy duck skin I find possible is cooking whole duck according to my recipe.  I never find just cooking a breast produces the same results, which by the way are a kind of half-way house to the kind you get in Chinese restaurants, crispy duck.

I'm allergic to all nuts, but often see recipes that I fancy trying. What can I substitute for the nuts to add the texture whilst still being safe for me to eat. - Mary Baldwin We haven’t come up with anything for you at this moment, but we will put it on our list of online requests to deal with.

Can you suggest a simple but exciting recipe that children can follow to get them enthused about cooking? - Anne Eames Try the white coconut kiss and chocolate mini muffins here on the website.

I often use your cooking for one recipes is there any signs of a book along these lines in the near future- dennis lindsay We have just completed a rejig of the 1997 book of cakes and it is my intention to re examine One is Fun book and perhaps offer updated versions in the near future here on the website 

Hi. I made your Christmas cake last year and it was delicious however I wanted to make smaller cakes this year for various family members. Therefore please can you help by advising quantities for a 6" cake? Thank you so much. - KimMcKie Please can you contact us on feedback.

How do you decide which recipes go into your recipe books? Is there a recipe that you make that is a family favourite? - HannahLI I decide really on what  they taste like.  And no am afraid no favourites as it really does change all the time.

Delia Do you think cooking shows are more about the presenter than the food?, Seems ages since I seen a cookery show that made me want to try something I had seen on the TV. Any ideas on getting back on the TV and showing everyone how it's done- Craig Not on TV, but here online yes I am considering something for the future.  Watch this space.

I have started a baking business, making fruit cakes and need to source the best cleanest fruit so that the time spent picking out the gritty bits is kept to a minimum. Any tips on cleaning it more quickly, or sourcing? So far waitrose seems the best but even then it's time consuming and tedious.- cakes she bakes I think you are being over scrupulous – but I always find Fairtrade extremely good quality.

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