Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Walking Dead & Easy Halloween Pumpkin Pie

What are you doing to celebrate Halloween this year?

This year I decided to make my first ever pumpkin pie. An American favourite, pumpkin pie is most popular during the holidays leading up to Christmas, namely Thanksgiving and Halloween. 

Speaking of all things horror and spooky - Pete and I are currently addicted to watching The Walking Dead - a popular American television series based on the comic book series The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.

The series is based around sheriff deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to find the world has been taken over by flesh eating zombies referred to as 'walkers'. He sets out to find his family and discovers survivors along the way. We are currently half way through the second season and it's pretty addictive.

On to the pie!

The best part of this recipe is that you don't have to worry about making your own pastry. Home-made pastry is simply divine, and where possible I like to make my own. But let's face it - we don't always have the time (or patience). Besides, there are fancy dress parties and other spooky things to be enjoyed.

This simple, no fuss traditional pumpkin pie recipe will get you in the mood for all things ghoulish! Flies and spiders are optional.

Easy Halloween Pumpkin Pie
( Adapted from Curtis Stone's Pumpkin Pie Recipe)

Makes 2 x standard size pies (store bought shells) or 1 x large deep dish pie

Nonstick cooking spray
2 x large store bought sweet pastry pie shells ( approx 20-25cm diameter) 
1 x 1.1- to 1.4-kg butternut or similar sweet pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 

For the praline
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans

To serve
Whipped or dollop cream 

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. 

Toss pumpkin in oil, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and arrange the mixture in an even layer on a baking tray that has been sprayed with a little cooking oil.

Bake for approx 1 hour or until soft and golden brown. 

Once cooked, blend the hot pumpkin in a food processor until a smooth puree forms. You can add a little of the cream if you need to to help the pumpkin blend. Set aside to cool completely.

In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs and then add the brown sugar and salt.

Add the cooled pumpkin puree and whisk to blend well. 

Whisk in the ( remaining) cream, and pour pumpkin mixture into the prepared crust(s).

Carefully place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the filling is just set and the crust is pale golden brown. The center will still look wet and a knife inserted about 1 inch/2.5 cm from the sides of the pan will come out almost clean.

Transfer the delicious pie to a rack and cool completely. 

To prepare praline topping:
Heat a heavy large pan over medium heat until it is hot.

Sprinkle sugar evenly over the base of the pan and cook until it melts. Add the nuts and coat with the sugar syrup,tossing until the syrup turns golden brown and the nuts start to clump together. 

Transfer nuts to a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cool.

Once cool, break up the nuts into chunks and place in an airtight container until you are ready to serve the pie.

To serve
Top each slice of pie with a dollop of cream and a few candied nuts.


You may also like to check out my Spooky Halloween Finger Cookies from last year here

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cider Sunday - Johnny Arrow Dry Apple Cider (NZ)

Conditions are PERFECT, Where's Johnny?

When the sun is shining and conditions are, as they say perfect, what is one to do?

Well, the makers of Johnny Arrow suggest that when conditions are perfect you you grab a bottle of their popular cider. 

Makers of Montieth's Cider, DB Breweries in New Zealand have launched this fun new cider which appears to be targeted at the younger hipster demographic - as illustrated by the below picture which appears on their website.

Where's Johnny? ( Photo source - Johnny Arrow Website)

The first thing which captured my attention was the label which promotes 1/3 less sugar. I was skeptical, as the majority of ciders which promote such claims usually aren't worth buying. 

The result however is a well balanced, very drinkable apple cider. With a gorgeous golden hue, fine-medium carbonation and a slight apple tang this cider is very refreshing. 

Made using locally grown NZ fruit and fermented the natural way, I love the fact that it is not overly sweet and it finishes dry on the palate.

Whilst unusual for ciders, this one displays a nutritional panel on the back telling us that a 330ml bottle will provide us with:

  • 528KJ
  • 9.6 grams of carbs 
  • 8.6 grams of sugar 
A welcome change for those of us who enjoy our cider but are also trying to watch our waistlines, especially in the lead up to Christmas and the holiday period.

With 4.5% alcohol, a 330ml bottle of this cider will provide you with 1.2 standard drinks.

The Food Mentalist purchased Johnny Arrow in Queenstown, New Zealand. At this stage it doesn't appear to be available in Australia. But stay tuned...

For more information on Johnny Arrow - head to their Facebook Page here

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cider Sunday - Australian Cider Awards Results

What a busy couple of days! The Australian Cider Awards were held in Orange last week, it snowed, the winners were announced in Sydney on Friday night and the Cider Festival is in full swing at the Steine Hotel, Manly.

Some of the winners included:

Winner of “Best in Show” – Henney’s Apple – Sweet Cider
Winner of “Best Australian Cider” – Pipsqueak Best Cider ( see my review here)
Winner of “Best Australian Perry” – St Ronan’s Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider
There were many other class winners and I will be discussing them over the next few weeks.
Which ciders are you drinking this weekend?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cloudy Bay Lounge -Sydney Opera House Precinct

Throughout October, the Cloudy Bay Pop-Up Lounge will offer patrons the opportunity to enjoy a glass of delicious 2012 New Zealand Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc right on Sydney Harbour.

Located at Opera Kitchen at the Sydney Opera House, the lounge will feature wine tasting every Thursday evening between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, with complimentary oysters upon arrival.

2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
If you can't make it on Thursday's don't worry because in true New Zealand style you can purchase a basket of fresh grilled or battered fish & chips from Opera Kitchen with a glass of 2012 Sauvignon Blanc for $29. 

Pete and I had the pleasure of sampling the menu and we were impressed - The fish was tasty and fresh and the wine was delicious - a perfect Marlborough Sauv Blanc.

Cloudy Bay Lounge
Lower Concourse,
Opera Kitchen - Sydney Opera House
Hours: 11am - 11pm Until 
Date: Now!! until Sunday 4 November.


As a special treat - Cloudy Bay Fish Co. Head Chef Jeff Schroeter at Opera Kitchen has kindly shared his simple yet delicious recipe for great fish & chips. See below.

Cloudy Bay Fish Co. Fish and Chips

200g self raising flour
50g cornflour
375ml cold beer
Mix dry ingredients together and chill in fridge for 20min Whisk in beer and rest for 10min in fridge.
600gr mahi / flathead fillets, dip into batter and fry at 180C
4 large Mayflour / desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into chips deep fryer filled with lard/shortening
1st blanch : deep fry potatoes at 140C until half cooked. place on tray spread out to cool. Can be done earlier in day and refrigerated.
To serve : set fryer to 180C and cook till brown
To serve
lemon wedges
tartare sauce
salt flakes sprinkled over

The Food Mentalist & Pete dined as guests of Cloudy Bay & Opera Kitchen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cider Sunday - Cider Buzz Cocktail

As we creep towards summer and embrace the longer warmer days I thought it best to introduce you to one of my *new* favourite cider cocktails - Cider Buzz.

After recently discovering Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey I decided to try it with cider one afternoon. Following a little tweaking with measurements and lime ( I am somewhat obsessed with fresh lime by the way) My Cider Buzz cocktail was born.

It's super easy and deliciously refreshing on a hot day.

I used Sunshack Apple Cider on this occasion as I had already opened a bottle to marinate some pork. If you haven't already discovered the benefits of marinating white meat ( especially pork) in cider - make sure you try it. Simply place your meat in a deep dish, pour over enough cider to nearly cover the meat, cover and refrigerate for a few hours until needed. Remove, pour off cider and cook as you would normally. Simple, tasty and always tender.

Ok, now for the cocktail.

Cider  Buzz Cocktail
An Original Recipe by The Food Mentalist
Makes 2

60ml JD Tennessee Honey
500ml Apple Cider
3 -4 Lime wedges ( to taste)

Combine JD, Cider and Ice in shaker and pour into chilled glasses. Top with squeezed lime wedges ( to taste).


If you are in Australia - did you remember to put your clocks forward an hour overnight?

Tell me, do you like daylight saving?