Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Coffee Creations w/ Nespresso

To help celebrate the Nespresso's new limited edition Colombian Terroirs flavours Cauca and Santander I decided to make a coffee infused Tres Leche Cake. 

Both Cauca and Santander are from the same origin, being 100% Colombian Arabica Coffee. The Cauca (Intensity 6) is the more complex of the two flavours and is rather fruity and a little tangy, whereas the Santander (Intensity 7) is incredibly smooth and balanced with delicious caramel notes. For this reason, I decided the Santander would be the perfect addition to my Tres Leche cake. 

Spanish for 3 milks, the Tres Leche cake is very popular in South America. 


Firstly, let me just say I was very impressed with the Nespresso Inissia & Aeroccino 3. The best feature of the Inissia is that it's super easy to use, takes up little space and it looks great. This was my first time using a separate milk frothing machine and I must say the Aerroccino 3 impressed me. It is practically silent and I love the fact that you can use it to make hot or cold frothed milk, which comes in handy when I decide I want to make an iced coffee. 



Now onto this deliciously moist Nespresso Santander infused cake...

Coffee Infused Tres Leche Cake


ingredients
200g butter
180g caster sugar
4 eggs
200ml sour cream
2tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod ( scraped)
200g SR Flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
Chocolate shavings or shredded coconut ( optional)


For the Tres Leche ( 3 milks)
200ml sweetened condensed milk
200 ml evaporated milk
200ml double cream
plus 1 shot of espresso ( approximately 30ml) I used Nespresso Colombian Terroirs - Santander. Use 2 shots (60ml) if you prefer a stronger coffee flavour.


method

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a square, 20-centimetre loose-bottomed tin.

Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add two of the eggs and half the sour cream and beat well. Add remaining two eggs and the rest of the sour cream and beat again.

Add the vanilla. Sieve in the flour and bicarb and fold into the mix.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a tray until the cake is completely cool - making sure you leave it in the tin to cool. Prick the cake surface several times with a fork.

Wrap base of the tin with cling-film (to contain the impending liquid fest ).

Mix the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream and coffee in a jug, then pour it on top of the cake. Most of the liquid will just sit on the surface of the cake at this point. But never fear, this will be absorbed. 


Place the cake into the fridge preferably overnight but for at least 10 hours. You will find that during this time much of the milk mixture will be absorbed resulting in a beautiful moist cake.

Top with chocolate shavings, shredded coconut or your choice of topping.


The Food Mentalist trialled the above mentioned products compliments of Nespresso.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Happy Easter Bun

I am all about festivities and family tradition. I'm the one who gets excited just after Christmas when the Easter hot cross buns and chocolate eggs start popping up on supermarket shelves. 


I often listen to people complaining about how it's too soon 'We only just had Christmas' they say. Not for me. I couldn't be more excited. 

For me, Easter represents a lovely time of the year where we get together as a family, usually at my Nan's place. It involves laughs, great food, love and of course a little chocolate.

This year is extra special as it will be William's first Easter and whilst he is a little too young at the moment to get excited about what it all means and the childish excitement that comes from believing in the Easter Bunny, it's still going to be a fun day.


One thing that I really enjoy eating over the Easter period are hot cross buns. Traditionally served hot or toasted on Good Friday, these delicious delights are now available throughout most of the year. Over the years, several variations have become increasingly popular.

Whilst I am a stickler for tradition and love the old fashioned traditional spiced ones studded with fruit, I have become quite fond of the chocolate version. Incredibly indulgent, it combines two of my favourite Easter foods - chocolate and hot cross buns.


This year Baker's Delight has four delicious hot cross bun flavours on offer - Traditional, Fruitless, Mocha and Chocolate Chip. 



Well HELLO there Chocolate Chip!


Served hot, slightly toasted and smothered in butter is the best way to enjoy these beauties. 


Tell me, how do you enjoy your hot cross buns?


Wishing you all a wonderful and safe Easter. 




The Food Mentalist sampled the above mentioned hot cross buns compliments of Bakers Delight.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cider Sunday - Cider Anzac Slice

ANZAC Day is fast approaching and for those of you not in Australia, ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand held on the 25th April each year, that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served." 

This slice is a twist on the traditional Anzac Biscuit I have previously featured on here.

What I really love about this slice is that it has a lovely chewy caramel texture and it's super easy.This one is perfect if you are looking for that sweet baked treat to enjoy with your cider. It's also a great way to use up that odd bottle of cider you may have floating around in your fridge. For this recipe I used Stassen Apple Cider. 




Cider ANZAC Slice
An Original recipe by The Food Mentalist


ingredients
165g rolled oats
220g SR flour
100g moist shredded coconut
170g brown sugar
50 ml apple cider
185g unsalted butter
1 tbs golden syrup

method
Preheat oven to 170C. Line a 20x30cm lamington dish or pan with baking paper.

Combine oats, flour, coconut and sugar in a bowl and mix. Meanwhile, melt butter and golden syrup over a low heat. Once melted, add cider and stir through. 

Pour butter & cider mixture into a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and fold through until the mixture is combined.

Spoon mixture into lamington pan and press down with the back of a fork.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Wait until the slice has cooled before cutting it into squares.

Serve with a nice cuppa.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Sunday Lunch @ Alpha Restaurant - Sydney


It has been a while since I ventured down the southern end of Castlereagh Street in Sydney's CBD. So you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled across Alpha Restaurant with its impressive historical Victorian frontage. Part of the new vision for Sydney's iconic Hellenic Club, Alpha celebrates the generosity of both modern and traditional Greek cuisine. 


Understated glamour fills the space. An impressive modern interior is bright and relaxed with clean lines, earthy accents and fishing net inspired light fittings. There's even an impressive Greek inspired stone feature wall along the northern end of the restaurant. 


Having recently added Sunday lunch to their service, today we are sampling a selection of menu items including those offered on the Yia Yia Menu.

Alpha Bar
Yia Yia ( pronounced Yay yah) means Grandma in Greek. This banquet style menu ($55pp) is available for both lunch and dinner service and is the perfect choice if you want to sample many of the fine dishes on offer at Alpha.


To start we try the pita bread with two types of dip - The ever so popular taramosalata, a white cod roe dip, and the melitzanosalata, a silky smoked eggplant dip. Both are delicious, and go perfectly with the warmed pita bread which is slightly crisp on one side and soft and spongey on the other.

Taramosalata & Melitzanosalata
Baked Kalamata Olives
The baked Kalamata olives are deliciously hot and meaty and surprisingly not overly salty which I really like.


Next, the felafel's arrive. Crispy shells encase fluffy pillows of chickpea goodness and come served a bed of coriander yogurt. 

Sesame Leaf Dolmades - Feature on the main menu
The sesame leaf dolmades are soft and filled with a fragrant and moist almond rice.  They come served in a soupy preserved lemon avgolemolo - A rich eggy lemon broth. 


I call this next dish Haloumi Heaven, but its actually Haloumi Saganaki - cooked with ouzo, lemon and oregano. The haloumi is rich and buttery and the lemon and grape tomatoes provide a lovely freshness to the dish. I hold back, but could easily demolish this all myself. It's that good.


Next, several piping hot spanakopitas arrive at the table. Spanakopita is a Greek style pie filled with spinach, leek, feta and dill. Our waitress kindly offers to portion it for us. We happily accept, and are rewarded with a crisp buttery outer pastry filled with the subtle flavours of the spinach, herbs and cheese. 

Twice cooked octopus - Features on the main menu
Twice cooked octopus comes served on a bed of spinach and white beans with a buttery red wine vinaigrette. Incredibly tender the squid tentacles are meaty and are complimented by the buttery spinach and white beans. The red wine vinaigrette provides a nice balance to the dish. 


This next dish features on Alpha's menu as a 'vintage' dish. Chef Peter Conistis first debuted this dish in 1993 and at the request of many loyal customers, Alpha has added it to their menu.  A modern take on the classic moussaka - seared scallops on a bed of taramosalata is topped with shredded sweet capsicum and sandwiched between two chunky pieces of eggplant. Fresh chopped tomatoes, herbs and some olive oil and roe finish off the dish. Being the eggplant fiend that I am, I absolutely love this dish.


Just as we start to adjust our belt buckles, the lamb arrives and it smells divine. And it is. Amazingly so. It just falls off the bone, is melt-in-the mouth super tender and well seasoned with fragrant oregano and other Greek spices. The lamb is served with lemon roasted potatoes and a creamy garlicky tzatziki. I would honestly come back just for this one dish. 

And, I intend to. 


It's really nice to see a traditional Greek salad arrive. Simple and fresh (as it should be), lightly dressed and topped with a gorgeous chunk of feta cheese. This salad is the perfect accompaniment to the lamb.




Dessert arrives in the form of loukoumades, a Greek style doughnut. Served dripping with spiced honey syrup and topped with candied walnut icecream, this dish brings something magical to the table. Having grown up surrounded by Greek cuisine, I am really excited by this dish. Loukoumades are an all-time favourite of mine.


A quick tour of Alpha's Foodstore before we depart reveals a gorgeous selection of artisan Greek products including honey, pastas, olive oils and various drinks and sweets. The Foodstore is open Monday to Friday and serves traditional Greek style coffee as well as Will & Co Espresso. They also serve a variety of greek pies and pastries to take away. 




Alpha Restaurant
238 Castlereagh Street 
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9098 1111
email: eat@alpharestaurant.com.au
web: http://www.alpharestaurant.com.au

Breakfast Service - Monday to Friday 7:30am-10:30am (no reservations)
Lunch Service - Monday to Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Service - Monday to Saturday 6pm-10pm, Sunday 5pm-9pm

Tell me, what's your favourite Greek dish?


Alpha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cider Sunday - Batlow CiderFest

Happy Cider Sunday Everyone. I hope you are enjoying some great ciders this weekend. 

I really can't believe how quickly the month of May is approaching.So, I want to tell you all about an exciting cider event coming up next month in Batlow, NSW - The Batlow CiderFest. A former work colleague of mine in Canberra attends this event every year and I always look forward to hearing about her 'weekend of cider'. 


Unfortunately, this year Pete and I I wont be able to make it , but hopefully we can include it in next year's travel plans.  

The Batlow CiderFest is a two day event which starts with a Cider Industry Conference on Friday 16th May,followed by the CiderFest Street Festival on Saturday 17th May, 2014. 

The Street Festival includes cider tasting, sales, local food stalls and entertainment. 

CiderFest Batlow is a not-for-profit community organisation run by a committee of volunteers. Their aim is to develop and manage the event, which supports the apple industry, the Batlow community and a rapidly evolving Australia Cider business.






To attend the 2014 Cider Industry Conference register ASAP.

Conference cost is $50p.p. (payable at the door with prior RSVP) and includes access to all presentations, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.

To RSVP or find out more phone or email the conference convener Kevin Dodds,NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Phone: (02) 6941 1405

Mobile: 0427 918 315

Email: kevin.dodds@dpi.nsw.gov.au 



Have you discovered a new cider that you think I might be interested in? If so please leave a comment below and I'll be sure to check it out.


 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cooking with Tasmanian Huon Salmon

During a recent trip to Tasmania where we attended a friend's wedding, Pete and I got chatting to a fellow wedding attendee about the high quality of Tasmanian produce. We thought it a great idea to get some local knowledge on the subject and during our chat he told us about the Huon Salmon brand and how in his opinion it was the best around. 

Fast forward a month and I find myself enjoying it here in Sydney after placing an order via their online store. 


The Huon Aquaculture Company started out as a small family business founded by Frances and Peter Bender whose passion for quality produce has seen the company grow to what it is today - with a turnover of approximately 3 million salmon per year.

Photo source: Huon Aquaculture Group

They have adopted what they refer to as The Huon Method which encompasses their  innovative farming philosophy:

✓ Stress Free – Raised to mirror the natural life of salmon in the wild.
✓ Well Nourished – The highest quality feed dispensed by their ingenious feeding system.
✓ Kept Clean and Healthy – Nurtured in the most spacious enclosures in the world.
✓ Raised with Sustainable Practices – In the crystal clear open waters of Tasmania.

-------------------------------------------


 Salmon, Potato & Goats Cheese Tart
An Original Recipe by The Food Mentalist


ingredients
300g ready-made shortcrust pastry
350g new potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds ( about 1/2 cm thick)
280ml pouring cream
2 eggs
3 tbsp chopped dill or parsley (optional)
zest 1 lime
70g goats cheese
200g pack Huon Reserve Smoked Salmon, torn into strips



method
Heat oven to 170'C (fan forced) or 190'C ( reg). 

Roll out the pastry and line a shallow 28cm flan or pie tin. Trim off the edges, then line with baking paper and pie weights, rice or dried beans of some sort. Put on a baking tray and bake for 10 mins. Remove the paper and beans, then bake for 5 mins more.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 6-8 mins until tender, then drain. Beat together the cream, eggs,herbs, lime zest, salt and pepper. Scatter half the potatoes over the bottom of the pastry case, then put half the salmon strips in the gaps and break up half the goats cheese and scatter over the salmon. 


Pour over half the egg mix and repeat another layer of ingredients finishing with the egg mixture.  

Bake for 25 mins until the top is lightly coloured and firm to the touch. Cool for 10 mins before removing from the tin, then serve warm or at room temperature. 


An Easy Breakfast

As a delicious treat one weekend why not try this Huon Hot Smoked Salmon inspired breakfast idea - Mix some low fat ricotta with fresh mint and cooked peas. Then, simply heat a piece of Huon Honey Cured Hot Smoked Salmon in a frypan and top with your choice of poached or fried egg. Viola!


Simple. Delicious. Healthy. Yum.

If you are on Twitter, check out more recipes and ways to use Tasmanian Huon Salmon by searching for the hashtag #huonsalmon.

To find out more about the Huon Aquaculture Group click here

The Food Mentalist received Huon Salmon products compliments of the Huon Salmon Aquaculture Group.