Friday, July 29, 2011

Cupcake Day - RSPCA

Do you love animals? 

"Every year, the RSPCA NSW cares for and protects our state’s neglected, abused, injured and strayed animals. Last year, a staggering 46,558 animals came to the RSPCA NSW for help" ( RSPCA).

On Monday August 15 the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) will be holding their annual fundraiser - Cupcake Day for the RSPCA. On this day registered cupcake enthusiasts around Australia bake and host cupcake parties to raise funds and support for the services of the RSPCA.

This year they are hoping to raise 3 million dollars to help the animals. I have registered and will be baking some delicious cupcakes which I will take into work. I haven't decided on what type I will bake but am hoping you can all help me decide by suggesting some flavour/design combos.

I am also asking everyone to get involved including fellow food bloggers. 

You can do this in two ways:

1. Visit my fundraising page and make a donation here and/or

2. Register your own page and get baking!

dr_Xeno - Flickr

Having volunteered at the RSPCA I can honestly say they do a fantastic job and really need your support. No amount is too small and don't forget your donation is tax deductible - so it's a win win for all involved. Yay!

Thanks in advance 

Erin x

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Something Sweet

Those of you who know me are very aware of my love for all things sweet. My team at work has started an unofficial afternoon tea tradition where random sweets mainly biscuits, donuts and other baked goods appear just after lunch. Whilst this new tradition has dangerous waist-bulging potential it brings a little fun to the afternoon and its a great way to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea.

Speaking of all things sweet, I wanted to introduce you all to my first dessert and lolly buffet that I put together to help celebrate our belated wedding celebration earlier this year. Inspired by the amazing designs of Amy Atlas Events  I set out by searching the internet for online lolly stores and visiting old wares shops looking for cute glass containers and unusual bowls to house my sweeties.

In keeping with the colour scheme of our invites - white, chocolate and pink colours dominated the dessert and lolly table.

I ended up ordering some of the sweets online and the others I gathered from visiting Georgious Confectionery  in Petersham, Lolliland in Smeaton Grange, and Fardoulis Chocolates in Kogarah, all in Sydney. I also pre-ordered some of Adriano Zumbo's famous Macarons in three flavours: Chocolate Poprock, Pink Finger Bun and Pancakes & Maple Syrup. These were the first to go!

I managed to pick up some great glassware from old wares shops, Victoria's Basement and I even picked up one at Georgious, who sold me one of theirs! I placed pearl coloured plastic chinese noodle boxes on either end of the table for guests to fill up and take home. I picked these up from Big W and they were perfect for the table.I also purchased up some ribbon, labels, stickers and other bits and pieces at Spotlight.

The Zumbo macarons vanished in no time!
I table featured the following sweets:

Musk sticks
White chocolate frogs
Milk chocolate buttons
Strawberry swirl love heart lolly pops
Chocolate covered honeycomb
Wafer sticks
Ariano Zumbo macarons
Kool Mints
White chocolate swirls
Gorgeous heart shaped Greek 'kourabiethes 'shortbread ( thanks to Girlfriday)
Milk bottles
Foil covered solid and truffle filled heart chocolates
Oreos - original, strawberry and double chocolate
White & pink marshmallows
Mini musk lollies
White chocolate covered raspberry bullets
Cupcakes from the Cupcake Room

It was a LOT of work, but I really enjoyed putting this together and I'm looking forward to the next occasion where I can do it all over again. A great big thanks goes out to Girlfriday for helping me set everything up on the day. 

Tell me, what favourite lolly or sweet would you have to have on your dessert table?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck Diner) , Ubud Bali

"The duck you 'have to have', but wish you didn't" says Pete as we leave the Dirty Duck Diner in Ubud, Bali. After hearing so much about this place prior to going to Bali we were pretty excited about visiting this diner which is renowned for its famous crispy duck. Pete is a duck loving fanatic so it was always going to feature on our foodie tour of Bali. 

Back to the beginning...

Upon arrival we are ushered down through gardens to the back of this huge restaurant along with a large group of tourists who have also arrived eager for some crispy duck action. Upon being seated we are greeted by the resident cat - super cute and very hungry he watches us for any sign we may give him a scrap or two.

Post Feed

To start, I order a Rambo Dirty Duck and Pete orders a beer.

The RDD is a combination of sparkling mineral water, fresh mint and cherry - I was expecting something with some sweetness of which this has none, however it is refreshing.
Sauce Selection
We order the Cumi Goreng Calamari to share as an entree. The calamari is coated in flour and Balinese spices and has been fried. The flavour is really nice and the calamari very tender. It is served with a curry dipping sauce which is quite mild and has a slight tang.

Cumi Goreng Calamari
The duck is said to be steamed in Indonesian spices and then fried until crispy and comes with a choice of rice or sauteed potatoes, a sambal, some spicy onions and crispy green beans.  

Approximately $9 AUD - Crispy Duck
It is not long before our crispy duck arrives. Pete ordered his with rice and I chose the sauteed potatoes for something different. 

Do you like my sauteed potatoes?
We both agree that the duck's crispiness is borderline leathery, the meat is very dry and not at all pleasant. The (sauteed potatoes) aka crinkle cut chips do not taste very fresh and leave behind an awful oil taste.

We decide not to risk dessert and leave in favour of a walk and some shopping. 

Along the road we spot this cute little guy.

Tell me, have you ever visited a restaurant that hasn't lived up to it's hype? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day - Flan aux pruneaux et aux poires - Prune & Pear Flan

What are you doing today to celebrate Bastille Day? there are numerous degustation lunches, dinners and celebrations on around Sydney. Perhaps you are attending one?

I'd love to be able to say that today I was going to be wandering down the cobblestone streets of Paris, baguette in one hand and a bag full of pastries and cheese in the other , but alas, I am heading to work instead. Since today is a celebration for the French I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite photos from our trip to France. 

I love cats - Paris
Laduree, Paris
Speaking of all things French, I have a gorgeous French prune and pear flan recipe to share with you all courtesy of the new cookbook Taste Le Tour by Australian Frenchman Gabriel Gate. It was also the perfect dessert to include in the latest Cookbook Challenge whose theme was 'Dessert'. Gabriel explains that the flan recipe is by Pierrick Boyer from the Brittany Region. Here is a small excerpt about the flan from his new book:

"Almost every French bakery and pastry shop sells one or several varieties of this classic tart from Brittany. With their pastry base, baked custard and fruit filling they are a firm family favourite - and children love them "

A layer of puff pastry, about 25 cm square
200 g caster sugar
40 g plain flour
4 eggs
1 cup thickened cream
1 cup milk
1 large poached pear, cored and cut into 1 cm segments
6 prunes, cut into small pieces

Note: I didn't have any thickened cream and so I used a slightly different custard recipe. But I have included the original recipe here for you. 

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line an 18 cm tart ring with the layer of puff pastry. Don’t trim the edges.

Line the inside of the flan with baking paper and fill with rice. Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for about 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is cooked.

In a bowl mix caster sugar with plain flour. Mix in 2 eggs until smooth, then mix in the other 2 eggs, the cream and milk.

Garnish the cooked pastry with poached pear segments and the 6 prunes cut into pieces. Then carefully fill the pastry shell with the custard. There will be a bit left over that you can bake separately in a porcelain dish if you wish. Bake the flan in the preheated oven at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until set.

Trim the edges of the pastry. Transfer the flan to a cake base or plate and remove the metal ring.

As Gabriel would say.... Voila!

Tell me, what are you up to today?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Bakers Delight Pizza Bases & Giveaway

Masterchef celebrity and food critic Matt Preston has previously referred to pizza as the ‘8th wonder of the world’. I would have to agree. A good pizza and a glass of wine can be heavenly!

So when I was asked to sample some new pizza bases from Bakers Delight, I was super keen. You see Pete and I live in Sydney’s Italian enclave, surrounded by the great pizza, pasta, cheese, bread and cannoli synonymous with the suburbs of Leichhardt, Haberfield and Five Dock. We love pizza! We literally live and breath the stuff.

After surveying friends, family and work colleagues on what toppings they would use on their homemade pizza creations Pete and I held own our own little pizza party to try out the new bases. Interestingly, popular toppings included seafood, buffalo mozzarella, basil, a good tomato sauce and pepperoni. When I received them there were two plain and two herb and garlic bases. Right away I noticed they had that gorgeous fresh bread aroma. Delicious! 

Don’t you just love the smell of fresh bread? I also loved the fact that they were nice and soft – they are made and par-baked fresh daily in all 630 Bakers Delight stores across Australia. The bases retail for $4.00 for a pack of two and at the moment if you go to their Facebook page you can print off a voucher which entitles you to a free pack of pizza bases with every loaf of soughdough purchased.

Bakers Delight products have always been a firm favourite with my family, largely because they have a range of products that are preservative free, fresh, well priced, and delicious. I have fond childhood memories of enjoying their cinnamon and apple logs with my grandparents for our afternoon teas on weekends. It was therefore a natural progression that I would experiment with sweet toppings on one of the plain bases. It just had to be done.

But we can't go straight to dessert, so for our first savoury pizza Pete decided that we should go ‘traditional’ so we made a Margherita pizza – one of our all time favourites.

The Classic Margherita 

Bakers Delight Pizza Base (Plain) + Fresh Basil + Buffalo Mozzarella + Vine Ripened Tomatoes (optional) + Tomato Pizza Sauce 

This flavour combination really worked. You can’t argue with the classics, right?

Next, I chose a seafood pizza combination. 

The Food Mentalist's Gourmet Pesto Prawn

Bakers Delight Pizza Base (Herb) + Prawns (Green) + Semi Sundried Tomatoes + Brie + Pesto 

If you love prawns you really have to try this combo – its guaranteed to please.

The final pizza we made was of course a dessert creation. After much thought I decided on the following...

Strawberry Shortcake

Bakers Delight Pizza Base (Plain) + Strawberry Jam + Vanilla Bean Custard + Strawberries + Brown Sugar 

This was absolutely delicious and our favourite combination. We both agreed that the pizza bases were perfect for the dessert pizza as they are quite thick.

For our savoury pizzas we much prefer a thinner base and crust. That said, you can roll the Bakers Delight bases out to be a bit thinner but if like us you prefer quite a thin crust and base I would suggest using a good bread knife and splitting each of the bases into two. 

Families with kids will also love these bases because not only are they preservative free but the thicker base allows for you to add a lot more topping to the pizza as it holds its form really well which means less mess. 

So if you want something quick, fun and perfect for a night in, grab a pack of these pizza bases from Bakers Delight.

Bakers Delight have also launched a Facebook Competition where you can enter your favourite pizza creation for your chance to win $5000 or one of four pizza ovens. For your chance to win enter here. The competition ends on 20 July 2011, so get in quick!

I have entered two entries: The Classic Margherita and Strawberry Shortcake. If you would like to show your support and vote for one of these please do so here.

In addition, Bakers Delight have kindly offered five gift vouchers to readers of The Food Mentalist so you too can sample this new product.

To win one of these vouchers all you have to do is ‘like’ The Food Mentalist on Facebook and leave a comment below telling me what delicious toppings you will add to your Bakers Delight pizza base.

Winners will be announced on here on Monday 18th July. 

Goodluck x

The Food Mentalist sampled the new pizza bases courtesy of Bakers Delight.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pro Hart in My Kitchen & Red Bean & Coconut Jelly

Ever had one of those days in the kitchen where things just seem to go a bit crazy?

Today was one of those days.

Perhaps it was because I set out making too many things. Not sure. But here is a little insight into the day that was...

First I made some pancakes for breakfast and the lid on the milk exploded when I opened it - milk everywhere = Sticky Mess # 1.

Following breakfast I started some jelly experiments and spilt lime jelly mixture all over the bench = Sticky Mess # 2

Then, whilst heating up some coconut milk in a saucepan it spat and bubbled up crazily, the weird thing was it was only luke warm. Bizarre! = Sticky Mess # 3

Whilst making a vanilla custard I stirred it too fast and it splashed up onto my shirt = Sticky Mess # 4

After poaching some pears for a flan I was making - I spilt some of the liquid on the stove top = Sticky Mess # 5

My kitchen was turning into a Pro Hart canvas!

So after all that I did manage to finish one of my jelly projects.

I recently stumbled across a new blog called Jelly Shot Test Kitchen. I am in LOVE! It has some fantastic jelly ideas. Those of you who know me are aware that I absolutely love red beans. I bought a tin of sweetened red beans a while ago and they have been sitting in my pantry waiting to be used. I decided this was the perfect opportunity and so after being inspired by Jelly Shot Test Kitchen I made the following dessert:

Red Bean & Coconut Jelly

For the Red Bean Jelly
100g cooked sweetened red beans ( pureed)
1/2 cup condensed milk ( I used Skim)
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 leaves of gelatine

For the Coconut Jelly
Make the coconut jelly once the red bean jelly has set and you have cut out your desired shapes
1 x 200ml tin of coconut milk
3 1/2 leaves of gelatine
1 tbs condensed milk

Repeat these steps for each jelly
1. Prepare gelatine leaves by placing them into a bowl of cold water for approximately 5 minutes until softened.
2. Place remaining ingredients in saucepan and gently warm 
3. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves and add them to the warm liquid and stir until the gelatine has melted into the mixture.

Pour coconut jelly into desired mold and place in the fridge for about 15-30 minutes depending on how deep your molds are. 

Once it begins to set place red bean shapes into the jelly and return to the fridge until completely set. 

Enjoy x

Tell me, have you ever had a crazy day in the kitchen? What happened?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eggy Crumpets with Bacon & Maple Syrup

It was Sunday.

I had just woken up.

I picked up my iPhone, checked my email, Twitter, Facebook and read the news.

I was hungry.

After being away, the fridge was pretty much empty. I opened it and found we had a few crumpets, a few scraps of bacon left from earlier in the week and 2 eggs. We always have maple syrup so breakfast was pretty much sorted.

I whisked the two eggs with a little milk, dunked in the two crumpets and fried it all up.

Yep, in the same pan!


This is one of my favourite dishes. I absolutely love french toast and I first had these yummies at a cafe in Glebe about 2 years ago with Pete and ever since it has become one of my weekend favourites. I love that the crumpets are nice, light and eggy, the bacon provides the salty element and the maple syrup provides the sweet. A perfect combination.


The perfect Sunday breakfast when you want something easy, quick and don't feel like making pancakes.

Tell me, what is your favourite Sunday breakfast?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Dumpling Feast & Highlights from Sydney’s Good Food & Wine Show

Today was a gorgeous day in Sydney - warm in the sun with very few clouds about. We ventured into Darling Harbour to visit the Good Food & Wine Show which wrapped up today in Sydney. Sydney was its second stop after Melbourne and in two weeks it heads over to Perth followed by Adelaide and Brisbane later in the year. There was a lot of hype leading up to it hitting Sydney so I was eager to get in and check it out.

I entered a competition and had won a free ticket thanks to Mix My Muesli which is a great online store where you can as the title suggests - mix your own muesli. You can customise existing bases or start from scratch, and you can also name your mix too which I find is great for gifts. They deliver the muesli to you and having purchased muesli from these guys I love the fact that they provide preservative free and organic options. If you have ever scoured the shelves in the supermarket looking for a muesli that doesn’t contain preservatives you will know that there are very few brands out there that don’t contain preservatives and that are actually worth eating. I find Mix My Muesli is perfect if like me you prefer to be able to choose preservative free products. I also picked up a second ticket from fellow food blogger Laura - Thanks again gorgeous girl!

We got to the show about 20 minutes before it opened and noticed that long queues had already started to form, that said it didn’t take long once the doors opened to get inside and start sampling some of the great products. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Anathoth Jams and Pickles

Anathoth are a New Zealand based company who have been making jam for over 22 years using only fruit and sugar. What I love is that they taste really great and they don’t contain any additives, preservatives, flavours or colours.

I picked up this great show special for $10 and chose an apricot and a rhubarb & red berry jam. Both are in 475g tubs and came in this cute little insulated carry case with a few recipes. Still not sure why the carry case needed to be insulated but its cute nonetheless.

Caffe Izzo

When we first arrived Pete & Dave wanted to get a coffee asap so we wandered around and stumbled across Caffe Izzo. After getting our wallets out we were pleasantly surprised that they were offering free samples of this great coffee. We each tried a short black and a piccolo latte. Yum! This coffee was GOOD and not bitter at all. They also had some funky looking coffee machines. You can find out more about Caffe Izzo coffee here.

Ingham Turkey

These complementary Mediterranean turkey burgers were delicious. The bun had a turkey patty along with char grilled eggplant, lettuce, capsicum, zucchini and a little tomato sauce. Delish!

This photo makes them look a little on the charred side however they really weren't and were super tasty. It reminded me I should really use turkey mince a lot more. It is sort of the forgotten meat really. Perhaps they need a catchy slogan like the 'get some pork on your fork' one? What do you think about turkey mince?

They also gave us the recipe which looks super quick and easy so I’ll be testing that out on here at a later date.

Food Sampling

Really yummy Ayam red curry vegetable curry - a jar of Ayam, vegetables & coconut milk - Delicious
Like Jerky - but not as dry - really nice
The Chef's Table - Justin North - The Art of Seasoning
The Ford Food Car
Delicious Barilla Pasta
Justine from 2010 Masterchef demonstrates her baking skills
There were a great selection of wines and other alcoholic beverages – I wasn’t in a wine mood as it was only early but tried some great ciders and a few cocktail mixes.

I also met a few of my twitter friends including Jackie M from Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine in Concord and Tegan from Olives & Oil from Spain. Both had some great food to share with the crowds.

I entered a thousand and one competitions, sampled lots of tasty treats, purchased a few different things and picked up some great brochures to help plan our foodie tour of Tasmania in December.

Free Food Sample Bags - Gotta Love It!
Check out my new granny wheels, I really love it! Pete just shook his head and said he thinks it will end up living in the boot of my car growing cob webs but I plan on taking it out for a regular spin!

My new granny wheels
We then walked up to World Square with granny wheels in tow to Din Tai Fung to have lunch. Even though I work nearby I had never visited Din Tai Fung before.

Din Tai Fung - World Square Sydney
When we got to the top of the stairs to where Din Tai Fung is situated we were greeted by several tables – all of which were full of people filling in order forms. Pete and Dave lined up at a desk and the lady behind it tells them it will be about a 30 minute wait. That’s fine so we sat down and started filling in the order sheet. I love the fact that you can watch them making the dumplings and its nice to see they are all wearing face masks and gloves. I get the feeling my Nan would be happy dining here, she always goes on about not being able to see into the kitchens where food is prepared. She is funny.

Order form & buzzer - while we wait
Tai Fung "...every dumpling pastry is delicately hand made to measure between precisely 4.8 and 5.2 grams at conception, with an exact 6cm diameter, before being stuffed to weigh between 20.6 and 21.4 grams" I figure if they are going to be that precise then they must know their stuff. This should be good!

We selected a variety of dumplings on our order sheet while we waited – prawn & pork, pork & vegetable, the famous soupy ones, green vegetable with garlic, drunken chicken and rice and some red bean dumplings for dessert. Dave & I chose the lychee and mint drink and Pete opted for the Italian green apple soda. We only had to wait for about 15 minutes before going in.

Lychee & Mint Juice - $6.50 - Very refreshing 
I didn't get a decent close up of the water spinach but you can see it in the background behind my lychee and mint juice. It was wok fried with garlic and costs $10.80.

The Famous Steamed Pork Dumpling - $8.80 (6 pcs) $10.80 (8 pcs)
Shanghainese Drunken Style  Chicken w/ Rice - Served Cold - $8.80
Vegetable & Pork Jiao Zi - $8.80
I am OBSESSED with Red Bean - Red Bean Dumplings - $5.80 (4pcs)
This place do the dumplings so very well. Service is fast and efficient. The dumplings are divine - in texture and taste, the flavours perfect. We will be back. It’s also a great alternative to weekend yum cha and not as heavy.

Total price for 3 including a drink each and some dessert dumplings : $81

Pete and I finished off the afternoon with a walk around the Bay.

As I finish this post Pete has just finished cooking a vegetable curry - I'm heading into the kitchen to whip up a few parathas with Jimmy's Atta flour to go with.

A great Sunday.