Sunday, January 30, 2011

Haigh's Berry Chocs

Haigh’s Chocolates is Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolatier having opened back in 1915. The Company manufactures its products in Adelaide and has several stores in Victoria, NSW and SA.  John  Haigh the current chairman studied at Lindt and Sprungli in Switzerland in the 1950’s and is responsible for incorporating the traditions of European chocolate making into Haigh’s operations. 

Haigh’s are famous for their chocolate frogs, apricot fruits , Shiraz truffles in which they use wines from the regions in Adelaide and their Australian Collection which feature flavours like honey and macadamia, lemon myrtle, wattle seed and quandong. YUM!

I was walking along George Street in Sydney the other day and came across the Haigh’s store in the Strand Arcade and being the chocoholic that I am I just had to stop in and take a look. Pete and I  visited the Original Haigh’s store in Adelaide last year, but we didn’t purchase anything because at the time, chocolate and I were taking a break. A 3 month break to be precise. It was a trying time indeed but I survived and managed to come out on the other side a few kilos lighter and more in control of my chocolate loving ways. My days of inhaling an entire block of chocolate were behind me. I am now able to savour chocolate without having to eat it all at once! *Ahem* , I digress.

So, I walked in to the Haigh’s store in Sydney and was greeted by heavenly visions of chocolate, I was surrounded by blocks, bars, handmade gourmet delights , chocolate covered nuts and more. My olfactory system went into overdrive as I was embraced by the sweetness in the air.

One of the very friendly staff approached me and asked if I required assistance. Perhaps by  twirling and skipping through the store I had brought some unnecessary attention upon myself. I told her that I wanted to try their most unusual chocolate. I wanted something other than a block to challenge my palate. It was at that moment that I was introduced to Haigh’s Berry Chocs. I was told they were strawberry and raspberry flavoured centres dipped in white chocolate then dipped in milk ( for the strawberry) and dark chocolate ( for the raspberry). Yep, thank you very much, SOLD!



On the way to the counter I also picked up a dark chocolate block with candied orange pieces throughout. It instantly reminded me of Valhrona’s Manjari Orange which I bought in France and fell in love with. Even though we had to purchase an extra bag to travel home with ( most of which was full of various French and English chocolates) I wish I had bought more of the Manjari Orange. I am hoping that the Haigh’s dark orange block can fill the void. I have yet to try it but will keep you updated, I don’t expect it to be long :)

The Berry Chocs were delightful! I was very impressed and so to was Pete and Girlfriday. 

First impressions were good, both the milk and dark chocs have a nice smooth shiny coating of chocolate on the outside. We bit into the first few to discover their makeup, this is what we found:

Milk Berry Choc with Strawberry
Milk Berry Choc with Strawberry
Dark Berry Choc with Raspberry

Next, we savoured the milk and strawberry combo. The milk chocolate layer was smooth and velvety and has just the right amount of sweetness to it without being sickly. The next layer is white chocolate and it is super creamy and smooth with hints of vanilla. It doesn’t last long before the strawberry flavour starts to come through and we are left with a small piece of strawberry type jube which is slightly chewy.Very nice indeed.

The dark chocolate and raspberry combo is divine. For those of you who like dark chocolate, you will be impressed. The dark chocolate layer is smooth and has strong (but lovely) honey flavours coming through. It is not bitter and all and there is definitely no astringency. The white layer is the same as in the milk chocolate combo but it brings a nice sweetness to the dark chocolate. The raspberry jube is also nice and I’m positive there are small raspberry seeds in it. A quick scan of the ingredients reveals that the chocs contain 9% fruit so I could be right.

Girlfriday tells me that Godiva make a similar product that she has previously purchased from Macy's in the United States. She has tried to source them here to no avail. Apparently they are only available through Macy's. She tells us that they differ slightly in that the ‘jube’ is actually 100% fruit and it is slightly sour , producing a great juxtaposition between the sweetness of the chocolate and the tart berry. Unfortunately I will have to wait til one of us travels again to try these. In the meantime, Haigh’s berry chocs are my choice! We all highly recommend them!
Haigh's Berry Chocs
Tell me, what is one of your favourite chocolates?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Easy Summer Dessert: Tofu with lime & lemongrass syrup

Tofu is a great superfood. It is rich in SO many vitamins, including : K, folate, fibre, protein, riboflavin, manganese, copper, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium, calcium, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin C... should I go on? Clearly it is good for you! It can also lower high blood pressure and can counteract diseases including diabetes, cancers, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Phew! Seriously this is good stuff!


Don't be put off by the tofu. Friends often tell me that they are reluctant to buy tofu because they don't know what to do with it and because it has no flavour. If you too share these thoughts, I'm hoping that this recipe will change your opinion. 


This super easy summer dessert recipe is light and fresh and perfect for the warmer months when you don't want to be standing in a hot kitchen. 


All ingredients can be purchased at your local supermarket. There are several brands of palm sugar on the market and the one pictured below was available from my local supermarket. You can also pick up all these ingredients from your local Asian grocer.




Tofu with lime and lemongrass syrup


Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 cup of grated palm sugar
1 cup of water
1-2 stalks of lemongrass, split in half lengthways and cut in half again
1 lime ( juiced )
1 teaspoon lime zest
3-4 star anise (optional)
1 standard size tub of plain silken tofu ( If you prefer a sweet flavoured silken tofu such as almond, this can be substituted)
Mixed summer fruit ( I used 6 apricots and 2 peaches) but also try lychees, jackfruit, papaya or pineapple.

Method

Place the sugar and water into a pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Add the lemongrass, lime juice, zest  and star anise and bring to a gentle simmer. 

Turn up the heat and boil for 3-4 minutes or until it turns syrupy. Turn off heat and allow to cool. This syrup can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Cut the tofu into 3 or 4 pieces and place in serving bowls with chopped fruit.

Drizzle with the syrup.

This also tastes great with a small scoop or coconut icecream, mmm!

NB* You can also stew the fruit in the syrup whilst it is cooking but this depends on the type of fruit you use and personal preference. I’m a sucker for all stewed fruit so for the picture below I actually stewed my apricots and peaches in the syrup prior to serving.



Enjoy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bill Granger's Lemon Chicken

This was going to be tough. Do I make Bills lemon pound cake or his lemon chicken? There were no alternatives. Bill Granger would have to be one of my favourite chefs, his recipes and cookbooks are so user friendly and everything he does tastes amazing. I decided to make his Lemon Chicken because I do SO much baking and wanted to mix it up a little.  




I invited Girlfriday around for dinner as she had only just returned from Vietnam and I hadn't seen her since Christmas Day. She brought us some lovely gifts too, one of which I have included a picture of. It is a gorgeous red hand woven bowl with a lid: perfect for my lemons :)




Bill Granger's Lemon Chicken (Every Day Cookbook)
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbs plain flour
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
4 X 180g boneless chicken breasts with skin
vegetable oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
3cm (1 Inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
4 tbs honey
2 tbs Chinese rice wine
80ml lemon juice
2 tbs light soy sauce
80ml chicken stock
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch), mixed with a little cold water

Method

Preheat the oven to 180’C (350’F/Gas 4). Mix the flour, five-spice, salt and pepper on a large plate.Dust the chicken in the spiced flour.

Heat enough oil for shallow frying in a large wok over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper, then put the chicken on a baking tray and bake for 6 minutes, or until just cooked through.

Meanwhile, drain all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok and return to high heat. Add the lemon wedges and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the honey, rice wine and lemon juice and cook for 1 minute, then add the soy sauce , chicken stock and sugar and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cornflour mixture and simmer for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.


To serve, cut each chicken breast into 5 or 6 pieces and spoon some sauce over the top.

The recipe turned out perfectly and I have Bill to thank for that. It was full of flavour and Pete and Girlfriday loved it. The sauce was nice and syrupy and super tasty, I could have eaten it a spoon on its own. I found that cooking the chicken this way was great because the meat stayed moist and didn’t dry out. 



I have also decided to add a few new elements to my Cookbook Challenge posts each week from here on in. Here they are, I hope you find them helpful.

Difficulty Scale ( 1-5): 3
Best thing about this recipe: I discovered a new way to cook my chicken and keep it moist.
Worst thing about this recipe: Nothing!
Would I make it again: Yes
Love factor (1-5): xoxo

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Please leave a comment and share your favourite citrus recipe.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Smell the Cheese

Following our trip to France where we nearly ate our own weight in brie, washed rinds and every goats cheese imaginable, Pete and I returned to Sydney eager to learn more about cheese.  It was Pete’s birthday, so after scouring the internet I decided to surprise him with one of McIntosh & Bowmans’s cheese experiences. 

Fromagerie Pascal Beillevaire 14eme arr. Paris, France

We started the day by catching a ferry from home to Circular Quay where we are to meet Claudia ( the McIntosh from M&B) I hadn’t told Pete what we were doing but tell him that he is going to love it! We arrived a tad early, so we decide to sit down and have a coffee at Wharf 6 and whilst waiting I spot Claudia whom I recognised off the website. I point to her and tell Pete we are about to meet her, he stares at me perplexed.

After finishing our coffees, Pete and I walk over to where Claudia has set up her display sign and introduce ourselves. Immediately, Claudia is warm, friendly and professional and instantly I know we are in for a good day. She tells us that once the rest of the group arrives we will head to Fort Denison on the 12pm ferry run by Matilda cruises.

It’s a glorious day on the harbour and there is a short commentary by Matilda cruises about the harbour and Fort Denison. As we pass the Sydney Opera House we can see them setting up for Oprah and it looks amazing!

Only wish I had been successful in winning tickets to see her!

Upon arriving at Fort Denison we are given a glass of sweet pink bubbly and greeted by a gentleman from National Parks & Wildlife who gives us a quick spiel about the island. We make our way up to a grassed area where Claudia tells us there will be canapés and she will be back shortly. We enjoy the views of our majestic harbour taking a few photos whilst we munch on our canapés which include fresh oysters.

 
Beautiful Sydney Harbour - From Fort Denison

I realise it’s been years since I have visited Fort Denison (pre restaurant) and since Pete is from Perth, it’s his first time.

Claudia comes to collect us all and we head downstairs into a large room where we are met by the most wonderful sight, individual cheese plates, and lots of wine! There are several platters of sliced sough dough scattered around the table and fabulous sliced rounds of Pastilla Nash walnut and prune log in the middle of each cheese plate. Claudia tells us that the log is a great accompaniment and palate cleanser and to try some if at any time we taste a cheese we aren’t too fond of. A cheese I won’t like? Never! I find that the log is amazing on its own anyway. There are also a fabulous set of tasting notes and I eagerly start scribbling down notes. Since our trip, Pete and I have decided to learn all we can.

Claudia gets us to start by introducing ourselves and telling the group our favourite cheese, there are a few comedians in the group and we share a few laughs.

Each of us has several glasses of wine in front of us including two whites, a red and a glass of Moscato. All of the wines are excellent but I can’t stop staring at the cheese and forget to write down the names of the wines. I do however write down “Logan Moscato, Logan Creek near Orange”, as I can’t go past a good Moscato and this one is delightful.

Before we start, Claudia tells us to smell each cheese before we taste it. She explains that it adds to the cheese tasting experience and is something so many people don’t do, but should.

Ok then, let the cheese smelling begin!
McIntosh & Bowman - Fort Denison
We start with a Paesanella buffalo milk mozzarella, its divine and I’m already thinking: vine ripened tomatoes, basil, and olive oil! Next, is a Meredith sheep’s milk feta by Julie Cameron in Victoria. It too is fantastic.Claudia explains how the imported feta in Australia is often too salty because it is packed in salty brine to preserve it for its long trip to Australia. Unfortunately, many importers fail to wash off the brine. I also remember my friend Girlfriday telling me something similar about the feta in Greece, which isn’t as salty as it is here. This feta however, is lovely. I note down ‘Julie Cameron’. We will be purchasing this at a later date!

On to the goats cheese! A Jannei Buche Noir to be exact.  This cheese won a Gold Medal in the Sydney Speciality Cheese Show in 2005. It is coated in a vine ash and has a rather delicate goat’s milk flavour which is complimented by its yummy smooth creamy texture. Claudia tells us that you can purchase this cheese at the SMH’s Growers Markets in Pyrmont which is held on the first Saturday of each month. I know instantly that this will be one of my favourites for the day.

This is followed by a Holy Goat Matured Skyla from Sutton Grange in Victoria. If you know and love Australian cheese, you have probably heard of Holy Goat. The cheese is handcrafted and made from the milk of 'happy' free range goats who eat herbs, shrubs and fresh grass which results in a high quality product. The cheese has a creamy texture and a great depth of flavour; it is slightly nutty and very moreish.

The next two cheeses are both camembert. The first is the McLaren Camembert by producer Woodside  Claudia points out some of the differences between Australian and French brie and camembert and highlights that these differences are largely due to the regulations and manufacturing processes permitted in Australia.  As such, Australian brie and camembert often have a slight chlorine scent and flavour. I had never noticed this before but it is SO true. Take note the next time you try an Australian brie or camembert.  It’s not offensive, but it is distinct! This becomes even more evident when we try the next cheese which is a Rouzaire camembert from Normandy, France.  Claudia states that she threw in a French cheese for the day so we can draw some comparisons, not to mention it is unbelievable good. We remember to smell this one and are instantly transported to a farm; you can smell hay and an earthy freshness. It is absolutely divine and has a velvety creamy texture with mushroomy/cauliflower flavours which are almost ‘meaty’. I only wish I had a whole wheel of it!

At this point, Pete and I start slipping into a cheese coma, we are in our element!

Claudia also highlights the fact that the French are currently trying to get the laws changed to ban countries other than France from calling a cheese a brie or camembert. It’s the champagne debate all over again, but fair enough I suppose. The AOC  ( Appellation d’origine contrôlée) which translates to controlled ‘designation of origin’ is a French certification controlled by the government which gives cheeses, wine, butter and other agricultural produce certification for being produced in particular regions of France. Its aim is to maintain the integrity of the product by ensuring it is produced using traditional methods, with the correct ingredients in the correct geographical region. It therefore protects producers and empowers the consumer by telling them that a particular food is certified (in the form of a seal on the product). You may have noticed this on some French wines?

For those of you who are fans of Salvador Dali’s artwork ‘The Persistence of Memory’ ( think melting pocket watches) you would be interested to know that he was actually inspired by a melting half eaten wheel of camembert. I just LOVE these occasional reminders of the fusion between art and food.


Enjoying some French cheese on the road with a baguette and Roquefort & pork saucisson

Moving on, the next cheese is the Pyengana cheddar by producer John Healey in Tasmania. The word Pyengana is actually an Aboriginal word for the meeting of two rivers, and such a great name it is. The cheese is a cloth bound cheese and I still have a small piece of cloth on my piece of cheese, how rustic! The cheese itself is slightly flaky which I like in a cheddar and it has a nice bite to it.

The next two cheeses are from the Barossa Valley Cheese Co. The first one is the Washington washed rind cow’s milk cheese. At this point Claudia brings out several bottles of Coopers Pale Ale and tells us how well beer pairs with cheese. She explains that it can cut through some of the flavours of the cheese without altering its flavour, whereas wine can actually taint the palate. Who would have thought! We try it and she is right. It works. Simple. I take note and remember to make sure I serve some beer with my next cheese platter. The cheese is nice and has a full flavour with a hint of sweetness. Le Petite Prince is next and it’s a goats cheese. It is smooth and creamy and has that wonderful goats cheese flavour. At this point I’m thinking oven roasted garlic mushrooms and toasted sourdough with a drizzle of good olive oil!

Onto the Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red cheese from producer Jindi Cheese in Victoria. It is a wash rind cow’s milk cheese which was named in honour of the firemen and fire engines that fought so hard during the Black Saturday Bushfires to defend Jindi cheese. It has mushroomy/cauliflower flavours and is soft and delicate on the palate.

We finish with two blue cheeses. The first is the Meredith Sheep Milk Blue from Meredith in Victoria. It is very earthy and it reminds of Roquefort (ahhhh Roquefort!). For our last cheese Tarwine Blue from Berrys Creek in Victoria, Claudia tells us to cut it in half and she brings around chocolate brownies which are moist and everything that a good brownie should be. She tells us that the brownies are made by the Restaurant here at Fort Denison. We try the cheese on its own and it has quite an intense flavour. It is very creamy which can be attributed to the milk from the Jersey cow which is used to make this cheese. It is only lightly veined and I don’t think blue cheese-phobes would find it as confronting as say Roquefort. It is very moreish and just before I finish it off Claudia remind us to try a little bit of the cheese followed by a bite of the chocolate brownie. I never would have thought about this unusual combination before but they really complement each other. I then take a sip of Logan Creek Moscato and I’m in cheese heaven. I’m so happy as I have finally found a way to combine three of my favourite things: blue cheese, chocolate and Moscato. At this point I consider doing a little celebratory dance but figure it would be just plain weird, so I refrain.

We stay back and have a brief chat with Claudia about the best places in Sydney to buy cheese and the French vs. Australia thing before it is time to head out and meet our ferry. As we are leaving the room we notice that several of the other couples have left copious amounts of cheese on their plates. Confusion sets in and I start thinking, did they not like cheese? Were they feeling unwell? There is absolutely no reason for this. What in the world were they thinking?!?! It’s a travesty, I tell you! I find it hard, but I eventually move on. 

Pete and I manage to come down off our cheese cloud and catch the ferry home having thoroughly enjoyed the day. 

We both highly recommend it.

A goats cheese, Brie and parsley baguette I had in Paris

McIntosh & Bowman Cheesemongers
Fort Denison Cheese & Wine Experience
Cost: $170 per person (includes transport from Circular Quay to Fort Denison)
To find out more about a number of different McIntosh & Bowman’s Cheese Experiences click here




Monday, January 17, 2011

Hummer Time

On a recent roadtrip to explore parts of Northern New South Wales, Pete picked up a jar of pickled onions aptly called ‘Bum Hummers’. The byline on the jar reads ‘1000 farts in every jar’.

Charming indeed!

Pete found the humour in this, a typical male thing I suppose?




As you can see they have barely lasted long enough for me to take a photo of them!

They are made by a company called Riverina Grove who manufacture a range of gourmet food products including sauces, pickled onions, olives and salsas. The Bum Hummers are part of their ‘novelty’ range. 

As far as pickled onions go they are quite nice. They have just the right amount of crunch and crispness and a hint of spice from the addition of chilli and mustard seeds. They also have that distinctive tangy sweetness that pickled onions are known for. I find they are best served alongside cold meats and cheese or cut up in a sandwich. If you prefer, you can just eat them straight from the jar, a la Pete style.




Pickled onions are very popular in parts of the United States, Hong Kong, Switzerland and in the UK where they serve them alongside fish and chips or as part of the traditional Ploughmans lunch. I remember eating them as a child cut up on a sandwich with ham, cheese and mustard pickles. You may have also seen 'cocktail onions' which are a smaller pickled onion coloured red or green.

Pete’s amusing purchase got me thinking. I wonder what other unusual foods or quirky named food products are out there? 

What is the most unusual ingredient or oddly named food product you have ever purchased? 
Please comment below...

Erin x

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Eagle, Cambridge - England

The British take there Sunday Roasts quite seriously. The tradition is said to have started because bakers did not bake bread on a Sunday and would therefore use their ovens for roasting meat. Thank you bakers!
Australia has also adopted this wonderful tradition, many of us very familiar with the tradition of the family Sunday Roast. I told Mr D that when we came to visit we just HAD to partake in the tradition of an English Sunday Roast. He agreed.

Sunday arrived! Jet lagged and hungry we rugged up and caught the train from London to Cambridge. We actually had to change to a bus from Royston as the trains between Royston and Cambridge were out of action on this particular day. A regular weekend occurrence according to Mr D. We didn't care though, it was part of the adventure.

Upon arriving in Cambridge, I fell in love. Cambridge is absolutely gorgeous! We meandered around the streets and found the house that Pete had holidayed in as a child and then head for the River Cam where you can hire a punt (similar to a Venetian gondola with the curve removed). 

    Punts on the River Cam, Cambridge ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)

We chose not to hire one, favouring a wander around the many interesting streets instead, the place has a certain buzz about it. Almost magical. Besides, our stomachs were rumbling! A Sunday Roast was to be had!

Sunday Roast at The Eagle ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)

Mr D informed us that The Eagle was the best place to have a Sunday Roast, so off we marched. 'Toward Eagle!' I said as I marched ahead guided by my grumbling stomach. The Eagle pub first opened in 1667 and has a main bar, beer garden and a Royal Air Force (RAF) bar at the rear of the pub whose ceilings and walls are still covered in graffiti of WWII airmen, awe-inspiring stuff indeed.

We ordered at the bar and Pete & Mr D also ordered a pint. I had a cider, a beverage I have really become accustomed to. I chose a lamb roast, consisting of slices of roasted lamb, roast potatoes and turnips, baby carrots, peas , cabbage and accompaniments including Yorkshire pudding, gravy and mint jelly.  I think the boys had the same but to be honest I was so fixated on mine that I forgot to take pictures of what they had. Whoops!  It was just what we had been hoping for and was totally scrumptious! By the way, my first real Yorkshire pudding was delightful and full of buttery goodness.

Lamb Roast @ The Eagle ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)
After we finished lunch we walked around the markets and grabbed a few stinky cheeses, a bread stick and a few bottles of wine to take home. I told the guys I would catch up with them in a bit as I had seen something that had caught my eye before lunch. Pete always worries when I say this as I usually come back with several shopping bags and new food products that he always ends up having to carry home for me.

I entered the Fudge Kitchen and I was instantly transported to a sugary heaven. A sweet smell wafted through the shop as they had just made a fresh batch of vintage vanilla fudge. I joined the line and couldn’t help but notice how many different fudge varieties were behind the display counter. What to choose? I wondered if Pete would mind if I lugged a small suitcase of fudge back to Sydney with me. I decided to be good and just buy two flavours but the guy behind the counter upsold me to their four pack variety special. I couldn’t resist! How can one be ‘good’ when it comes to fudge?!  Before I knew it I had left the store with four slabs of fudge: vintage vanilla, traditional toffee, Belgium chocolate swirl and caramel (Did I mention I LOVE caramel?).

I rejoined Pete and Mr D and we managed to squeeze in a little more shopping before Mr D suggested a walk around  ‘The Backs’. This term refers to the backs of several colleges of The University of Cambridge which back onto the River Cam. This area is so pretty, with beautiful gardens and the stunning architecture and history of the colleges to explore. I’m so glad Mr D suggested it.

This reminded me of 'The Secret Garden'- The Backs, Cambridge ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)
                      

The River Cam, The Backs - Cambridge ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)


After a walk and a few holiday snaps, it was nearly time to head for home so we set off for the station. I was a little sad to leave Cambridge and promised I would be back. It’s a must on anyone’s itinerary when visiting the UK. Just make sure you stop in at The Eagle to enjoy a Sunday Roast!

Please leave a comment below and share your favourite roast recipe or accompaniment.

Erin x



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fruit of the Gods – Mango Lime Sago

In Burma and India the mango is referred to as the ‘fruit of the gods’. Mangoes are a gorgeous fruit, so sweet, juicy and versatile. Part of their appeal comes from the fact that they are super refreshing during the hotter months and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Did you know that worldwide, three mangoes are eaten for every banana?

As you may already be aware, I joined the Cookbook Challenge for this year and so this post is dedicated to my first entry. After searching through recipe books I found a nice and simple recipe for Mango Lime Sago in Marie Claire Style Series - Sweet cookbook. I thought  I would ease my way into the challenge. This recipe is super easy and great as a quick dessert to compliment a weeknight dinner.

                                                                   (Picture: The Food Mentalist)

This recipe stood out namely because of my love of all things sago. As a child my Nan would often make me a steamed sago pudding and baked apples with sago was always a family staple ( I look forward to sharing these recipes with you during the winter months).

Mango Lime Sago - Marie Claire Style Series: Sweet Cookbook
Ingredients
1/2 cup of sago
2 cups pureed mango flesh
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind ( I used a little extra as I love limes!)
2 tablespoons sugar ( I used palm sugar)
1 vanilla bean, split in half ( I used Queens vanilla bean paste)
Mango or lime wedges, to serve

Method
Soak the sago in cold water overnight, then drain well.
Put the sago, pureed mango, lime rind, sugar, vanilla bean and 1 cup water in a pan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves

     Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until the sago is clear and soft.

          Almost ready - notice the sago has nearly all turned clear ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)


Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cool.


Yum! ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)

Serve in tall glasses with slices of fresh mango and lime wedges.
Serves 4

I was happy with the final result, it’s flavour is delicate and for those of you who would prefer a stronger mango flavour I would recommend substituting half the water for ½ a cup of mango nectar and therefore reducing the sugar by half.

I also added a drizzle of coconut cream to ours just before I served it too and in my opinion this completed the dish J

Tell me, what is your favourite pudding or sago dish?


Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Liz!

Liz and I have been friends since we were kids .We met as neighbours growing up in Sydney’s Inner West and shared many crazy adventures together.  Liz has a reputation for leaving her stamp on her birthday cakes. Literally. When she was 3 years old she put her foot right through her birthday cake just before she was going to blow out the candles. This has stuck with her throughout the years and she is still lovingly reminded of it by her parents and friends who know about it. So you can appreciate my sense of humour when she asked me to design and decorate a cake for her 30th this year. I happily accepted. Asking her what she wanted, this was the brief:

   1. No set theme;
           2Must feed 30 people; and 
<!       3. Something incorporating pink or light pink & silver

Done! Easy. Great. These are the best cakes to make. I wanted to make something fun that incorporated some of our childhood memories. I decided the Planet Cake book by Paris Cutler was a great place to start. As soon as I saw it I knew it was PERFECT! I decided to make the ice cream shaped cake from their book.
I normally use an 8” square chocolate mud cake but decided to use a 9” square one instead as I would lose some when I sculpted the cake.


                            Planet Cake Book ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)


Here are a few photos and steps I  wanted to share with you.


                                       Break up the chocolate ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)


The first step is to make the chocolate ganache. I was first introduced to this heavenly chocolate creation many years ago when working with the pastry chefs at Qantas Flight Catering, it is so delightful and you can use it for so many desserts. Making it is easy!

I always start with 1.2 kilos of good quality (70%) dark chocolate which equals 5 standard blocks that you can find at the supermarket. Nestles Plaistowe brand is a good place to start if you have no idea about chocolate. Coverture chocolate is better if you can afford it and can be purchased at places like The Essential Ingredient or you can find it at some delicatessens.  This amount will provide enough ganache for a standard 8 or 9 inch square cake.

Making the Chocolate Ganache - Method

First, break up the chocolate into pieces and whilst you are doing this place 600ml of pouring cream in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir occasionally until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and pour it over the chocolate and begin to gently fold it together. 


                                       Mixing in the cream ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)


You will then have to ‘work’ the mixture to make it smooth. Do this by using a metal spatula if you have one and run it back and forth, blending it all together. This is a great workout! Who ever said that cooking and the gym couldn’t go together? Once you have got it to a decent consistency you may find that there are still a few small lumps in the chocolate which have not melted down into the mixture. You can fix this by giving the whole lot a burst in the microwave for 15-20 seconds at a time, mixing after each burst.

Once you have done this and it is smooth, cover and leave on the bench while you prepare you cake. Alternatively, you can make your ganache well in advance and leave in the fridge if you will be using it within a few days, or freeze it for up to a few months. To bring it back to life just take out of the freezer or fridge to defrost then ‘work’ the ganache back to a texture you can work with. The microwave comes in handy here too as long as you stick to the 15-20 second bursts. You don’t want to scold the chocolate; it will taste a nasty burnt flavour if you do.


      Working the ganache ( Picture: The Food Mentalist)


Next, I went about sculpting the cake. I cut the square cake into three even layers then painted each layer with an apricot jam and boiled water mixture to seal in moisture.  Following this, I sculpted the layers and arranged them on my board which I first smeared with a little ganache to cement the cake to the board. I then sandwiched the layers together using my ganache and let it set for several hours until firm. Using the back of a very hot knife I then ‘cleaned’ up the cake evening out any bumps and giving it sharp corners. I then left it again to firm up before I iced it.


                            Max watching me work in the kitchen


Following this, I coloured some RTR ( ready-to -roll) fondant pink and rolled it out covering the cake and smoothing it against the edges. To purchase RTR and other cake decorating supplies check out my friends at Little Betsy Baker, they have a fantastic array of cake decorating products available and until the 20th of January they have 20% off ALL their products, yay!




I used the template in the back of the Planet Cake book to shape the ‘dripping chocolate’ part of the cake which I cut out of RTR that I coloured brown using red, yellow and blue icing colour dyes. After securing this to the cake using a little boiled water and a paint brush I used an icing smoother to finish it off. I then finished it off with the number 30 and a little love heart using icing cutters. 


                         The Finished Cake   (Photo: The Food Mentalist)


 Voila!

Liz loved it and lucky for me there we no feet involved!

Please leave me a comment and share your favourite childhood cake memory.

Erin x

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Good Oil

I have been known to sit down to the odd dinner with just a good olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, and some crusty sourdough, divine! I consider olive oils to be one of my favourite indulgences.

Did you know that about 90% of the world’s olives are made into olive oil? That’s pretty impressive! Apart from its well documented heart protecting benefits, the high concentration of phytosterols (plant sterols) and antioxidants found in olive oil suggest that it might help protect us from some cancers, particularly breast and colon cancers. So drink up people!

When it comes to olive oil, Pete is a purist. He doesn’t like the infused varieties whereas I love the certain oomph! that the right flavoured oil can bring to a dish. One of my favourites is a parmesan infused olive oil I first picked up when I visited Olio Bello in Margaret River, WA. I only bought a teeny tiny bottle because I wasn’t sure how it would taste when added to food. WOW, it was SO good; I wish I had purchased a larger bottle. It was perfect drizzled over pasta dishes, particularly bolognaise. I must admit though, it’s probably a good thing I ran out of it, given my new year’s food resolution to end my long running love affair with pasta.

Another favourite of mine (and Pete’s too) is Nolans Road Olive Oil from South Australia. We were first introduced to this oil whist dining at Seans Panaroma a few years ago and were blown away; it truly is a heavenly drop! It is certified organic and comes in delicate and robust varieties and is a must try for all you olive oil lovers out there. At first we found it hard to find a local stockist, but we managed to find it at the about life store in Rozelle after a lot of ringing around. At the time it was the only place that stocked it, however they now distribute all over Australia, yay!  You can find out more about stockists in your local area by clicking here.

I also wanted to share two other varieties of oil with you: macadamia nut oil and walnut oil. If you haven’t already tried macadamia nut oil, DO! It is so amazing, particularly during these hotter months drizzled over a fresh green salad. It just adds a beautiful subtle nutty flavour to salads and you don’t even have to add anything else to the dressing as it is wonderful on its own.

On our recent trip to France, we visited a little medieval commune called Beynac-et-Cazenac, it was a gorgeous quaint little place located on the Dordogne River in the Perigord Region of South Western France. If you have ever seen the movie Chocolat starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche or Ever After with Drew Barrymore, then you would have seen Beynac, both movies were filmed there.  


                           Beynac-et-Cazenac ( Photo: The Food Mentalist)



The region is well known for its cuisine including duck confit, foie gras and the humble walnut. It was here that I purchased a bottle of ‘Huile de Noix’( Walnut Oil). I haven’t opened it yet and I don’t know how I will use it. Salads are an option, but I was thinking more along the lines of something sticky and sweet, any suggestions?


                           Olive & Walnut oils (right) Picture: (The Food Mentalist)


As you can see it has a darker caramel colour to it than other oils. Next to it, is a bottle of olive oil I picked up at Les Halles in Lyon, it has a nice subtle flavour and to be honest I bought it because 1. it is French and 2. I just LOVED the bottle J. It is a really good drop, but I much prefer something like Nolans Road.

Hope you have enjoyed this post, please comment below and tell me your favourite olive oil or leave me a suggestion on what I can make using my walnut oil.

Erin x