Italian Love Cake

Why is it an Italian Love Cake? Something about musky rosemary, itself a symbol of love, combined with the dark sweetness of italian forest honey and crowned with a seemingly innocent cover of vanilla bean buttercream make this a decidedly romantic, but not sticky bite. This is not a trashy love affair. It's a satisfying kiss.

Italian Love Cake

Yield: one 9 inch layer cake (three cakes and filling…or 2 larger layers and filling)


For the filling:
1 oz. All-purpose flour
1/2 cup Milk
4 oz. unsalted butter
1 tsp Vanilla extract
¼ cup Marscapone cheese
3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 tbsp dark Italian forest honey or chestnut honey
2 tsp dark rum

Whipped cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract.

For the cake:
1 ¾ cups All-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs separated
2 cups superfine granulated sugar, divided
8 oz unsalted butter
2 sprigs rosemary


1. To make the filling, quickly whisk together 4 tbsps of the milk with the flour. The slurry will be somewhat thick, so whisk thoroughly to make it smooth. Press out any lumps with a flexible spatula if necessary.
2. Whisk in the rest of the milk and transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium hear, whisking constantly. Once bubbles that burp steam form, remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir for another 30 seconds.
3. Cover the milk mixture with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface. Cool for 15 to 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile combine the ingredients for the whipped cream in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment and whip on medium to high speed and soft peak. The whipped cream can be made in advance if you prefer.
5. At the same time, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for up to 5 mins.
6. Add the milk mixture and continue to beat on high speed until the filling is smooth, another 5 mins. Beat in the marscapone 1 tbsp at a time and add the honey and rum. Add the whipped cream 1 tbsp at a time until you reach a consistency you like. Some people like fluffier fillings…some people like them denser!
7. Preheat the oven to 335F and place the rack in the middle position. Line the bottoms of three 9 inch round pans with parchment.
8. Measure the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into one bowl, and the milk and vanilla into a separate bowl. Whisk each to combine.
9. In the standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed to a stiff peak. Drizzle in 1 cup of sugar while the mixer is running. Scoop the meringue into a large bowl and set aside.
10. Lightly wipe the mixer bowl and replace the wire whip with the paddle attachment Cream the butter with the remaining 1 cup of sugar on low speed.
11. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl all the way to the bottom using a flexible spatula and mix on low speed until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Tear off the rosemary leaves, rip and add to the batter.
12. Alternatively add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time without pausing between additions.
13. Stop the mixer and gently fold the meringue into the batter with a flexible spatula. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 27 to 30 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
14. Cool the cakes for 2 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edges and invert the cakes onto a flat surface. They will be very fragile so handle with care.
15. Once the cakes have cooled, assemble the cake filling between each layer.

Then ice with the recipe below.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Bean Buttercream


1 cup Milk
¼ cup all purpose flour
8 oz. Unsalted butter
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean


1. Quickly whisk together 4 tbsps of the milk with the flour. The slurry will be somewhat thick so whisk thoroughly to make it smooth. Press out any lumps with a flexible spatula, if necessary.
2. Whisk in the rest of the milk and transfer the mixture to a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer for about 30 seconds over medium heat, whisking the whole time.
3. Remove the pan from the stove and place plastic wrap directly against the milk’s surface. (This is the best method to prevent a skin from forming). Cool to room temperature.
4. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix at a medium to high speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the contents of the vanilla bean into the mixture.
5. Pour the cooled milk-and-flour mixture into the bowl and beat for another 5 minutes, or longer, as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Then ice the cake!! Decorate with sprigs of rosemary.


Smoky/Salty/Sweet Salad

A great salad when you want something crispy, salty and sweet in with your leaves but don't want a tonne of heavy stuff. Keeping it light and healthy, I spiced up some gorgeous greens with a little crisp fried prosciutto and grilled red onions, (the amazing)smoked salt and a dusting of coriander leaves. You could add some green peas or beans to make it really spring-y but I didn't have any to hand!

The salad makes a great compliment to the Mushroom sandwich a la Giet. :)

If you eat meat, you can't argue with it.

If you don't, I suggest using shavings of salty pecorino to compliment the sweet red onions.

Red and green salad leaves (e.g. romaine, gem, lollo rosso, oakleaf)
Coriander (Cilantro) leaves
One medium red onion
100 to 150g thinly sliced prosciutto (don't use really great prosciutto...it'd be a waste. Storebrand packets are ideal)
Olive oil
Danish Smoked Salt (available in Whole Foods and other similar shops)
Black Pepper
Lemon juice

Turn the grill on and slice the onion thinly while it's heating up. Put the onion on some foil, sprinkle with smoked salt and drizzle with olive oil, then place in the oven to grill. The idea here is to end up with sweet soft onions with crispy bits, so just check on them every 5 minutes or so.

Put your washed leaves in a large bowl and set aside.

Put 1 tbsp of olive oil into a frying pan and heat. Roughly tear the prosciutto and put into the pan to fry. Fry on medium to high heat until the prosciutto is just browning and crisping up. The pan may smoke so put the oven fan on or open a window.

Remove from the heat when ready.

Roughly chop the coriander. Once the onions are ready put these, still warm, over the salad leaves, then adding the prosciutto and the pan juices. Sprinkle over the coriander leaves, and add a squeeze of lemon and twist of black pepper. No need to add any more oil!

Photo credit: Liam C Giet

Portabello Mushroom Sandwich a la Giet!

Remembering the fantastic roast vegetable wraps I used to have as my regular lunch at Harvard's Dudley House, I had an ambition of making a grilled mushroom sandwich, as an alternative to our lovely tomato sandwich staple. But I never seemed to get around to it, until today! The result was a crisp goat's cheese toast topped with meaty, juicy portabello mushrooms, herbs and a basil dressing. We had it with the smoky/salty/sweet salad, and felt like royalty.

It's called "a la Giet" because it combines all of my fiance Liam's favourite things in one place...mushrooms (particularly since they are fried in butter), cheese, fried sage and my home made pesto too (recipe for that forthcoming). They aren't the most waist conscious of dinner plans, but they are vegetarian, and very tasty. If you want to make a lower fat version, grill the mushrooms instead of frying and drizzle with olive oil when they are done: as long as the mushrooms are fresh they will be juicy and fabulous.

I used a walnut bread from Pain Quotidien, which was a great compliment to the slightly smoky sweetness of the portabello, but you could experiment with rye or raisin or whatever you have to hand!

4 Portabello Mushroom caps
Tarragon leaves (roughly chopped)
Sage leaves, one bunch.
Good quality unsalted butter
Soft, light goat's cheese.
Fleur de Sel or Malden Salt
4 slices of robust bread.
Pesto sauce (home-made is best)
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Black pepper.


Turn the oven on grill and allow to heat while you wash the mushrooms and herbs and slice the bread.

Put a large frying pan onto a medium heat, and put the bread in to the dry frying pan when hot. I still believe that this method makes the best toast because you have a lot more control. When the bread is just becoming brown, take it off the heat and put to one side. Now put a pat of butter into the frying pan, and allow to foam. Add a small handful of sage leaves and fry in the butter until crispy. Put aside, with the butter they were cooked in, in a small bowl.

Spread the toasts generously with the soft goat's cheese. Put the toasts into the oven under the grill.

Put another pat of butter into the frying pan over a medium heat, and allowing the butter to foam, add the portabellos, placing them on their backs (the rounded side). Sprinkle with salt and half of the chopped tarragon. Once one side of the mushrooms have gotten cooked and soft, turn them over. It's possible you may need to add a little more butter at this point.

Check the toasts. Once the cheese is just bubbling and getting brown remove from the oven and put on a large plate.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, place one on each cheesy toast...I'm not sure whether cap up or down is better...you be the judge! Don't forget to pour the juices over too. :)

Put 1 1/2 tbsp of pesto into a small bowl, and add the juice of one lemon, and a tbsp or two of boiling water. Blend to make a sauce, then drizzle over the mushroom toasts.

Sprinkle the rest of the tarragon, a pinch of fleur de sel and some black pepper on, and garnish with the fried sage.

Then eat with wild abandon.

Photo Credit: Liam C. Giet


London...is the place for me!

I've been back in London for about 9 months: now splitting my time between a position as Development Manager at Illuminate Productions and International Beauty Editor at Derek Loves Shopping.com,plus I've been writing more on Perfume outside of DLS at Perfume Critic.com

I've rediscovered recipes I haven't used in 6 years or more, now that I'm back in their native soil, and I am coming up with new ones! And I have a great partner in crime through it all, and lots of reason to improve: I'm getting married next year!

Returning from living in Singapore has been a bit of a shock to the system in some ways. I miss my Kopi-C, idli, cendol, bbq stingray... and of course...kuei kuei...

But London is where I grew up and I love it here...the joys of kent strawberries, milk delivery (we just organised ours), cheese(!) from Neal's Yard and coffee from Monmouth Coffee, french pastries and AN OVEN(!!!) plus: you can get anything in London, and while I miss those bits and pieces (though I have found decent te and kopi c and otah otah), being able to get Middle-eastern, Greek, Moroccan, Italian and other european groceries plus a bigger variety of fresh ingredients (although sadly minus the dragon fruit, mangosteen, jackfruit and all...) is wonderful. I get my Indian food in the best place possible: Gurdwara. Good solid vegetarian punjabi food filled with the Guru's grace and the sangat's love. I still need to find a place for idli though...

Quick Spring Beetroot Salad

A great salad for these spring days in London: a little sweet, a little salty, fragrant and just plain tasty.


3 small boiled beetroot, peeled
(you can buy these in lovely vacuum packs with nothing added in for about 70p from Waitrose and other supermarkets)

Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 or 3 sprigs of mint, roughly chopped
2 spring onions
drizzle of Olive oil
pinch of Fleur de Sel

Simply chop the beetroot into bite sized pieces, slice the spring onions diagonally into strips and combine in a bowl with the mint. Squeeze the lemon over the top, add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of fleur de sel or Maldon Salt.

(photo credit: Liam Giet)

Sweet Fire Pasta Sauce: Roast Sweet Pepper, Garlic and Oregano Arrabiata with Chinese Chilli

Sometimes I just need something hot.

If you don't like spicy food you shouldn't read any further. For those who have a little fire in their belly, this is the pasta sauce for you. You may have tried Arrabiatta sauces in restaurants but trust me, they're not a patch on this one which makes the most of the long, pointed, sweet, red Roma peppers we have been getting in Waitrose lately. With that sweetness, plus the soft caramel of roast garlic, sprigs of fresh oregano and some black chilli oil from Chinatown or See Woo...a standard spicy tomato sauce become a work of art waiting to smother your rotellini (or whichever pasta you choose). Just hot enough and with lots of flavour. It's great for these invigorating early spring days.


4 Roma red peppers, washed and de-seeded (normal red bell peppers can be used)
2 cans peeled plum tomatoes
1/3 tube tomato paste
olive oil
bunch of fresh oregano
one head of garlic
red wine (see bottom of recipe for non-alcoholic alternatives)
black pepper
good quality salt
1/2 tsp of la jiao you (chinese chilli oil: see picture)

Parmigiano cheese to grate.

Coats pasta for 3 or 2 very hungry people who really like pasta sauce.


Turn the oven on full blast grill.

Split the peppers so that they lay flat, skin side up, and place on foil. Along side you can put your head of garlic, having lopped off it's very top spiky bits. You can put it right side up or upside down...if it gets too toasty just turn it over.

Place the peppers and garlic in the oven, and roughly chop the oregano, open the tomatoes and cut them (you can just put a knife in the can and cut them while they are still in there.). Go off and read a book or listen to the radio or watch Rome for 10 minutes or until the peppers have gently blackened, blistered tops, turning the garlic over in the meantime if it begins to burn. Don't panic if it does...it's still in its papery skin so it's protected.

Once blackened, retrieve the peppers and garlic and carefully peel the skin of the peppers: it should come off easily, putting the flesh to one side, and chop into rough strips. Squeeze the soft, roasted garlic out of 3 to 4 cloves.

Put about 3 tbsp of olive oil into a deep frying pan (preferably non-stick). Once moderately hot, put about 1 tbsp of the tomato paste into the oil: this is an Italian tomato sauce secret. Fry the past for a few seconds until it is blended with the oil. Then add the peppers, half of the chopped oregano, and the garlic. Fry gently on a medium heat for about a minute, then add a splash or two of red wine. Blend together with a wooden spoon and after about a couple of minutes, add the canned tomato. blending the pepper mixture together with it thoroughly as you heat. Add more red wine, salt and pepper to taste.

(now is a good time to put the pasta into boiling water)

Simmer for 10 minutes: if the sauce looks dry add a bit of red wine (to taste), water or vegetable stock.

Finally add the chilli. Start with a bit less than half a tsp and add to taste. We typically have 1/2 to 1 tsp.

Remove from the heat and blend with your pasta. Tip: I generally put the pasta back in the pot it was boiled in after it has been strained and rinsed, then adding the sauce over it bit by bit until I am happy with the sauce-to-pasta-ratio.

Serve with generous grated parmigiano and sprinkle with the remaining oregano.

and of course...enjoy!

(photo credit: Liam Giet...except for the one below which was taken by me)

Note on vegetarian dishes:

You may have noticed that a lot of my recipes don't contain any meat: this is because I am a veggie fan and rarely eat meat...as a Sikh I try to avoid it. This recipe is vegetarian too; for those who don't eat eggs, there aren't any, and you can replace the red wine with a little balsamic vinegar, some stock and a pinch of sugar if you like, but any alcohol in the wine is cooked off completely in the process of making the dish, hence even I eat it.

Hard Kaur Chocolate Cake: an egg free recipe!

For those who do not or cannot eat eggs, this is perfect. The cake itself is vegan too. But for everybody else: trust me, you don't want to pass this up. It is so chocolate-y it verges on the obscene!

Hard Kaur Chocolate Cake

(with thanks to Reena and Manmeet)

A very intense, dark chocolate cake enhanced by molasses and plenty of vanilla.

This is a vegan recipe that will yield 2 LARGE chocolate cakes in deep 10 inch tins that can be halved, filled and iced. Hard Kaur icing recipe is also below, but you can use any icing you like. Enough for you and 30-40 friends. Makes great cupcakes too.

10” springform pans x 2, 2 large bowls, a whisk, measuring jug, scales, spoons, saucepan

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3 cup all purp unbleached flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cup plain (unsweetened) soymilk (UHT is fine)
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups treacle
3 cups golden syrup
3 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
6 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 180c/ 375F. Spray a the springform pans with non stick cooking spray.

Sift together flours and baking powder and baking soda. When you sift the wholewheat flour you will be left with some bran that will not go through the sieve. You can grind this quickly in a food mixer if you have one, or discard and add a little extra plain flour. I recommend getting as much of the bran in as possible as it is great for the digestive system.

In a saucepan, heat the soymilk on low-medium heat. When it is slightly bubbling, add the cocoa powder and wisk well until it is dissolved. This will give you a thick pudding-like consistency. Remove from heat.

Combine the other liquid ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. You should use an electric whisk for this as mixing up the golden syrup etc is a bit heavy going. Add the cocoa mixture and combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well with an electric mixer.

Pour batter into prepared pan, bake at 180 C/ 350 F for about 40 minutes until a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean. Remove from the over, let cool for some time and then carefully turn out onto a rack and allow to cool completely. Then ice!

You can either ice each of the cakes as one layer cakes or cut them in half horizontally (carefully) with a bread knife and make each into a 2 layer cake. If you are feeling particularly ambitious you could make one huge double or quadruple layer cake too.

This cake keeps well and develops its flavour, so you can make it a couple of days in advance and as long as you don’t cut into it, it will stay moist. You can then ice when ready. I wouldn’t make it more than 4 days in advance though. If you are keeping the cakes in advance then refridgerate for freshness.


The Chocolate icing is egg-less but not Vegan. It is EXTREMELY rich.

Equipment: 1 large bowl, 2 small bowls, electric mixer, spatula.

¾ stick butter (just under 200g), softened
375g icing sugar
4 tbsp cocoa
1 bar (100g) very dark chocolate (70% cocoa and above)
½ tsp vanilla essence
300ml sour cream

Place the softened butter in a large bowl.

At the same time break the chocolate into a small bowl and put in a microwave for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds if there are still pieces unmelted, mix with a fork or spoon and put back in the microwave for another 30 seconds and so forth. If you do not have a microwave, melt the chocolate in a water bath on the stove (put the chocolate in a bowl inside a saucepan and fill the saucepan about halfway with water. As the water heats you can stir the chocolate in the bowl as it melts. However you have done it, put the melted chocolate to one side to cool.

Sift together the sugar and the cocoa over the top of the butter. Blend the butter and sugar together a little with a fork, then mix/whisk until creamed and fluffy. This will take about 3 mins with an electric mixer and 10 mins by hand with a fork.

Add the melted dark chcolate and vanilla essence to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well with the electric mixer. Now add 3 tbsps of the sour cream and blend until the mixture is cohesive, rich and soft.

Ice the cake immediately if possible. If you are making the icing more than an hour in advance you should now put it in the fridge. When you are ready to ice remove the icing about 30 mins before you start to soften up.

Take about one quarter of the icing and place in a smaller bowl. Add 3 more tbsp of sour cream to this mixture. This will be the filling between the two cake layers.

Ice and fill the cake. When complete, sprinkle the cake with icing sugar or cocoa powder and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.