Monday, August 26, 2013

Win a copy of Bill's Italian Food

Bill Granger is a restaurateur and self-taught cook whose relaxed and joyful approach to food is an essential element of his enduring popularity. Born in Melbourne into a family of butchers and bakers, Bill moved to Sydney when he was nineteen. There he opened his first restaurant, bills, at the age of 22 and now has three restaurants in Sydney, four in Japan and one in London. This year will see the opening of Bill’s second restaurant in London and first in Hawaii. Bill regularly contributes to national magazines and newspapers and his television series have been viewed in 30 countries worldwide. Bill is based in Sydney and London with his wife and three daughters. Bill’s Italian Food is his eleventh cookbook.

With more than 100 original recipes,Bill’s Italian Food takes inspiration from the diversity of Italian regional food to make the most of fresh seasonal produce. Concentrating on simple, flavoursome dishes with short ingredient lists and uncomplicated methods, the recipes in this book are divided by solution-driven chapters that embody Bill’s casual cooking and his spirit of generosity and sharing — approaches that perfectly reflect the Italian lifestyle.

Bill says, ‘As our pace of life gets ever faster and cooking for friends and family takes on the same hectic anxiety, why is it that a holiday in Italy sends me home optimistic, revitalised and striving to be a ‘little bit more Italian’? It can’t be simply the great coffee (although that’s certainly revitalising), the crisp pizza and fritto misto, or the antipasto platters shared under wide blue skies... There is something about the joyfully uncompromising Italian lifestyle, the stubborn refusal to hurry (over lunch, or to catch the autobus), and the sacrosanct importance of sitting down to dine with family that I always resolve to bring home to my kitchen. (And, of course, the golden rule of travel applies: never mention politics, money or sport. Stick to food — in Italy it’s always a winner.)’

Thanks to Harper Collins Publishers Australia, The Food Mentalist has two copies of Bill's new cookbook 'Bill's Italian Food' to giveaway, valued at $49.99 each. To enter, simply leave a comment below (in 25 words or less) telling us what your favourite Italian dish is to prepare and why. ( Open to Australian residents only). Please make sure you leave a valid email address so you can be notified if you win. Entries close Friday 13 September @ Midnight EST.

Featured below are two of the recipes featured in Bill's Italian Food - Classic baked ricotta cheesecake and Fresh pan fried snapper with capers and lemon. 

Simple, Fresh & Delicious.

Baked ricotta cheesecake

125g amaretti biscuits
125g digestive or wholewheat biscuits
125g butter, melted and cooled
400g strawberries, hulled and halved, to serve
for the filling
4 eggs
115g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
600g ricotta cheese
160g (2⁄3 cup) mascarpone cheese
50g (1⁄3 cup) plain flour
grated zest 1 lemon, plus squeeze of juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a
23cm springform cake tin and line with baking
paper. Put the amaretti and digestive biscuits in a
large sealable bag and crush with a rolling pin until
fine crumbs. Tip into a bowl, add the butter and
mix until all the crumbs are coated. Transfer to the
prepared tin and spread evenly over the base. Bake
for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow
to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C.

To make the filling, lightly beat the eggs and sugar
until the sugar has dissolved. Add the ricotta,
mascarpone, flour and lemon zest and squeeze
of juice and continue beating until well combined.

Pour the filling over the biscuit base. Bake for
45 minutes, or until just set with a slight wobble in
the middle. Switch off the oven, open the door a
little and leave the cheesecake to cool completely.
Spoon strawberries over the top before serving.

Pan-fried snapper, capers and lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 snapper fillets (about 150g each), skin on
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
green bean and little gem salad
(see recipe), to serve

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick
frying pan over medium heat. Season the
snapper with sea salt and freshly ground black
pepper and cook, skin side down, for 2–3 minutes,
until the skin is crisp and golden. Turn over and
cook for a further minute then remove to a platter
and keep warm.

Return the pan to the heat, turn up the temperature
and heat the remaining oil. Tip in the capers, garlic
and lemon slices and sizzle until the capers burst
open and look crisp. Spoon over the snapper and
serve with green bean and little gem salad. SERVES 4


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cider Sunday - A Week in Review

Check out this week's cider news review below. There appears to be a fair amount of activity in the U.S this week, where they refer to cider as 'hard cider'.


Coldstream Brewery keeps it real - Weekly Times Now (

Photo: Online - Greg Scullin
Keeping it real: Coldstream Brewery director Rohan Peters says most commercial ciders are made from powder, water and added sugar, but his company makes cider from just apples. 

Love this picture Bilpin's Hillbilly Cider posted on their Facebook Page this week

United States

Duo bets on apple cider in town known for beer - The Sacramento Bee

In a town known for beer, Fort Collins residents Aaron Fodge and Matt Fater are betting on apples.

Read more here:

Cider, Anyone? - The Sag Harbor Express

Photo: The Sag Harbor Express - Online
Wölffer Estate Vineyard, long renowned for its wines, has branched out into the hard cider market—launching two unique products this week, the “Wölffer No. 139” dry white cider and the “Wölffer No. 139” dry rosé cider made from a selection of the apples grown by the Halseys of White Cap Farm in Bridgehampton.

The craft beer explosion in the U.S. is a boon for vintage cider makers, as drinkers tap into niche brands with localized provenance.

Hope you are having are all having a great weekend!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cider Sunday - A Week in Review

Happy Cider Sunday Everyone. In this week's cider sunday news in review I was surprised to find Hospitality Magazine had used another one of my cider photos. It's the second occasion ( that I know of) where they have used one of my images without permission. Whilst flattered, it would have been nice to have been given the consulted and at the very least credited for it.


Calorie Showdown: 10 Cider Favourites - Popsugar Health & Fitness
Image: Popsugar
Cheers for cider as growth continues - Hospitality Magazine

Photo: The Food Mentalist


Cider Sales Rule - Herald Business

Dominic Rivard of Muwin Estate Wines tours his orchard near New Ross. In addition to wines, Rivard also makes Bulwark Original cider. (RYAN TAPLIN / Staff)

Nova Scotia makers of this refreshing apple tipple are seeing a surge in their market

Hard apple cider - Is it manly? - Fansided Online

Image: Fansided online

Are you a fellow blogger? If so have you encountered your images being used by others without credit? What is your view?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lost in a tropical kaleidoscope

Late in the afternoon, as dusk creeps along the eastern tip of the island, dozens of sulphur-crested cockatoos appear. Crazy, cheeky, screeching, and circling, they size us up as we stand on our balcony on the 17th floor of the Reef View Hotel.

Intrigued by the noise, an audience forms as others gather on their balconies to watch the show. A cockatoo lands clumsily on the balcony railing. As I pick up my camera, another approaches. Another touches down in a mess of white feathers, then another and another, obstructing our stupendous view. They hop awkwardly along the railing and it’s impossible to miss the cheeky joy they take in nagging one another. The air is pierced by their shrieks and shrills. As I adjust my focus and peer at their bobbing heads through my Canon, they peer back with intelligent black eyes.

The aromatic scent of eucalyptus trees and salty sea air drifts on the breeze. The tropical fragrance is powerful and the air clean and pure.
View back to the Reef View Hotel
Nestled in the heart of the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island is a launch pad for excursions to nearby islands and the Great Barrier Reef, home to a kaleidoscopic world of rainbow-coloured marine creatures. It is the largest protected marine area in the world.

Pebble Beach - Qualia
Hamilton Island was once home to the Ngaro people, a seafaring people who inhabited the Whitsunday Islands until 1870. Later owned by Queensland developer Keith Williams, the island was destined to become a grazing property until a change in circumstances resulted in the island being developed into a tourism destination. Australian winemaker Bob Oatley and his family bought the island in 2003 and further developments included the opening of the luxury resort Qualia, a yacht club and an 18-hole golf course on neighbouring Dent Island. Despite the development, over 70 per cent of the island’s 740 hectares remains in its natural state.

Island Transport 
Hamilton Island Chapel
Our scheduled afternoon on Whitehaven Beach, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays, did not look promising. The grey clouds lower like a curtain around the warm morning sun along with my mood. With only the odd glimpse of turquoise water visible during the trip there, I sit inside wearing a heavy jacket watching the others on deck enjoying the ocean spray.

My mood lifts instantly as we arrive on Whitehaven and my feet sink into the white powdery sand. This seven-kilometre stretch of pure white brilliance is a reminder of why the beach continues to be voted the world’s best.

Discovered in 1879 by Staff Commander E.P Bedwell, of the British Royal Navy, Whitehaven’s sand is 98 per cent pure silica giving it a bright white colour.

Unlike regular sand, the sand on Whitehaven inhibits the heat of the reflecting sun that begins to peek out from behind the grey ribbons above.

A slight cool breeze picks up as we drift north along the beach. We study the tiny pillows of sand that have been flicked out by crabs along the beach, and with childhood delight enjoy the sensation as the pillows pop underfoot. We spot small stingrays and a green sea turtle.

Reminded by the crew that white sand polishes jewellery, we each grab a handful of wet sand, and gently swirl and massage it into our wedding rings. As we board, a quick rinse in the salt water reveals a sparkling memento of our time on Whitehaven.


Often upstaged by white sand and clear blue waters, yachting regattas and lavish honeymoon resorts, food probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you visit the Whitsundays. However, Coca Chu Restaurant on Hamilton Island is so good, it could be a destination in its own right. Headed up by Chef Adam Woodfield, previously of New York’s Manhattan restaurant Betel, Coca Chu’s menu is dominated by bold Southeast-Asian flavours. Located in the beach house overlooking Catseye Beach, the space is elegant and relaxed. We start our tastings with a bottle of Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz, with blueberry and spice flavours and fine tannins.

Our starters consist of betel leaves with lobster, lime leaf, peanuts, roasted coconut and saw tooth coriander ($24) and pork and prawn dumplings with coriander, ginger and Chinese black vinegar ($18). The ingredient are fresh, with memorable textures and robust flavours. We try the twice-cooked half duck with plum sauce, lemon and prickly ash ($40) and then I decide on the green curry of tiger prawns with pea eggplant, baby corn and samphire ($38). Dessert is warm sticky rice topped with vanilla bean cream and fresh mango, and a trio of smooth sorbet of coconut ash, kaffir lime and mandarin and lemongrass ( both $12).

The next morning, we enjoy breakfast with the koalas at the island’s wildlife sanctuary. The mood is casual, relaxed, happy and unpretentious. The food is good, too. A standard buffet of cereals, fruit, juice and pastries is complimented by a chef’s station where we order an omelette and French toast.


Where: Hamilton Island has direct flights daily from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns, with Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas. Regional charter flights can also be organised from Mackay, Proserpine and Airlie Beach. Ferries sail to Hamilton Island throughout the day from Shute Harbour, on the mainland.

Notes: The Reef View Hotel’s standard nightly rate starts at $360 but check with the hotel and discount accommodation sites for special rates and offers.

Dining: Coca Chu Restaurant: Offers a traditional three course selection. Guests are encouraged to share dishes. Starters from $8, Mains from $26, Desserts $12.

The impressive yacht club

The Food Mentalist & Guest also dined at Bommie Restaurant at Hamilton Island Yacht Club and at Pebble Beach at Qualia. As guests of Hamilton Island, they travelled to Whitehaven Beach courtesy of Cruise Whitsundays.