20131107-212052.jpgSo, yeah. This is a must. I'm not going to lie to you, this is without question the best thing that has ever happened in any kitchen of mine involving butter, brown sugar and cream. Last Sunday was a usual day of quiet that happened to end with a glorious dinner for twelve. One of Tola's signature roasts with three chooks, mountains of sweet potato and pumpkin, a beetroot and pear salad with fresh mint and soft-as-chalk feta, brussel sprouts all warm and sweet with balsamic and honey, rather too many bottles of red and - to follow - my first foray into homemade caramel.

I used Stephanie's lovely 3191 recipe because I defer to her in all matters, and also it was about the only recipe that didn't necessitate a cooking thermometer. And glory be, if I knew things were this easy I'd have done so years ago and never looked back (and probably never fit into my shorty shorts, but there you have it). I skipped the cardamom, as we served our friends a kind of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, crumbly peanut, banana sundae thing, but I think it would otherwise be a lovely addition.

INGREDIENTS: * 1/4 cup of heavy cream * 4 tablespoons of butter, roughly chopped * 1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar * 1/2 a vanilla bean * a generous pinch of salt (I used Maldon's)

METHOD Mix the vanilla bean and cream in the base of a small pot, then add the butter and brown sugar and heat over a medium to high flame until the butter has melted and the sides of the pot are bubbling along nicely. Reduce the heat to its lowest and simmer, uncovered, for five minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the salt (you might like a little more, for a kick - but please do go slow to start with). I let mine cool a few minutes before pouring over ice cream and spoiling my friends with.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: Is this picture taken in glary overhead lights at nightime using my phone, I hear you ask? Yes. Do I have a lovely camera that I spent good money on that would produce much better pictures than this? Obviously. Have I currently misplaced the charger for it following my move? Maybe. Is this completely forgivable since it is the fourth time I've moved in 12 months and sometimes you just need to worry about more important things like washing your hair and reading the paper? I couldn't agree more...