Recipes: 12 dishes in 12 hours in different cities

February 29, 2024

Big Zuu is fully aware it’s “not normal” for someone like him to be fronting a major food travelogue show.

The genre has historically been dominated by a certain type of presenter, but with his latest show, Zuu is on a mission to “change what I think a travel show should be like for someone like myself”.

Big Zuu’s 12 Dishes In 12 Hours sees the rapper, cook and presenter – real name Zuhair Hassan – travel to various cities with celebrity friends, sampling 12 local dishes in 12 hours.

Zuu, 28, brings his signature wit and bubbly personality to proceedings, as well as providing a perspective we don’t always see in travelogue shows.

He wanted to make it clear that “food is not just about what’s linked to the history and culture of a place, it’s also about the now.

I feel like now more than ever we’re seeing people embrace the fact that different cultures are in their country. What was super sick was in the first episode, we went to Bologna and we got to talk about Ethiopian food.

“And a clip [of that] went crazy on the internet, people actually went mental. If you watch that clip, you wouldn’t even know we’re in Italy, you’d just think we’re in a random Ethiopian restaurant – but Italy has such a connection to Ethiopia because of colonisation.” While Zuu is doing things his way, he’s still inspired by those who have come before – mentioning shows fronted by the likes of Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay.

“Watching all the greats of British television do it gave me the inspiration to do it myself,” he says.

“But I just felt in terms of representation of people like me, young people from the hood – you don’t really see it. So it was sick to kind of be the first person for my generation to do something like that.

People might feel like, oh yeah, Big Zuu – he’s been doing food stuff for years, so it’s normal. But it’s actually not normal to be part of a travel show on primetime TV.

In 12 Dishes In 12 Hours, Zuu eats his way around cities like Bologna, Nicosia, Amsterdam and even his hometown, London – but he says Cyprus was his favourite.

“I always knew that Cyprus had good food, and being Lebanese we have that connection. But I wasn’t ready for the amount of good food they had – everything, the kebabs, the bread, the bakeries. Super fresh, super flavoursome.” He also pushed himself out of his comfort zone – particularly thinking of the pickled herring he sampled in Amsterdam.

 Big Zuu's Big Eats (Ebury Press).

 Big Zuu’s Big Eats (Ebury Press).

Bubbly and enthusiastic, you’d think Zuu liked everything he tried – but not quite. “We had cake in Bologna, certosino or something like that. It’s like a traditional Christmas cake they have out there – it just wasn’t nice. It was very dry,” he says, without mincing his words at all: “It was quite butters.” But Bologna certainly wasn’t all bad – particularly as Zuu was joined by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 star Will Poulter, who has a bit of experience in the food world after his cameo in Hulu show, The Bear, as pastry chef Luca.

The two ate spaghetti bolognese for breakfast, tried some aged Parmesan and sampled a whole lot of gelato – and Zuu was impressed by the way Poulter spoke about food.

“I knew – especially from working on The Bear, even though he wasn’t in it for a very long time – I knew that he had some experience doing stuff in the kitchen. So for me, Will had that excellence when it came to getting his point across in a small amount of words and making you feel the emotion that he felt when he ate the food.” The hardest thing for Zuu was actually managing to eat 12 whole dishes in 12 hours.

“I was so full. It was so tough – it wasn’t easy,” he admits. “I thought, 12 hours is not a big problem – bruh! I was done [by the end of it]. I was so done to the point of like, I started feeling sorry for myself.” 

He adds with an explosive laugh: “It’s funny, because a lot of people are like, oh you’ve got the best job in the world. I definitely do, but it’s not easy… I always think of the guy from Man v. Food, and I’m like – how did he do it for all those years? He’s a very mentally strong person.” 

Zuu keeps things light on camera, but he’s always got the bigger picture in mind – particularly when he thinks about how he’s pushing forward representation in the food TV space.

“Sometimes naturally, it can be a little bit overwhelming and it can feel like I’ve got a lot on my shoulders,” he says.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t make a mistake. But that’s part of the game and that’s part of what I signed up for – and I’m very happy to lead the charge when it comes to food television in terms of new things as well… I’m proud to be part of this new wave of creators.

 French taco recipe from Big Zuu's Big Eats (Ebury Press). Picture: Ellis Parrinder/PA

 French taco recipe from Big Zuu’s Big Eats (Ebury Press). Picture: Ellis Parrinder/PA

French Taco

IT’S not technically a taco – but it’s definitely delicious.

“The French took a Mexican dish, named it incorrectly and basically swapped the rice and beans in a burrito with chips and cheese,” is how Big Zuu describes this dish.

“Bare meat combined with hella flavours in a massive tortilla, then pressed in a grill – it’s very mad. When I went to Paris and had this, it made me question the fast-food levels in the UK.”

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

6 chicken breast mini fillets, about 250g

2tbsp olive oil

½tsp garlic powder

½tsp smoked paprika

½tsp ground cumin

½tsp dried oregano

2 merguez sausages

½ red pepper, thinly sliced

½ green pepper, thinly sliced

2 large tortillas

100g grated mozzarella

2tbsp nacho cheese sauciness

2 handfuls of cooked oven chips

2 spring onions, sliced

50g pickled jalapeños

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the sauce Algérienne:

Juice of ½ lemon

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp paprika

½tsp chilli powder

1tbsp tomato paste

1tbsp harissa paste

1 small onion, finely chopped

240g mayonnaise

Handful of coriander, finely chopped

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the nacho cheese sauciness:

410ml tin evaporated milk

120g Red Leicester, grated

120g Cheddar, grated

1tbsp cornflour 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1tsp hot chilli powder 1tbsp hot sauce


  • 1. For the sauce Algérienne: Mix the lemon juice, cumin, paprika and chilli powder together in a bowl to form a paste. Add the tomato paste and harissa and stir to combine. Add the onion, mayonnaise, coriander and salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  • 2. For the nacho cheese sauciness: Pour the evaporated milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Mix the grated cheeses with the cornflour, then add to the pan along with chilli, chilli powder and hot sauce, and whisk to combine. Simmer gently for five minutes until thickened, check the seasoning.
  • 3. For the French taco: place the chicken fillets in a large bowl together with one tablespoon of the oil, the garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, oregano and some salt and pepper.
  • 4. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Slice the merguez sausages in half lengthways and fry for three to four minutes, turning after the cut sides are golden and crisp. Once cooked, set aside and add the chicken fillets and sliced peppers to the pan. Fry over a medium heat for eight to 10 minutes until the chicken fillets are golden brown on all sides and firm, and the peppers are soft and lightly charred.
  • 5. Spread a layer of sauce Algérienne in the centre of one tortilla, then sprinkle over a quarter of the mozzarella. Top with half the merguez sausages, followed by three chicken fillets and half the peppers. Add a spoonful of nacho cheese sauciness, half the chips, half the spring onions and half the jalapeños. Top with another quarter of the mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the edges of the tortilla over the filling to create a rectangle. Repeat to make the other wrap.
  • 6. If you have a panini press, heat on medium. When it’s hot, add the wraps, folded-side down, and cook for five to eight minutes until the outside is golden and crisp and the cheese is melted.
  • 7. If you are using a griddle, heat it over a low heat. Place the wraps folded-side down on the griddle and weight them down with a heavy dish. Cook for four to five minutes on each side.

Fried chicken three ways from Big Zuu's Big Eats (Ebury Press).  Picture: Ellis Parrinder/PA

Fried chicken three ways from Big Zuu’s Big Eats (Ebury Press).  Picture: Ellis Parrinder/PA

Fried Chicken

WITH three variations, this is the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need. Just FYI, you’ll need to double the dredge quantities if you’re using legs, drumsticks or wings.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

500g chicken tender or nuggets, or chicken legs or drumsticks or wings

2l vegetable oil, for deep frying (if using a saucepan; if using a deep-fat fryer follow manufacturer’s instructions for oil)

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For the brine for chicken tenders or nuggets:

100ml buttermilk

1tsp garlic powder

½tsp onion powder

½tsp paprika 1tsp salt

For the brine for chicken legs or drumsticks or wings:

250ml buttermilk

1½tsp garlic powder

1tsp onion powder

1tsp paprika

1½tsp salt

For the dredge if making Doritos fried chicken:

50g plain flour

25g cornflour

25g rice flour

50g Doritos, blitzed in a food processor or finely crushed, plus extra Doritos to garnish

For the dredge if making Maggi fried chicken:

50g plain flour

25g cornflour

25g rice flour

1 Maggi or other vegetable stock cube

½tsp chilli powder

50g roasted peanuts, finely chopped, to garnish

For the dredge if making golden nuggets:

80g rice flour

40g rice cereal (e.g. Rice Krispies), blitzed in a food processor or finely crushed

20g panko breadcrumbs


  • 1. To make the brine, mix the buttermilk with the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix well to coat in the brine, then cover and marinate for at least two hours and up to 12 hours in the fridge.
  • 2. For chicken tenders or nuggets, preheat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 165˚C or heat the oil in a deep saucepan over a low–medium heat to 165˚C.
  • 3. For chicken wings or legs and drumsticks, preheat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 140˚C or heat the oil in a deep saucepan over a low heat to 140˚C.
  • 4. To dredge the chicken, mix all your chosen dredge ingredients together in a large bowl. Using tongs, dip the chicken pieces into the dredge, moving them around to coat very well.
  • 5. To cook tenders or nuggets, carefully move the pieces from the dredge into the hot oil, working in batches. Fry for four to five minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper, season and serve.
  • 6. To cook wings or legs or drumsticks, carefully move the pieces from the dredge into the hot oil, working in batches. Fry for 12–15 minutes, turning a few times during cooking to make sure the coating is browning evenly. When golden brown and cooked through (the interior temperature of chicken should be above 72˚C when measured with a meat thermometer, or insert the tip of a knife or skewer into the thickest part; the juices will run clear if it is cooked – if you see any trace of pink, carry on frying or, if they are well browned on the outside, transfer to a foil-lined baking tray and cook for a further 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 195˚C/175˚C fan/Gas 5), drain on kitchen paper, season and rest for five minutes before serving.

Swedish Cinnamon Buns. Picture: Ellis Parrinder/PA

Swedish Cinnamon Buns. Picture: Ellis Parrinder/PA

Swedish Cinnamon Buns

THESE pillowy treats are spiced to perfection.

Craving cinnamon buns but can’t be bothered with the faff of making and proving your dough?

Big Zuu has a handy hack for this – and all it requires is shop-bought croissant dough and you’re off to the races.

Ingredients (Makes 6)

60g caster sugar

1tbsp ground cinnamon

½tsp ground cardamom

Pinch of salt

350g roll ready-made chilled croissant dough

3tbsp golden syrup

2tbsp pearl sugar


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C fan/Gas 6. Grease a six-hole deep muffin tin lightly with vegetable oil.
  • 2. Mix the caster sugar with the cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • 3. Unroll the croissant dough and remove the pieces on either end so you have four triangles in a rectangular sheet.
  • 4. Scatter the spiced sugar evenly over the sheet of dough, then roll up the short end to form a thick log. Trim the uneven edges off, then cut into six even pieces. Place the rolls carefully in the muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden.
  • 5. Take the buns out of the oven and carefully remove them from the muffin tin while still hot to prevent sticking.
  • 6. Heat the golden syrup in a pan over a gentle heat and brush over the buns to glaze them. Sprinkle with the pearl sugar and serve still warm.

Big Zuu’s 12 Dishes In 12 Hours continues on ITV1/ITVX on Saturdays at 10pm.

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