"There is no love sincerer than the love of food" - George Bernard Shaw

How many references do we see relating to love and food? “If music be the food of love…”; “a way to a man’s heart is through is stomach”; “you should find someone to eat with before you find something to eat.” How many pivotal moments are there in films where the flicker of a romantic flame ignites over the dining table? Lady and the Tramp tenderly nibbling on a spaghetti strand, Sally ‘educating’ Harry over a pastrami and rye in Katz’s Deli, Thurman making eyes at Travolta over a $5 Shake. It’s obvious, love revolves around food!

So whether you believe food and love are synonymous in a blossoming relationship, if you are refusing to sell-in to the extortion trap of a Valentine’s menu, or are choosing to throw an anti V-Day feast with friends, then we should take note of Harriet Van Horne who so eloquently said “Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all”, and spend this Friday throwing ourselves into the creation of delicious, edible delights that will make life seem well and truly rosey. Especially so with these enchanting and indulgent Raspberry Rose and Chocolate Cupcakes…

Raspberry, Rose & Chocolate Cupcakes

From trEATs by April Carter

Pretty pastel colours are a popular way to decorate cupcakes, but I also love tinting buttercream this beautifully bold deep pink to complement the raspberry and rose flavours. You can buy special cupcake boxes that fit six, twelve or even single cupcakes to package these in – seek out brown or black boxes and cupcake cases for a modern look.

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Makes 12

For the chocolate cakes

50 g (2 oz) cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

125ml (4 fl oz) boiling water

110 g (3 ¾ oz) unsalted butter

100 g (3 ½ oz/ 2/5 cup) caster (superfine) sugar

100 g (3 ½ oz/ ½ cup) dark brown soft sugar

2 large (US – extra large) eggs

175 g (6 oz/1 2⁄5 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

60 ml (2 fl oz) milk

For the raspberry filling

4 tablespoons raspberry jam

For the rose buttercream

125 g (4 oz) unsalted butter

250 g (9 oz/2 cups) icing (confectioner’s) sugar

2 teaspoons milk

3 drops of rose extract

claret or pink gel food colouring

To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F/gas mark 3). Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with cupcake cases. Mix the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and boiling water in a small bowl until combined, then set aside to cool.

Using a food processor with the beater attachment, beat the butter and sugars in a bowl for 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and creamy. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.

Into a clean bowl sift the the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Add to the butter mixture, along with the milk and the cocoa mixture, and use the food processor to beat it all together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure that all of the ingredients are well incorporated, then divide the mixture between the cupcake cases until each one is two-thirds full. Bake for 18–20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. 

Remove the cakes from the cupcake tin and set aside to cool.

To make the buttercream, place all of the ingredients into a bowl and use a food processor to beat them together for 4–5 minutes, or until pale and creamy.

Once the cakes have cooled, cut a small, cone-shaped, 2 cm (¾ in) deep piece from the top of each cake. Fill each hole with a teaspoon of jam and top with the cut-out piece. Then, pipe the rose buttercream onto the top of each cake using a large star tip. To pipe a rose design, start piping from the centre of each cake and spiral outwards. 

Cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Any leftover buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Friday Treats - tarts and bruschetta

So this week we are going savoury for our afternoon treats with some delicious tarts and bruschetta from Grow Harvest Cook, by Meredith Kirton and Mandy Sinclair. These simple but flavoursome recipes are perfect for an afternoon snack, and fresh from the oven they make a comforting and warming treat to share with friends. You won’t be having just one of these bite-sized goodies…

Fig and Blue Cheese Tarts

Ingredients

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, lightly beaten

100 g (3½ oz) soft blue cheese, at room temperature

6 small figs, halved lengthways

thyme sprigs to serve

Makes 12

Preheat oven to 220°C (430°F) or 200°C (400°F) for a fan-forced oven. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Cut six 7.5 cm (3 in) rounds from each sheet of pastry. Place on the prepared tray. Score each round 1 cm (ó in) from the edge. Prick the centre with a fork. Brush with the egg and bake for 10 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and press the centre of each pastry round down with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Spoon a little blue cheese into the centre of each tart shell. Top with a fig half, cut side up, and a little more cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve topped with a sprig of thyme.

 

Mushroom and Feta Bruschetta

Ingredients

4 field mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

25 g (1 oz) feta

salt and pepper to taste

Basil oil

50 g (1¾ oz/1 cup) firmly packed basil leaves

¼ cup vegetable oil

4 slices Italian white bread, lightly toasted

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) or 160°C (320°F) for a fan-forced oven. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Lay the mushrooms on the tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes. Crumble over the feta and season well. Bake for another 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.

Meanwhile, make the basil oil. Place the basil and vegetable oil in a small food processor. Process until smooth.

Spread the basil oil over each bread slice. Top with a mushroom and serve with extra basil oil for drizzling.

Tip

You could use Swiss brown or button mushrooms in this recipe. Leave whole or chop and cook as per above.

Happy New Year (and Happy Health Kick!)

Happy New Year from all of us here at the Hardie Grant office! We hope you had a great Christmas and that Santa brought you all those books you asked for!

With the start of a new year, it seems like everyone, from your neighbour to your Granny, enthusiastically embarks on a health kick to shed those extra few pounds that creep on over the festive season. If you, like the rest of the western world, feel like you may have indulged in one (or four) mince pies too many, then we have the answer for you – some healthy and nutritious recipes from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. Drastic detoxes and juice fasts are so 2012 - instead, nourish your body with Heidi’s wholesome recipes, which include energy-boosting wholegrains and in season fruit and vegetables, jazzed up with some delicious flavour combinations. These simple recipes from the queen of vegetarian eating will delight meat-eaters and non meat-eaters alike (who needs more meat after all that turkey anyway?!) and help us over-indulgers give our digestive systems a bit of a TLC in the new year.

You can buy Super Natural Every Day here.


Christmas Gift Guide: Perfect Presents from the Hardie Grant Bookshelves

For design lovers:

A Living Space by Kit Kemp (£30.00 Hardback)

Acclaimed interior designer and owner of Firmdale Hotels, Kit Kemp, showcases her signature style in this stunning interiors book. Known for her stylish, witty and distinctly English interiors, Kit provides snippets of styling advice alongside beautiful photographs of her design masterpieces.

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Bowerbird by Sibella Court (£26.99 Hardback)

Best-selling author and stylist Sibella Court reveals her very personal approach to collecting and collections. Perfect for any compulsive collectors who like to decorate their home with interesting finds from far and wide - Sibella shows you how to create inspirationally styled interiors with your favourite finds.

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Christmas Gift Guide: Perfect Presents from the Hardie Grant Bookshelves

For sports fanatics:

Never A Gentlemen’s Game by Malcolm Knox (£20.00 Hardback)

The only book for cricket fanatics this Christmas! Malcolm Knox explores the untouched area of the scandals of early test cricket - a period of cricket which appears to be fraught with exactly the same bitter, vicious and greedy behaviour as the current game.

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Christmas Gift Guide: Perfect Presents from the Hardie Grant Bookshelves

For her: 

Darcey Bussell by Darcey Bussell (£30.00 Hardback)

Darcey Bussell’s illustrated biography has been one of the most in-demand books of the season, with everyone desperate to get their hands on this glorious photographic celebration of one of the greatest English ballerinas of all time. Grab a copy of this beautiful book fast for the lady in your life - with stunning photographs from world renowned photographers it won’t fail to disappoint!

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The WAH Nails Book of Nail Art by Sharmadean Reid (£9.99 Hardback)

Sharmadean Reid, owner of the renowned hip London salon WAH Nails, shares 25 of her most in-demand nail designs, from simple techniques to trickier designs. Nail art is the hottest beauty trend around right now - find out how to achieve the looks in your very own home with this trendy guide. Ideal for the fashionista!

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Christmas Gift Guide: Perfect Presents from the Hardie Grant Bookshelves

For foodies:

J’aime New York by Alain Ducasse (£35.00 Hardback)

Renowned chef Alain Ducasse shares his pick of the best eating haunts in the Big Apple. Anyone who’s ever visited New York or who longs to take a trip to this buzzing city will be inspired by the amazing food hotspots Alain Ducasse recommends. A gorgeous, sumptuously photographed coffee-table book.

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Under the Walnut Tree by Anna and Fanny Bergenström (£20.00 Hardback)

Combining international and Scandinavian flavours, this is an inspiring cookbook from mother and daughter team, who share 400 recipes for all occasions. Foodies will delight in this cookbook all year round!

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Antonio Carluccio: A Recipe for Life by Antonio Carluccio (£20.00 Hardback)

Antonio Carluccio is a name known to many - over his fifty year career he has inspired thousands of people with his no-fuss Italian cooking and his love of good food and wine. This is a great read for anyone interested in the man behind the famous name; it is a story  of a life of unexpected twists and turns, joy and sadness, love and life.

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Christmas Gift Guide: Perfect Presents from the Hardie Grant Bookshelves

For crafters:

Just Sew Stories by Katie Allen (£16.99 Hardback)

Handmade is the new hip, as any budding crafter will know. Keep creativity at an all time high with this cute book full of original sewing projects - from easy peasy to confident crafter, Just Sew Stories will get everyone sewing crazy this Christmas.

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Christmas Gift Guide: Perfect Presents from the Hardie Grant Bookshelves

With only 19 days left until Christmas, it’s time to get our skates on and actually start doing some Christmas shopping! There are countless gift guides flying around out there to help you discern the shabby from the chic, but gift guides for the book worms seem to be far and few between at the moment. That’s why we’ve put together our pick of the best books to give as gifts this Christmas. If you’re struggling for a great Dad-present or don’t know where to turn for a cute stocking filler, look no further than our edit of the best books from the Hardie Grant bookshelves. Christmas shopping stress? Not here, thanks! More time for mulled wine parties and baking festive gingerbread then…

For him:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Cocktails by Alfred Tong (£9.99 Hardback)

The ultimate cocktail guide for the suave man in your life who likes a drink with a bit of style! Illustrated throughout by Jack Hughes and complete with over 150 recipes, this book will turn the amateur home barman into the perfect cocktail party host.

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Scandalous by Barry Stone (£9.99 Paperback)

There is no shortage of sporting stars making headlines off the field for all the wrong reasons - from lucrative endorsement deals flushed down the toilet to marriages shattered following a scandalous affair. This book is perfect for the sports-lover who wants the insider scoop on the most shocking stories behind their favourite games.

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Have You Eaten? by Billy Law
Published October 2012 


Great Pub Food by Rachael Lane
Published November 2012 in the UK 


A Living Space by Kit Kemp, published October 2012


100 Best Cakes and Desserts
by Gabriel Gate
Published September 2012 


The French Dog by Rachael McKenna
Published September 2012 in the UK