Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sago & Papaya Pudding

Growing up as a kid I loved dinner at Nan's place because she would always serve up a delicious dessert following dinner. Sometimes, it was her famed golden syrup dumplings (OMG they are amazing) and other times it was a steamed pudding of some sort. Often, Nan made baked apples with sago and this was where I first discovered this interesting ingredient. 

Sago is the common name often given to tapioca seed - which you will find in packets at your local supermarket. Whilst sago and tapioca are both starch extracts, sago is sourced from sago palms the largest supply comes from the East Indies. Tapioca however is sourced from the tubers of the cassava plant. Both are gluten and protein free which make them a great alternative for those who may suffer allergies. They can also be used as a thickening agent in flour form.

There are two ways to cook sago, one using the absorbtion method, the other, by boiling it in lots of water - similar to rice. The absorbtion method can be extremely tedious and results in a thicker consistency, which sets very firm. I prefer the later method used below.

This pudding is very easy to make, tastes fantastic and the addition of papaya adds a lovely freshness to the pudding, not to mention some amazing nutritional benefits too :)

I absolutely love papaya served fresh with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice or big dollop of yoghurt. Not to be confused with Paw Paw, Papaya is rather different. It doesn't have that unusual ( sometimes off putting aroma that the paw paw is renowned for) and it's colour is more of an amber orange colour as opposed to the yellow flesh of the Paw Paw.

It is full of vit
amins C, A, E & K, fibre, folate, potassium, thiamine, niacin, calcium, riboflavin, magnesium and antioxidants carotenoids and phenols. The combination of vitamins C, phenols and carotenoids basically acts to protect our bodies from oxidative stress, reducing the risk of some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. A study conducted in the International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition in 2009 examined the effects of various plant foods regularly consumed in Mexico on the growth of breast cancer cells. Over 14 plant foods were analysed and papaya was the only one found to significantly inhibit cellular growth. It is SO important these days that we are reminded of the incredible health benefits of raw and natural foods. The convenience of processed and prepackaged foods often guide our choice, but it is important remember to try and eat foods in their most natural forms. This pudding helps to do that - think of it as a gentle return to natural foods - with  a little indulgence thrown in for good measure :) 

Caramel Coconut Sago with Fresh Papaya
An Original Recipe by The Food Mentalist
Serves 2

1 fresh ripe papaya - deseeded and chopped into cubes
1-2 tbs lime or lemon zest
1 cup tapioca (sago)
2 litres of water - to boil
3/4 cup brown or palm sugar
400ml tin of coconut milk
pinch salt
1/2 tsp water extra 
1 tsp vanilla essence

Boil water and sprinkle in sago, stir immediately to separate grains and cook until the pearls are completely translucent. Taste test to make sure they are tender to ensure the grainy bit in the centre is gone. Drain and wash thoroughly with cold water. Set aside. 
On medium heat, melt sugar in a small pot with about a 1/2 tsp water. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Then add the coconut milk and stir over a low to medium heat until it starts to simmer. Add the sago and mix to combine so that the sago is well coated in the liquid.
  1. Scoop the sago into individual serving dishes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill & set.
  1. To serve, top with small cubes of fresh papaya and lemon or lime zest.
  2. Yum! 
  3. Tell me, do you like sago?

Monday, June 25, 2012

International Food Safari @ King Street Wharf

Starting today, King Street Wharf and Best Restaurants of Australia will host the International Food Safari, where flavours, culture and music from around the world will come together. The two week celebration ( Monday 25 June - Sunday 8 July)  will entail specially created menus, cultural dancing and the chance to win some terrific prizes. 

Pete and I recently attended the launch and were very impressed by the delicious food, cocktails and entertainment on offer.

Below is just a small sample of what is on offer...

Cocktails of the world @ The Loft

Freshly shucked oysters & Cellar Door Tours @ Nicks Bar & Grill

Signature Dish Set Menu and Masak Lemak Mud Crab @ The Malaya

Exclusive Set Menu and Sake Experience @ Kobe Jones

Suckling Pig, Polynesian Luau, Dancers & Fire Performances @ Bungalow 8

The pork buns are amazing! @ Bungalow 8
Pizza Making & Demonstrations @ Casa di Nico

Delicious Cocktails & Outdoor Australian Gourmet Menu @ Cargo Bar

Cargo Bar

Fantastic Entertainment

Beef Tasting Plate & Special Australian Dishes @ Steersons Steakhouse

Secure parking is also available at discounted rates at the Shelley Street Carpark, close to King Street Wharf. For more information on the International Food Safari, obtain the reduced parking rates or view a  map visit 

The International Food Safari 
Monday 25th June - Sunday 8 July, 2012
King Street Wharf 
The Promenade & Lime Streets,
King Street Wharf

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cider Sunday - *Sick*

Unfortunately, I have been stuck with a dreaded cold, just when I thought I was going to sail through winter untouched.  I can thank Pete for his contribution - he had it last week. Erk!

Cider Sunday will be back next weekend. Hope you are all having a great weekend and are managing to stay warm.... and healthy :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Coconut Milk Cake

I made this cake for a family picnic and everyone loved it. It isn't an overly pretty or decorated cake per se but it's flavour more than makes up for this. I was first drawn to this cake when I purchased Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes - Over 80 ways to bake yourself happy. Marian introduces the cake by including the text message from her friend Julie a couple of hours after she had dropped some around to her. OMG, orgasmic and scrumptious were some of the terms used, and so I knew I had to try it.

The result, was just as the text message conveyed - delicious and irresistible!

I hope you enjoy eating this cake as much as we do. I have also made mini versions of this cake with wheat & gluten free SR flour and it works just as well. Adjust the cooking time by one third if making a cupcake version and test using a cake skewer to ensure it is cooked through.

Coconut Milk Cake
A recipe adapted from Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes

170g butter
300g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
250g self raising flour ( gluten free SR flour also works well)
pinch of salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
50g shredded coconut (I use McKenzies Moist Coconut Flakes)
200ml coconut milk (I used light)

200ml coconut milk ( I used light)
40g light brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 170 C/325F. Liberally grease a bundt tin or a large (25cm) round cake 
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Stir through the vanilla.

In another bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and coconut. Pour about one third of the coconut milk and one third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Fold through and continue until all the ingredients are combined. Spoon mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, start the syrup by combining the coconut milk and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a quick simmer to thicken slightly then turn off the heat.

When the cake is ready take it out of the oven and prick it all over with a cake skewer, leaving holes for the syrup to leak in to. Pour half of the warm syrup over and wait for 20 minutes or so then pour the remaining syrup over the cake. Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Because it is so moist you have to be really carefully turning it out. 

Mini coconut milk cakes - Gluten Free
I have also made this cake by first turning the semi-cooled cake out onto a cake platter and have then spooned the syrup over. This way you can avoid the possibility of some the cake sticking to the base of the pan. 


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cider Sunday - Sunshack Pear Cider

I can't believe the sun is finally shining again here in Sydney. After so much rain and endless grey skies things are finally brighter. Aptly, this week's cider is called Sunshack and it hails from the Southern Highlands here in New South Wales.

Made with sandstone spring water, this golden drop sings of summer and refreshment. It has strong pear aromas and fruit flavours and a lovely balanced acidity. It has a rather noticeable effervescence, perhaps a little too much for my liking but the flavour more than makes up for this.

Its sweetness is proportional to the pear flavours and it has a dry astringent finish which works really well.

Pair this one with a a good dose of sunshine, generous cheese platter and friends. It will also pair well with white meats, and roasted caramelised root vegetables. When roasting your vegetables, throw in a dash of cider - it really adds a lovely flavour. Yum.

I love the larger bottle as it's the perfect size to share!

At 4.5 % alcohol, a 500ml bottle will provide you with 1.8 standard drinks - so be mindful of this :)

The Food Mentalist purchased Sunshack Pear Cider @ Camperdown Cellars, Sydney: $4.99 for a 500ml bottle.

Check out their website here to find your nearest stockist

Tell me, what have you been up to today?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parmesan & Black Pepper Shortbread - Wheat, Soy & Gluten Free

After a series of tests, I have recently discovered that I have wheat and soy allergies. There are more tests to come, which will help to rule out any other potential offending foods and or ingredients. With regards to wheat, I am not a coeliac so I am still able to consume foods containing these ingredients, but it does involve change - and working with a dietitian, I am going to limit my intake of them to special occasions only. 

There are many challenges to this - I love wheat and soy products and I just didn't realise how many everyday foods contain them. Upgrading ingredients from the regular to the 'allergy' free variety is a very costly exercise too and something I was oblivious to. I have a new found respect for Coeliacs and those living with food allergies and intolerance. Discovering this, means that this blog will now feature many new types of recipes - many of which will be allergy friendly.

These de
licious savoury shortbread biscuits were a pleasant surprise - they are super quick and taste great - especially hot straight out of the oven. They have a slightly chewy texture to them and I love the classic combination of parmesan and black pepper. Interestingly this biscuit calls for baby rice cereal - a food I haven't cooked with before and it felt strange buying it at the supermarket, particularly since we don't have any children.

A great savoury biscuit alternative for those of us who are wheat, soy or gluten challenged and everyone else for that matter :)

Parmesan & Black Pepper Shortbread
Adapted from Wheat & Gluten Free by The Coeliac Society of Australia
Makes about 20

Serve these with afternoon drinks or as a savoury snack between meals.

3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
85g gluten free all purpose flour ( I used White Wings Gluten Free Plain Flour)
1/2 cup baby rice cereal

1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp finely cracked black pepper
70g butter, softened
2 tsp olive oil
1 egg white
Preheat Oven to 150'C (300'F/Gas2)
Line baking tray with baking paper
Place parmesan, flour, rice cereal,salt and pepper into a bowl and mix to combine
Beat the butter in a separate bowl until creamy. Next, add the butter to the dry ingredients and mix in the egg white and oil to form a soft dough. Form dough into a ball and knead gently until combined.
Roll out the dough to form a log about 20cm (8") long. Wrap in baking paper and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes until firm.
Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into thin rounds ( between 1/4 to 1/2 cm thick). Place on prepared trays and bake for about 20-25minutes or until golden brown. 

Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Tell me, do you have any known food allergies?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dumpling Degustation @ New Shanghai

It's raining outside and Pete and I are heading to Chatswood this evening to sample New Shanghai's Dumpling Degustation. A steal at only $69 per person for six delicious courses with matching wines.  Located in the Westfield shopping centre, I am pleased that we don't have to search for a park out in the rain, we simply drive in, park and are upstairs outside the restaurant all within a matter of minutes. Perfect.

The first thing we notice about the restaurant apart from a large crowd waiting to be seated (a great sign!) is that it's decor is very different to it's sister restaurant in Ashfield which we frequent often to get our dumpling fix. It is reminiscent of old Shanghai, with dark and red tones and vintage style posters which add a sense of authenticity to the space.  

We are greeted by a waitress who confirms we will be sampling the dumpling degustation. Instantly, we are each presented with a paper placemat outlining the degustation, complete with the names of the matching wines and an allocated position for each glass.I pick up a drinks menu on our table and am impressed by the tea menu which is extensive, many of which are visible on display above the bar area and I am quick to point them out to Pete. Have I mentioned I love my teas?

There is a private dining room in the back corner which looks cosy and a group of young friends appear to be celebrating a birthday.

Our first glass of wine arrives and it is the 2011 Leo Buring Claire Valley Riesling, it is very floral and has a hint of citrus zest. I like that it is clean and fresh and the perfect wine to start the evening with. It is matched with a mixed platter of shredded kelp, chopped pickled cucumber and drunken chicken. The kelp is SO good and is mixed with a chilli and vinegar style dressing, the texture is fantastic.  Both Pete and I love it. Next to this is the drunken chicken which tastes fresh and tender, having been soaked in Chinese wine, herbs and spice. The cucumber looks simple but is crisp and sweet with a hint of garlic. 

Mixed Cold Dish Starter - Shredded Kelp, Chopped Cucumber & Drunken Chicken
One of the chefs works tirelessly churning out baskets of steamed dumplings as we watch in awe at her skill and efficiency.

The next course  is a trio of mixed steamed dumplings and it is matched with the 2010 Angel Cove Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. It is crisp, and typical of a good Sauv Blanc from this region and works well with the delicate flavours of the steamed dumplings.

The first dumpling I choose is the steamed mini crab meat and pork dumpling - it is filled with a delicious combination of crab and pork and the dumpling skin is delicate and perfectly light. Next, I try the steamed vegetarian dumpling which is piping hot and packed with a mixture of Chinese greens and a other vegetables. It too is nice and I add a little brown vinegar to it which I gives it a little added kick.  Saving the best til last, the New Shanghai steamed mini pork bun is hot, soupy and filled with a juicy morsel of pork mince- perfectly seasoned and delicious. I look over to Pete's basket in the hope I can snare his but it's too late - it's long gone.

Mixed Steamed Dumplings
The next dish to arrive happens to be the highlight of the evening thus far, the Shepherds purse and pork wonton tossed with sesame butter, red chilli oil and spice. It is absolutely divine! And I am not exaggerating. The combination of flavours works perfectly well and the sesame butter and red chilli oil meld together with the pork wontons to create a true delight. Pete is equally impressed.

This dish is matched with the 2010 Cape Schanck Mornington Peninsula Pinot Grigio which maintains a good strength of flavour, with hints of pear and a dry finish. A welcomed match for the flavours of the accompanying dish.

The pan dumplings arrive and amongst them is a star shaped shallot pancake, a crescent shaped pan-fried pork dumpling and the famous New Shanghai pan-fried pork bun complete with soupy goodness. I am literally addicted to these and order them every time we visit. These dumplings are matched with a glass of 2010 Fifth Leg Crisp Chardonnay - a rich fruity flavoured white with a decent amount of citrus acidity. 

Pan-Fried Dumplings w/ Shallot Pancake

There she is - The New Shanghai Pan-Fried Pork Bun -Mmmmmmm
The Shepherds purse,  prawn and tofu soup is next and it is super hot and provides a nice transition to our mains. The soup is redolent with chunks of prawn meat and the tofu and shepherds purse flavours are subtle. The soup is matched with a glass of 2010 Squealing Pig Otago Pinot Noir, which is light on the palate and has a good amount of spice, finishing dry. We both love our pinot's and are happy with this selection. 

Our mains arrive and I am happy to see large pieces of juicy pork belly dripping in sticky sweet soy at one end of the platter. In the middle is a hot mound of steamed rice and at the other end, crispy skinned chicken which has been cooked in a special garlic and chilli sauce. 

The pork pieces are plump and tender and the sticky sauce is incredibly moreish, perhaps the result of having been marinated overnight in the caramelised sauce. It is my favourite of the two mains. The chicken is equally delicious and reminds me of a Saigon chicken dish Pete loves. The chicken is fragrant and I can taste star anise.

Our mains are paired with a glass of the 2010 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet which is a good standard red, it has good fruit flavours and is very fresh for a red. It pairs well with the flavours of the pork and chicken.

Our waitress informs us that in addition to the dessert on the menu they also have a strawberry pudding dessert on offer this evening and asks which one we would prefer. Pete decides to stick with the original choice and I opt for the strawberry pudding. 

Dessert - Slow Cooked White Fungus (Top) & Strawberry Pudding
Pete's dessert is the slow cooked white fungus with papaya soup - it is quite sweet and we both really like the texture of the fungus. We both really enjoy Asian desserts but can imagine that this style of dessert would be too unique for some. It's definitely worth a try though. The strawberry dessert is similar to a panna cotta topped with a lovely strawberry coulis and pieces of fresh strawberry on top. A delicious finish to our dumpling degustation.

Service is friendly and very efficient throughout the course of the evening and we leave extremely satisfied and impressed by our dining experience. We schedule our return visit for a few weeks time. 

Tell me, have you dined at New Shanghai? What is your favourite dish? and does the dumpling degustation appeal to you? 

The Food Mentalist dined as a guest of New Shanghai & Wasamedia

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant  on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cider Sunday - Original Heil Cider

How has your week been? Here in Sydney the rain has just returned after a few lovely days of sunshine and we are experiencing some really cold weather again. Not my favourite.

A recent trip to Camperdown Cellars here in Sydney ensures that I am well stocked with new ciders for the coming weeks. I was a tad worried that I was starting to run out of ciders to sample and review, but I was happy to discover a bevy of newbies.

This week's is Heil Cider, originally named Coopers Cider and re branded Heil for the Australian market. Who knows why, I would have been happy with its original name.

This German cider is really unique and unlike any of the ciders I have sampled previously. To start, it pours a deep golden colour and has very fine carbonation. It is very rich and has strong apple and caramel flavours that linger after drinking, almost liqueur like. It is somewhat yeasty and whilst pleasant, it is one of the most complex I have ever tried. It is rather sweet, but unmatched it terms of originality.

This one went straight to my head too! It is a nice cider, but it's rich flavours and strength would probably prevent me from drinking too many. This would pair very well with a full flavoured curry or similar.

At 5.3%, a 330ml bottle will provide you with 1.4 standard drinks.

Check out these gorgeous flowers I picked up yesterday.

Crazy Max, attacking me whilst I was trying to take a picture of the Heil Cider

What are you up to this long weekend? Have you visited Vivid Sydney? What did you think?

The Food Mentalist purchased Original Heil Cider @ Camperdown Cellars @ $4.20 per 330ml bottle.