On the move!

So it's August. 5 months ago, nearly to the day, I looked like this

Now, however, we're moving, and so I look like this:

I'm starting my DPhil at the Oriental Institute of Oxford University in October, so we're moving to a new house up there. And though I am sad to say good bye to the wonderful Turkish groceries and Chinese supermarkets, not to mention Borough Market, I have two things, apart from the excitement of beginning of my impending course, to console me: firstly, it only takes a little over an hour on the train direct to London from Oxford, and it will be even easier for me to go to Southall to attend Gurdwara as well as shop and eat than it was from my home in Rotherhithe, and secondly, there are some fantastic markets in Oxford! Plus Oxford is a small city with lots of great countryside locations for produce etc nearby. So I predict that Liam and I will be out and about quite a lot.

In other words...though actually I didn't do it justice with adequate posts etc, London is an amazing place to shop and eat, Oxford will give me an opportunity to bring you a snippet of a different facet of British culinary life, as well as giving me still enough chance to get some more London into these pages. So stay tuned!

the secret weapon: (peanut butter) cream cheese icing

Summertime, sort of perversely is always high gear baking time for me because my brother, my husband, my mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law all have birthdays between May and September. So lately I've been making a lot of developments in my celebration cake making. This year was especially important because my sister-in-law graduated from Medical School ON her birthday (the cake, with marzipan diploma, is pictured here)! In any case, when my brother's birthday rolled around, I didn't just want to make him the dark chocolate cake with cream cheese icing that is his favourite, I wanted to do something a bit special. And it then it came to me. Peanut butter.

At first I wasn't sure whether it was a good idea. Having made my cream cheese icing, I took a bit and added some peanut butter as an experiment. What I created was so extraordinarily good that I woke my husband up to taste it. And now you can make it too. Below is the recipe for cream cheese icing and then the method of how to make it into peanut butter cream cheese icing. On my brother's cake I iced with the plain cream cheese and used the peanut butter cream cheese icing as a filling between the two layers of dark chocolate cake (for the recipe, see my Hard Kaur Chocolate Cake). This worked extremely well. I wouldn't recommend icing and filling a cake with peanut butter icing unless you are a real fan, but it would be an extremely good icing to top a chocolate, banana or snickerdoodle cup cake with!


1 cup Milk
¼ cup all purpose flour
8 oz. Unsalted butter
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g Philadelphia cream cheese
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 large jar smooth, no sugar-added, natural peanut butter (adding method below...don't worry...you don't add the whole thing...unless you want to.)


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.
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.
6. Add the cream cheese 100g at a time and blend into the mixture thoroughly.
7. Add the lemon juice. This will give the cream cheese icing a lighter, zestier taste.

You can stop here, if what you want is cream cheese icing, and this is a non-traditional recipe for cream cheese icing that is essentially a buttercream with cream cheese added. This means that it is much much more stable than your average cream cheese icing which has a tendency to melt if you so much as think a warm thought.

If you are making a layer cake, take one third of the icing you have made aside to make the peanut butter cream cheese filling. If you are making cupcakes and want to make the entire batch of icing into peanut butter cream cheese icing, follow the method with the whole lot of icing.

Transfer your desired quantity of icing into a new bowl and for every 7 tbsp generous tbsp of cream cheese icing, add 2 tbsp of peanut butter. Of course if you find this too rich or too light you can adjust accordingly, but that's the ratio that I recommend.

You will love it. :)

Cantucci: the little biscuits that love you back

Cantucci are the ultimate foodie friend: traditionally to be eaten as an accompaniment to a glass of Vin Santo , a delicious Italian desert wine from Tuscany, these biscotti-like almond cookies, though petite, are also big enough to serve well with a cup of tea or coffee, biscotti style. They are very easy to make...even if you do not have any electrical kitchen equipment at all you can mix them up by hand with a spoon or fork without difficulty, and their flavour is spectacular. I sometimes add a touch of orange flower water for a more exotic, fragrant element that goes very well with tea. And one more bonus: no added fat!

This recipe is one I adapted from an Italian site when I was making these as thank you gifts for people who helped at our wedding. Vin Santo and cantucci have a particular story attached to them in our love story, so it kind of made sense. In the end we had so many left that my husband ended up taking them with him to Italy as a sweetener for his colleagues in the Milan office. I must admit, I was a bit nervous about giving Italian cookies I had made to Italians, but these more than passed the test. In fact the boss there made him an honorary Italian! If that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is!

500g bread flour
300g sugar
250g unpeeled almonds, crushed. (I suggest pounding the whole almonds in a mortar and pestle to give a variety of sizes, some whole, some broken some totally crushed...it adds to the texture and flavour of the cantucci. Alternatively you can use a food processor but be careful to only break them up, not pulverise them! If you wish you can swap out 50g of the almonds for pistachios or hazelnuts but I wouldn't recommend swapping out more as you will lose that cantucci flavour)
50g Pine nuts
5 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
grated peel of one lemon
cookie sheet
baking parchment

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (360 F)
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
3. Add the nuts and blend through.
4. Add the grated lemon zest and eggs and mix until you achieve a ball of golden dough. I recommend using your hands to knead everything together in the last stage.
5. On a clean, flour dusted surface, turn out the dough and shape into a 3cm wide roll as long as your baking sheet. You may need to make two rolls of 3cm each in order to fit everything on the sheet.
6. cover cookie sheet with parchment and put the roll(s) on the sheet. Flatten the rolls lightly with your hand.
7. Bake for 30 mins, then remove from oven.
8. slice the roll into 1cm slices, cutting diagonally.
9. Spread the slices out on their sides on the cookie sheet. You are unlikely to have much space between them but try to separate them a little if you can. Bake in oven at 150 C (300 F) for a further 15 mins, then turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes.

Store in an air-tight jar to keep them moisture-free and ready for dunking.