Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cider Sunday - Magners Selections w/ berries & peach

How has your weekend been so far?

Australian readers - Did you manage to squeeze in Friday and enjoy a four day long weekend?

I just love when public holiday's fall close to a weekend.

This week's Cider Sunday features a Magners Apple Cider from Ireland. I didn't actually choose this cider, Pete brought it home and suggested I use it for Cider Sunday.

Cider Selections w/ berries & peach is part of a new range launched in Australia last October just ahead of Summer. Mind you, we haven't had much of a Summer here in Australia thus far.

The Selections range also features Irish pear cider with ginger and apple cider with orange & honey. Interesting to say the least. The Australian division of Suntory- the guys famous for Midori, are brand ambassador for this range of ciders.

Magners have been making cider since 1935 and it is now the number one cider in the UK, also available in 17 countries. Interestingly, Bulmers Ltd. are the manufacturers of this cider.

First thing I noticed when I opened this bottle was the subtle aroma of peach. It's pinkish hue is almost identical to that of a lovely drop of rose' and it is very very refreshing. The sweetness of this cider is balanced nicely with the flavour of the berries, peach and apple. It's an interesting flavour profile for a cider, however it works really well.

This cider is only available in 500ml bottles with 4% alcohol, providing 1.6 standard drinks per bottle.

Definitely one to try! Thanks Pete :)

RRP $6.99 per 500ml bottle
Available: Most bottle shops including 1st Choice Liquor & Dan Murphy's

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Barbecued Mushroom & Haloumi Burgers

Why not try something a little bit different these Summer holidays?  

Mushrooms are a fantastic versatile food. I loved Mum's salads growing up because she would always slice up a few button mushrooms and toss them through. I would get into trouble for trying to sneak a few slices as she was trying to cut them up. 

Not only do they taste great, but they are a fabulous health food - they are low in kilojoules, are fat free, and are a wonderful source of selenium and ergothionene, antioxidants that play a role in immunity. 

Mushrooms also contain riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, copper and potassium. They are a good source of thiamine, zinc and manganese and contain bioactive phytochemicals some of which are lectins which display anticancer and antiviral properties. In other words - mushrooms are a wonderful superfood and you should rush out and get some today!

I love the fact that mushrooms have such a delicate flavour and for this reason, they are really easy to cook with. They pair so well with many flavours and dishes - think marinated, barbecued, roasted, salads, pastas, but to name a few, they all work!

This burger is super easy to prepare, and is perfect for entertaining outdoors during these Summer months.   Once you make the patties, you literally just throw it all on the barbecue. The grilled mushrooms and haloumi cheese pair so well with the flavour of the beef patties. Add a dollop of chutney & aoli and you have the best tasting mushroom burger around!

Simple. Easy & Delicious.

Barbecued Mushroom & Haloumi Burgers
An original recipe by The Food Mentalist

Serves 4

8 large mushroom cups (wiped clean & stalks trimmed * see note)
One pack of Haloumi cheese ( available most supermarkets)
Tomato relish or chutney of choice
A handful of basil leaves and/or baby spinach

For beef burger patties:
250g beef mince
1/2 small red onion
1 medium egg ( separated)
25g bread crumbs
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried oregano
30g grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp ground cumin powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
salt & pepper


Peel red onion and place half into a food processor and pulse until chopped.

Add yolk to food processor with breadcrumbs, mustard, oregano, cumin & chilli powder.

Add grated cheese and pulse until all ingredients are combined. Transfer to a bowl and add beef mince to the bowl to combine.

Season with salt & pepper then using your hands give the mixture a good knead to ensure everything is really well combined.

Shape balls of the mixture into 4 evenly sized patties and place on a clean plate or tray, cover and place into the fridge for about 5-10 minutes until they are slightly firm.

Meanwhile, heat your barbecue hot plate to a relatively high heat. Lightly oil it also using olive oil or spray.

Slice haloumi cheese into even slices about 1/2cm thick.

Next, remove beef patties from the fridge and place each one onto the hotplate along with the mushroom cups top side down and sliced haloumi.  Season the mushrooms either side with cracked pepper and a little salt. Monitor the patties, mushrooms and sliced haloumi and remove once cooked.

Place one mushroom cup on each plate bottom side facing up and assemble burgers as you would normally. Place a dollop of chutney and aoli on each burger and top with another mushroom cup to finish.

* Note - make sure you throw the mushrooms stalks on the barbecue as well, they make a great little snack while you are waiting for the burgers to cook.

We ate ours using a knife and fork - not sure if you could pick them up as we didn't try. These mushroom burgers are truly delicious. The mushrooms give the burger such a great flavour and what I love is that they leave you feeling satisfied without feeling heavy and weighed down - which often results when we eat burgers with a thick stodgy bread bun.

I hope you get a chance to share this delicious summer recipe with your family & friends this summer.

Enjoy x

This post has been sponsored by The Australian Mushroom Growers Association. For more recipes and information please visit 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cider Sunday - Mercury Sweet Cider

Dear Readers, I hope you are having a fantastic Cider Sunday!

I am currently in Melbourne for my first ever Australian Open experience. I have said that I will go every year for the last 10-15 years and yet this is the first time I am visiting. My dear friend Laura has accompanied me on this trip and we are having a great girls weekend away.

This week's cider is another from Tasmania - Mercury Sweet Cider.

Mercury cider comes in a few varieties Draught, Dry & Sweet. So of course I chose their sweet variety for this week's review.

I quite like this cider, it is brewed by the Foster's Group who are also responsible for Bulmers and Strongbow ciders.

This one is light pale in colour and is only slightly effervescent. It has a nice overall sweet flavour and will pair really well with fruit or your favourite dessert or sweet.

It does however contain preservative 223, unlike last week's Tasmanian cider. However, this is pretty much standard these days and most ciders on the market contain a similar type of preservative.

This one is a great all rounder, it stands up fairly well against the majority of ciders out there and does particularly well for an Australian cider. It's also very well priced - Love that!

At 5.2 % alcohol a 375ml bottle will provide you with 1.5 standard drinks.

Mercury Sweet Cider
RRP $ 2.49 per 375ml bottle
or $4.70 per 750ml bottle
Available at the majority of bottle shops.

Tell me, how often do you buy ciders? Do you tend to stick to the Aussie brands or do you prefer the overseas varieties?

Have you been watching the Australian Open?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bali in Photos - Part 2

You may remember my previous post last year Bali in Photos Part 1 which detailed the first part of our trip to Bali in Seminyak. This is the second installment - here we head to Ubud. Enjoy x

On our way to Ubud, we ask our driver Wayan if he can take us to see some traditional Batik. Batik is a type of fabric that uses a wax resist dyeing technique and forms an important part of Indonesian heritage. 

Back on the road, we head to Ubud - a town in central Bali, regarded as the cultural hub of the island. Arts, crafts, spirituality and culture is Ubud. Having lived and spent a lot of time around Byron Bay in Northern NSW, I instantly recognise a similar vibe in Ubud.  

We stay at the Komaneka Bisma in Ubud. Part of its appeal is that it is locally owned by the Komaneka family. Mr Komaneka is famed for his involvement in the Neka Gallery & Art Museum, responsible for the acquisition & exhibition of some of world's best Indonesian & Balinese art. 

The accommodation is fantastic and the service impeccable. We stay in the Bisma Suite which has a king size bed, living room, luggage room with in room safe, bathroom with separate bathtub, double vanity washbasin and a large two person shower with rain shower head. I tell Pete that rain head showers should be mandatory and threaten to stay under it for the remainder of the trip.

The room also has a writing table, wide screen LCD TV, DVD player and Apple TV. 

The amenities are impressive with his and hers hats, slippers, and matching pajamas laid out each evening. A little quote of the day and story are also presented next to our pajamas each evening. The one above reads " Love is not just looking at each other, it's looking in the same direction". Sweet.

Breakfast and afternoon tea is also provided each day and can be enjoyed in the restaurant, the pool area or in the privacy of our room. The quality of the food is fantastic, authentic and fresh. I fall in love with a dish called 'Pisang Rai' which are boiled banana dumplings drizzled with palm sugar syrup and coconut. Once I discover these little delights I just have to have them for breakfast each morning. They are amazing!

The food around Ubud is also very impressive. We try the famous suckling pig at Ibu Oka. I am dubious at first, with every accepted food hygiene practice ignored, this place does a roaring trade.  Whilst it is delicious - succulent pork meat served with rice, glass crackling and a slice of boiled choko, I can't help but sneak little pieces of the pork and rice to the dogs that are hanging around. They look so hungry and I feel so sorry for them. Pete tries to get me to stop but I figure they need the nourishment more than I do. That said I still manage to sample enough of the dish to be suitably impressed. 

Some of the food - snake fruit, Naughty Nuris, Ibu Oka, Mozaic

Just up hill Jalan Raya Sanggingan (Road) directly across from the Neka Gallery and Museum is Naughty Nuris. Famous for their marinated pork ribs and martinis, this place is packed. On our first visit we share a table with two American men who I start chatting to. I ask for their opinion regarding the ribs and whether they compare to the best on offer in the States. One of them tells me he is from the South East of America where they are famed for their ribs and that Naughty's are just as good! Happy with this news I tuck into my rack of ribs, which I finish in no time. Pete is equally impressed and we glance at each other with a look of acknowledgement that signals we will be back. Sure enough, we visit again two days later.

Heading out we venture to the edge of Monkey Forest and witness the whimiscal behaviour of the Monkey's of Ubud.

This guy comes down from a tree runs across the road, up a pole, precariously balances along several electrical wires and hops onto a shop roof. It is funny to watch and he is a real character.

I book us into the Tuesday class at Casa Luna Cooking School just up the road from Komaneka Bisma. We walk down to the markets and are given a fantastic tour of the early morning food markets before we are given a chance to purchase spices and any other foods we may wish to buy. I buy several packets of vanilla bean pods and we watch many of the stall holders serving the local crowds that have begun to gather.

Ubud Food Markets
The lady pictured bottom right ( above) serves glasses and take away plastic bags filled with a popular sweet drink - filled with grass jelly, coconut milk and another pink noodle like jelly, we are told it is very popular with the local children and sells out quickly.

Next, we head back to the home of Casa Luna Cooking School where we are greeted with delicious iced red hibiscus tea which is made using the red hibiscus petals, hot water and a little sugar. It is so refreshing and we are told it is full of vitamins and minerals from the hibiscus flower.

In this class we learn to make Mie Goreng, roasted white eggplant, tempe curry, fern salad and green coconut pancakes.

We start by being introduced to all the ingredients and learning how to make sambal which forms the basis for many of the dishes we will be cooking. We all take turns at grinding the paste using a traditional volcanic stone.

Everything we try tastes fantastic and fresh and I vow to buy a Balinese cookbook before the end of our trip. The green coconut pancakes were also the perfect way to finish of the meal. So delicious!

The next day, we meet up with our driver Wayan who has offered to take us into the hills to see the rice terraces. After talking about Kopi Luwak coffee, he also offers to take us to a local producer where we sample some of the famed coffee and discover how it is still made using traditional methods. I also try some sweet spiced ginger tea and it's SO good!

The famous rice terraces which featured in Eat, Pray, Love
We also visit several day spas, silver merchants, and a local bird and wildlife park during the rest of our stay.

Have you ever visited Bali? do you plan to?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cider Sunday - Two Metre Tall Huon Farmhouse Dry Cider

Happy Cider Sunday!

We're back from our trip to Tasmania where we enjoyed some delicious food and wine, it was nice and relaxing too. I spotted this cider at a small boutique bottle shop in Hobart and thought it would be nice to try.

Before I discuss this cider, just take a look at the picture above. See those mountains in the distance? That is Freycinet National Park. Well, Pete made me hike up and down between those two mountains all the way to Wine Glass Bay. And whilst I can't say I enjoyed it at the time ( my current fitness level is average and I puffed and moaned all the way), I can say with hindsight that it was fun and I gained a great sense of accomplishment in doing it.

Back to the cider...The Two Metre Tall Company is owned and managed by Ashley & Jane Huntington who source all of their apples from the southern part of Tasmania from orchards in the Huon Valley.

Upon trying this cider I was surprised at just how dry it was, despite it's name. It reminded me of the many ciders I tried in London & France during our honeymoon.  I was therefore, not overly surprised to find out that Ashley Huntington had previously held the position of senior winemaker at Domaine de la Baume in the Languedoc region in France.

This cider is unique, very different to the ones I have reviewed thus far. As you can see it is slightly golden in colour and has a decent amount of carbonation.It is also very cloudy which is a result of the fact it is fermented in the bottle. What I love about this cider is that it doesn't have any preservatives. Which is fantastic!

It is very dry and has strong earthy flavours, so much so that you can almost taste the farm where it is made.

It is quite tart and has a slightly acidic finish. As for sweetness - well, it doesn't have much at all. This cider will suit those of you who want something dry with little, if any sweetness. It will also suit cider traditionalists, because as mentioned above this one is very similar to traditional British & French ciders.

These guys were at the Taste Festival too
This cider is the strongest I have tried so far and at 7.9% alcohol, it will set you back 2.9 standard drinks as it comes in a 500ml bottle.

I was also surprised at the cost of this one it was just over $11 for the 500ml bottle.

Two Metre Tall Huon Farmhouse Dry Cider is available in NSW, TAS & QLD. Contact their website for more information on distributors here

Hope you are enjoying your weekend. I can't believe I have to head back to work on Monday! Yuk!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Twilight Cake

Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t argue with the fact that the Twilight franchise is BIG! 

The ‘Twilight Saga’ film series is actually based on the novels written by the American author Stephanie Meyer. The first film was Twilight , and this was soon followed by New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn (Part 1). With Break Dawn Part 2 scheduled for release in 2012 this vampire-themed romantic fantasy has fans eagerly awaiting what will be the final installment.

To get an idea of how big this franchise has actually become you only need to look at the stats. The four films have already grossed over $2 billion in sales worldwide and have catapulted it's main stars into Hollywood’s most famous.

Personally, I have actually really enjoyed the series thus far. I’m a huge fan of the vampire-romantic fantasy genre and am still a massive fan of the Joss Whedon Buffy and Angel series.

Whilst it is unlikely you will find me lining up for a midnight screening for one of these films, I do really enjoy watching them and it will be sad when they eventually come to an end. As for whether I am Team Jacob or Team Edward? Well, I’m still undecided. Edward has that brooding charm similar to that of Mr Darcy, but Jacob is just a well rounded genuine soul, and he is SO handsome! That scene when he runs with his shirt off and turns into a werewolf - Ahem! Need I say more?!

I was asked to do this cake some time ago for the birthday of a work colleague who is a massive Twilight fan. It was a lot of fun. I used an 8" square chocolate mud cake, cut into three equal layers and made into a rectangle. I then filled it with dark chocolate ganache and covered it using black and white fondant icing.

Tell me, have you watched the films or read the books? Who is your favourite character?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Montieth's Crushed Apple Cider

Happy Cider Sunday!!

We are currently travelling in Tasmania and are having a great time sampling many of the wonderful foods and beverages on offer down here. I have had to post this one a day earlier as I won't have access tomorrow. However, you probably wont' read this until Sunday - So Happy Cider Sunday Everyone!!

This week's cider is comes from across the gap - another Montieth's from New Zealand. I decided to review their Apple Cider for this week's Cider Sunday having previously reviewed their Crushed Apple & Pear Cider which was fantastic by the way.

Again, this one is a pale, medium-bodied cider.  It is very crisp and refreshing and it is on-tap at our local pub in Balmain, so we choose it every time we visit. 

It is made using 100% apple juice and is pale in colour. A perfect Summer Cider!

It pairs really well with most foods and it's so easy to drink. 

We shared a case of this delicious cider with our friends and family over Christmas lunch and made sure we finished it off before we came down here to Tassie.

It comes in 330ml bottles and has a 4.5% alcohol content providing 1.2 standard drinks.

Montieth's Brewing Co.
Crushed Apple Cider 
RRP: $3.70 per 330ml 
$12.99 per pack of 4 or $54.99 per case of 24.
Available at Dan Murphy's and good bottle shops.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cider Sunday - St Helier Apple Cider

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful night last night, did you make any New Year Resolutions?

Mine was to drink more cider! Just kidding... although it has become quite an enjoyable experience, I'm really enjoying reviewing different ciders on here. I hope you are too.

To start the year off I have a good 'hearty' cider for you all - St Helier Apple Cider.

This one is from the U.K and like many of the ciders I tried over there - it doesn't have much fizz. I'm told the Brit's like their cider flat and often at room temperature. Hmmm... well, not me. I tried this one with lots of ice.

This cider is a good standard pub type cider - it's good, strong and full flavoured. It has a beer-like aroma and Pete thinks it has wine-like characteristics. It is however, fairly sweet. Red apples and a hint of apple peel feature strongly. It has a crisp clean finish and at 5% it's the strongest cider (alcohol wise) that I have featured on The Food Mentalist.

St Helier is made by the Jersey Cider Company in the UK and marketed under the Intercontinental Brands Ltd banner.

Someone's tired
At 5% a 500ml bottle will give you 2 standard drinks.

Whilst it is not my favourite, I would have it again if I saw it out somewhere.

St Helier Apple Cider
RRP $5.90 per 500ml bottle
$54.90 per case of 12.