Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favourite Recipes - 2011

There’s no doubt that 2011 has been a busy fun-filled year. The Food Mentalist is coming up to it’s first birthday and looking back it’s been an absolute ball! I have met some amazing people, made some new friends, attended several blogging related events and sampled some amazing new foods and products. I want to take this opportunity to thank all my regular readers, Twitter & Facebook friends and and everyone else who had made this experience all the more enjoyable. Thank you x

As the year comes to a close I thought I would take this opportunity to share my favourite recipes with you all which have featured here over the last 12 months. They are fairly diverse - from the sweet (of which there are many) to the savoury and healthy. To visit the post and recipe simply click on the title of the dish.

I wanted to start with my most recent recipe as it truly is SO delicious. It’s perfect as a breakfast pudding or as a hearty dessert and can be served hot or cold. Who could possibly refuse a serving of this sticky caramel macadamia encrusted brioche pudding?! Certainly not me!

This dish was part of The Cookbook Challenge’s citrus theme where we had to choose a recipe to make from a cookbook we owned. I chose this dish as I was intrigued and wanted to see if it tasted anything like the lemon chicken we all remember from the local Chinese restaurant growing up. Well, it exceeded my expectations and was truly delectable. And whats even better about this recipe is that it has much less fat than the traditional fried version. What I also loved about this recipe is that the chicken retained it’s moisture and the flavours were perfectly balanced. This was one of Pete’s favourites too.

This was one of those random recipes you sometimes come across on the Internet and think wow! So, I had to try it. I made it for a barbecue lunch we hosted at our place on Australia Day and it went down a treat. It was not a simple cake to make - with the burnt sugar syrup, cake, frosting and sugar topping. However, I thought the end result was well worth the effort. I also love the shape of the bundt cake and revisiting this recipe has reminded me that I will have to use my bundt tin more in 2012.

This super easy slice was a huge hit in 2011 for it’s versatility. It is so tasty, can be served hot or cold, is perfect for lunch or dinner and can be wrapped up and taken with you on the road, or for a picnic. Yum.

Any cake with buttermilk on it’s ingredient list always gets my vote. I think it just adds that certain oomph! to a recipe. I made this cake for a friend at work and it was a nice change from the traditional chocolate birthday cake. The cream cheese icing was scrumptious and I could actually do with a slice right now. 

Tell anyone that you will reveal the secret to the World’s Best anything and it’s sure to spark intrigue. I came across an interesting article in the New York Times online revealing the secret to the World’s best chocolate chip cookies and I just had to follow it up. This recipe was tried & tested and resulted in the ‘Ultimate’ chocolate chip cookie. It’s now my ‘go to’ whenever I need the perfect cookie.

These tasty individual quiches, served with a simple side salad are the perfect addition to any lunch or dinner during these Summer holidays.

This recipe by Jared Ingersoll from Dank Street Depot lives up to it's reputation as 'The Best'. It comes from his cookbook Sharing Plates - A table for all seasons - a beautiful cookbook filled with amazing and incredibly tasty dishes. This recipe results in a moist, silky almost fudge like chocolate cake which is simply - The Best!

These cupcakes were indeed luscious. A moist carrot cake base mingles with cardamom and ginger and is topped with a sweet mascarpone frosting. They are impossible to resist.

Another favourite salad of ours. This one is a super healthy, protein enriched salad jammed full of high impact flavours. It’s incredibly delicious and you can’t stop at just one serve. What’s fantastic about this recipe is that it’s great for those of us who want to choose something healthy for lunch or dinner but who also don’t want to compromise on flavour in doing so.

These almost crepe-like pancakes are reminiscent of cooking with my Nan as a child. Served with an easy to make raspberry sauce, you won’t have any excuse not to make these over the holidays.

I made this for Bastille Day on July 14 this year. It brought back many fond memories from our trip to France in late 2010. This flan recipe is popular in the Brittany region of France and it’s from the cookbook ‘Taste Le Tour’ - by TV Celebrity Chef Gabriel Gate. What’s interesting about the cookbook is that it has no photographs of the finished recipes, only a few illustrations randomly scattered throughout the book.

I loved this salad so much we had is on Christmas Day last week. A combination of crunchy vegetables including radishes, apples and carrots combined with juicy sultanas, sesame seeds, and a fabulous tahini based dressing - It’s definitely a stand-out dish. It’s incredibly healthy and absolutely delicious!

This one is another from Bill Granger and I made it for Mum for her birthday. I was on a self-induced chocolate ban at the time and because Mum loves lemon flavoured sweets I chose this recipe. It was absolutely divine and so dense and moist. Everything a good cake should be. The frosting was sweet and tangy and complimented the cake really well.

I look forward to sharing more food and life adventures with you all in 2012. May you all have a fabulous and safe New Year and enjoy the rest of your holidays.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cider Sunday - Rekorderlig 'Winter' Cider - Apple.Cinnamon.Vanilla

Merry Christmas and Happy Cider Sunday!!

This week’s cider is yet another from Sweden, what can I say... They appear to have it sorted when it comes to cider making.

I chose this cider because it’s the perfect Christmas cider - Rekorderlig Winter Cider - Apple - Cinnamon - Vanilla. Forget the ‘Winter’ thing, although you would be forgiven for being confused over the last few weeks as it has hardly been traditional summer weather here in Sydney.

This cider is the perfect cider for this time of year as these flavours really compliment the festive season - think Christmas pudding, fruit mince pies, fruit cake, trifle, egg nog and brandy. Yum!

Rekorderling is a fourth generation family brewed cider from a small town called Vimmerby in Sweden. What makes this cider unique - when compared to many of the commercial ciders out there is that it can be served either hot or cold.  As usual though, I chose to have mine with lots of ice, and on this occasion, a little fruit mince pie from Brasserie Bread which are just divine!.

This cider is golden cider and the flavour combination works really well. It’s quite easy to forget you are drinking something alcoholic. This one is rather sweet, however the flavours help to balance this out rather nicely. The apple and vanilla flavours are dominant with just a hint of cinnamon. This one is definitely worth a try if you are a big vanilla or cinnamon fan.

I found this one to be very refreshing and will definitely be enjoying some more of it in the near future.

The bottles are 500ml so they are perfect for sharing. With 4% alcohol, one bottle will give you 1.6 standard drinks.

Rekorderlig Winter Cider - Apple-Vanilla-Cinnamon
RRP $5.90 per bottle
$69.90 per case of 15
Available at Dan Murphy's and all good bottle shops.

Have a fantastic Christmas and New Year and stay safe. Our next Cider Sunday will be posted next year - only 7 days away!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Macadamia Praline Bread & Butter Pudding

This festive season is the best time of year to serve family favourites as well as try exciting new recipes. This recipe does both.

Macadamia nuts, sweet sticky caramel and silky brioche combine for a luscious breakfast pudding just perfect for Christmas morning...or anytime really.

I grew up with bread & butter pudding on the menu. Traditionally made with stale bread, sultanas, spices and an eggy-cream mixture which was poured over the top before being baked in the oven. Sometimes, Mum or Nan would spread each piece of bread with a thin smear of apricot or strawberry jam on the bread after it had been buttered. I loved it.

I also have a great love for all things praline.

So with this recipe, I have combined the two - I've also removed the fruit and the jam and substituted a whole lot of nutty caramel goodness. This recipe calls for quite a few eggs and of course I chose to use McLean’s Run Open & Free Range eggs as they are simply the best on the market at the moment. 

I first used these delicious eggs when I made my feta, basil and sun-dried tomato quiches. The hens at McLean's Run farms have about 13 times more space than other free range farms. 

You've got to love that! 

Ethical practices are an important factor for Pete & I when we do our food shopping and we have always bought free range eggs. Now, we will purchase McLean's Run open & free range eggs with the confidence that these eggs come from a farm where animal welfare is paramount. Happy Hens = Happy us!

What’s great about this recipe is that you do all the preparation the day before and then all you have to do is pop it into the oven in the morning. Voila!

Macadamia Praline Bread & Butter Pudding
An original recipe by The Food Mentalist

1 brioche loaf (500g) * (see note)
8 large McLean's Run free range eggs
1 1/2 cups light thickened cream
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence or 1/2 vanilla bean pod ( seeds scraped)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a pinch of salt
maple syrup to serve ( optional)

macadamia praline topping
180g butter (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts (unsalted)
2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Slice brioche loaf into 1 inch thick slices and arrange in a buttered pudding dish large enough to fit the sliced loaf. In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, cream, milk, sugar ,vanilla, cinnamon,nutmeg and salt and whisk until blended. You can use a hand-held beater if you like but just make sure you don’t over beat it - you don’t want it to become frothy.

Next, pour or spoon the eggy mixture over the bread making sure you spoon some in between each piece of bread.

Cover with foil and place in the fridge overnight.
Next, combine all of the praline ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight until required.
The next day, preheat your oven to 180'C
Spread praline mixture over the top of the bread and bake for about 40-45 minutes until golden & delicious.

At this point don’t be surprised if you have random strangers knocking on your door as the delicious sweet nutty caramel aroma wafts out of your kitchen.

The result: a delectable sweet breakfast pudding which will be sure to impress your family and friends during this festive season.

Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup. Yum.
* Brioche can be purchased at Coles supermarkets in Australia and some delicatessens. If you cannot find a loaf of brioche - you can substitute it for any other sweet bread or plain white.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

feta, basil & sun-dried tomato quiche

When I think of quiche it takes me back to growing up during the 1980’s, Mum would often serve Quiche Lorraine during the Summer months. It was and still is largely a very ‘retro’ dish. Quiche is less popular now, although it does manage to pop up now and again on the odd menu. I think it’s decline in popularity here in Australia was largely due to the fact that it often conjures up memories of soggy thick pastry, chunks of less than appealing ingredients and a yucky skin on top.

Oh, and Mum.... I’m not referring to your quiche...

With a few different ingredients I have reinvigorated the classic quiche. I have changed this retro classic into a delicious simple and fast meal in which you can enjoy during this busy festive season.

Forget soggy crusts, this one will give you a rich buttery crumbly pastry filled with a super tasty filling which compliments it perfectly.

I was recently asked if I was interested in trying McLean’s Run Open Range eggs and after hearing a little about them, I jumped at the chance - Let me tell you why:
  • McLean’s Run are ‘Open Range’ farms - where the hens have about 13 times more space than traditional Free Range hens
  • Traditional Free Range farms have about 20,000 hens per hectare - McLean’s Run have a maximum of 1500 - (Yay!)
  • The eggs are free from added hormones and antibiotics
  • The eggs are graded ensuring they are always of top quality
  • The farms are Australian owned and operated by Australian farmers
  • The company’s ethos is 'The hens welfare comes first, second and third’
Having now sampled these delicious eggs I can say that McLean’s Run eggs are a must buy. I think it's really important to know where our food comes from and how it is treated before it makes it's way into our homes. Animal welfare is something I'm very passionate about so I was very impressed to find out that the hens have plenty of room, fresh air, sunshine and food.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe, it’s going to be a staple at our house during these warmer months. I absolutely love this time of year. It's perfect for getting together with family and friends and enjoying some fresh and delicious food. This quiche recipe is perfect as a light dinner, or a nice edition to lunch served with a fresh salad.

feta, basil & sun-dried tomato quiche
An original recipe by The Food Mentalist
Serves 4-5
Makes 1 large family quiche or 5 individual quiches

shortcrust pastry* ( see note)
2 cups plain flour
90g butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tbs iced water

1 cup (200g) feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar or tasty cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup light cream
salt & pepper to taste

Fresh Basil from Our Garden
Preheat oven to 200'C
prepare pastry - sift flour and add to a food processor along with softened butter - process for about 30 seconds until the mixture is fine and crumbly. Add egg yolk and water and process for another 20 seconds until the mixture comes together.

Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerate for 25-30 minutes to ensure the dough is relaxed ( it's all about relaxing these holidays!)

Roll out dough between 2 sheets of baking paper or on a lightly floured surface until it is big enough to fit a 22cm loose bottomed quiche tin or 5 mini quiche tins. Ease the rolled out dough into tin/s and trim edges. Line with baking paper and fill with a layer of pie weights, rice or dried beans.

Bake in a hot oven (200'C) for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove paper and weights and allow to cool slightly. Whilst cooling reduce the oven temperature to 180'C.

Spread quiche base/s with feta cheese then top with torn basil leaves,sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese. Spoon over combined eggs, milk and cream mixture which has been seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

Place back into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the filling is set and has slightly browned on top.

Serve warm or cold with a delicious dressed salad.

* Note - To save time you can buy pre-made frozen shortcrust pastry from the supermarket - just defrost 1-2 sheets and use the same way.


McLean's Run Premium Open Range Free Range Eggs are available at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets and retail for $5.99 per dozen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Vanilla Bean Shortbread

Classically Scottish, this fabulous crumbly textured buttery 'biscuit' is a must at Christmas time. This  version is the first of several that I will show you over the next few days in the lead up to Christmas. The recipe is basic and super easy. It can easily be adapted to include many different flavours and textures.

The result is a classic and delicious buttery shortbread. Perfect with a cup of tea, coffee or perhaps a glass of eggnog?

Christmas Vanilla Bean Shortbread
An original recipe by The Food Mentalist

100g cornflour
225g plain flour
200g unsalted butter ( room temperature)
85g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 vanilla bean (seeds scraped)
pinch salt
Shaped cookie cutters or small pairing knife
Textured impression mat (optional)
Coloured cachos (optional)

Preheat oven to 150'C.
Beat butter and vanilla bean seeds until creamy. 
Stir through icing sugar and sift in flours and salt. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to firm up for 20-30 minutes.
Remove from fridge and roll out to 1/2 cm (or desired thickness) on lightly floured surface. 

(Optional) If using a textured impression mat - press lightly floured mat gently into the rolled out dough before cutting out shapes. 
Using cookie cutters or a small paring knife cut out desired shapes and place on baking tray which has been lined with baking paper. 

Lightly press several cachos into each shortbread 'biscuit' (optional).

Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden in colour.Transfer to cooling rack until cool and store in an airtight container.

These actually taste better 2-3 days after they have been made.


( Alphabet, star and other shaped cutters can be purchased at craft and/or cake supply shops)

What are your favourite baked Christmas treats? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cider Sunday - Coldstream Apple Cider

Happy Cider Sunday!

Can you believe we are only a week away from Christmas? Crazy!

Have you managed to get all your Christmas shopping done? Being the crazy planner and list maker that I am, I have managed to shop, wrap and tag all my Christmas presents ready for next Sunday. I am now officially on holidays and am really looking forward to our Tassie trip after Christmas.

During the next week, I will be crazily preparing and cooking ready for Sunday, as Pete and I are hosting Christmas at our place. Fingers crossed it all works out, I have a fun menu planned. One thing that we have already stocked up on ready for the big day is CIDER.

I chose an Aussie cider for this weeks edition of Cider Sunday : Coldstream Apple Cider.

I haven't noticed too many Aussie ones on the market so I thought it would be good choice. I must admit I was very sceptical at first because so far the Swedes appear to have cornered the market when it comes to exceptional cider. However, with this one I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really like this cider.

It's a refreshing drop made by Coldstream Brewery in the Yarra Valley in Victoria. The cider is made using local apples crushed using a 'rack and cloth' press method. It's also cold fermented and filtered too which helps make sure it keeps it's crisp apple flavour.

The cider itself is a pale golden colour and has a crisp apple flavour with a few spicy notes. As far as ciders go, this one is straight forward & simple apple cider. It has a nice apple flavour and balanced sweetness.

This cider will pair well with most summer foods, why not add a few bottles to your Christmas table?

A 330ml bottle of Coldstream Apple Cider equals 1.3 standard drinks at 5% alcohol.

Coldstream Apple Cider
RRP $3.50 per 330ml bottle or $16.90 per pack of 4.
$54.90 per case of 24.
Available at Dan Murphy's

I hope you have a great week and Christmas - Next Sunday, I have a special Christmas Cider for you all to try.