Friday, November 29, 2013

Win w/ Lamb is for Lovers

If your anything like hopeless romantic Don, then a menu featuring lamb is the ultimate secret weapon in securing romance. After all, nothing brings people together like delicious home-cooked lamb. 

Check out the Meat & Livestock Australia's latest Lamb is for Lovers episode featuring Don & his latest date Katrina. It's pretty funny.


Pete and I have been busy lately cooking up a selection of delicious lamb dishes which include sausages, cutlets, chops, roast, rack of lamb and koftas. 

Here is a selection of some of the dishes we have been enjoying.

Marinated Lamb Cutlets & Kale Salad

Minted Rolled Lamb Roast w/ Vegetables & Gravy

Lamb Koftas w/ Pita, Labne & Kale Salad

The Food Mentalist & Meat & Livestock Australia are giving one lucky reader the chance to win a delicious meat tray packed full of lamb meat products - similar to the one pictured above.

TO WIN, simply tell us what your ideal lamb dish is for a first date. Leave your answer along with your name and a valid email address so we can contact you if you are the lucky winner. The Competition is open to readers across Australia and closes Friday 13 December at midnight. The winner will be announced on Saturday 14 December on Facebook, Twitter and here on The Food Mentalist.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nutella Cheesecake in a Jar

Whats better than Nutella in a jar you may ask? Well, it's Nutella cheesecake in a jar that's what!

This recipe is yet another from my new favourite cookbook. Valli Little's Love to Cook.

Super simple, delectable and perfect for transporting, this cheesecake is a must for entertaining in the Summer months. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake 
aka Nutella Cheesecake in a Jar

300g plain chocolate biscuits
80g unsalted butter melted, cooled
250g cream cheese, at room temp
2/3 cup (220g) Nutella
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs amaretto ( Italian almond liqueur)
2 cups (500ml) thickened cream
Shaved dark chocolate and chopped roasted hazelnuts to serve.

Using a food processor, pulse biscuits to form crumbs. Add to butter and stir to combine well, then press crumb mixture into the base of a 2 litre glass jar or bowl.

Whiz up the cream cheese, Nutella, vanilla and amaretto in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. 

Valli Little in action @ Williams Sonoma - Bondi
Whisk 300ml of the cream to soft peaks, then fold into the cream cheese mixture until well combined. Spoon over the biscuit base then refrigerate for 4 hours.

To serve, whisk remaining cream (200ml) into soft peaks and spoon over the top of the mixture and decorate with shaved chocolate and hazelnuts.


Serves 8

*Alternatively, you could use smaller individual glass jars.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Easy Italian w/ Bertocchi

Pete and I were driving to the city one day along the City West Link, near Norton Street and Sydney's best known Italian enclave Leichhardt, when we noticed this huge new billboard covered in deli meat for Bertocchi Smallgoods. 

It was hard to miss.

One of Australia's leading Smallgoods manufacturers, Bertocchi Smallgoods was established in 1972 in the northern suburbs of Melbourne by Modesto Bertocchi.

In 1948 Modesto migrated to Australia with just one suitcase and a total belief that he was leaving Genoa to start a successful new life.

Today Bertocchi Smallgoods distributes their product range nationally to all supermarkets, good delicatessens, butcher shops and a host of food service establishments.

Living in an Italian neighbourhood, we really enjoy cooking with fresh Italian and seasonal ingredients. Our weekends usually consist of easy Italian inspired meals like home made pizzas, pastas and paninis.

Comfort food at its best.

Here are some quick and easy ideas for your next Italian inspired meal using Bertocchi Smallgoods.

Pete's Weekend Pasta

One of our favourite pastas to cook with at the moment is orecchiette - a homemade pasta from Southern Italy. Its name comes from its shape which is similar to a small ear.

200g orecchiette
150 - 200g Bertocchi Prosciutto (cut into strips)
1/2 ball fresh buffalo mozzarella (torn into small chunks)
1/2 punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes cut in halves
1 clove garlic (finely sliced)
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbs lemon zest
Olive oil
Fresh chopped parsley
Salt & Pepper to season
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
1 fresh chilli (finely sliced - optional)

Cook pasta according to packet instructions in salted water.
Meanwhile, lightly pan fry the chopped tomatoes, garlic (and chilli-optional) in a little olive oil. Remove pan from heat and keep warm.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and reserve a little liquid.
Add pasta and remaining ingredients to the pan and gently heat through.
Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. 
If desired sprinkle with some freshly grated Parmesan. 

Super Easy Weekend Panini

In Italy, the term panino is the word used to describe a sandwich made from bread that is not sliced sandwich bread. Instead ciabatta, baguette and rosetta are the most common types of bread used. Our local Italian deli has a large range of panini type rolls and bread which we can choose from. 

For these panini you will need your choice of Bertocchi deli meat - On this occasion we chose to team the sopressa mild (above) with brie and fresh cos lettuce. And toasted panini with Bertocchi leg ham, fruit chutney and brie (below).

Another of our favourites is to make toasted panini with sliced mortadella, Asiago cheese and olive tapenade. It is simply divine! You can purchase Asiago cheese from most delis and specialty cheese sections in your local supermarket.


Pizzas are SO easy and quick! Whether you decide to make your own base or purchase wood fired ones from your local deli or supermarket they are a great option for a super quick and fuss free weekend lunch or dinner.

Using Bertocchi leg ham and prosciutto, Pete and I make our pizzas using buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato pasata, rocket and whatever else we feel like. Sometimes I'll include freshly sliced mushrooms whereas Pete usually prefers to keep it simple with prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil or rocket.

Bertocchi Smallgoods are available for purchase through Woolworths Supermarkets and speciality delis.

The Food Mentalist sampled a range of Bertocchi Smallgoods compliments of Bertocchi.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies

This recipe is my all time favourite cookie recipe and I have been making it for abut 20 years now. I must warn you though that once made, they are hard to stop at just one. 

The recipe was handed down from my great aunt and what I love about them most is the combination of crunchy cornflakes and dark chocolate chips. The addition of sultanas is purely optional but it does make for a great chewy component. In this latest batch I chose to omit them as I find sultanas can be quite polarising when it comes to some.

250g margarine or unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups self raising flour ( sifted)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup sultanas ( optional)
4 cups cornflakes

Heat oven to 180'C ( ours is fan forced).
Cream together the butter or margarine with the caster sugar. Then add the vanilla. Fold in the sifted self raising flour in batches until it has all been incorporated to the mix.

Next add the chocolate chips, sultanas and 2 cups of cornflakes and mix well.

Pour the remaining 2 cups of cornflakes into a bowl and using a desert spoon form cookie dough balls and roll them in the cornflakes to coat, crushing some of them into the dough ball. 

Place the heaps cookie dough balls onto a tray lined with baking paper and bake in the oven for approximately 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. You will find the cookies have flattened out somewhat. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack until completely cool. 

Store in an airtight jar or container at room temperature for up to 5 days - if they last that long!

Enjoy x

Do you like sultanas in your cookies?

If you enjoy cookie recipes why not check out the World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie here 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Ultimate Party Hosting Guide w/ Melissa Hoyer


Leading up to the crazy Christmas & New Year period, high profile journalist and commentator Melissa Hoyer shares her top party planning and styling tips with us. 

    What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?

I love parties, and in my line of work I receive probably around 20 invites per week. For me, it’s all about the people you are hanging out with. It could be a party of two or a party of 100, but if you’re with some fantastic people that make you laugh and feel good about yourself, it’s the best night out!

The parties that I remember and really enjoy are those parties that have a sense of personality and creativity. Those are the parties that I felt privileged to have been invited to.

I remember the yearly Cointreau Balls in the 90s. They were a series of extravagant parties with a secret location each year. The exclusiveness made the party exciting and mysterious. You just couldn’t do something like that nowadays thanks to social media.

Worst party you’ve been to?

Parties or events in my view that have been unsuccessful are those where the organisers haven’t really thought about the guest list. The guests then don’t mesh very well and conversation doesn’t flow easily, which can make the whole event feel uncomfortable and uneasy.

To throw a great party, the guest list is important. Aim to have groups of people with common interests and that you know will ‘gel’ with one another. It could be a really simple venue with minimal fuss but throw in some fabulous people and it makes the party.

In my opinion, parties are all about the people.

What is your favourite type of entertaining?

I have a very relaxed style as I like to enjoy myself with my guests more than over-plan or overthink.
I’m not much of a dinner party entertainer; I simply don’t have the time or patience so I Iove inviting guests over for a casual affair around some drinks and delicious platters of food to munch on. I have a wonderful terrace, which has become the centre piece of the entire house with lots of laughs and memories collated over the years. It’s where my loved ones and I hang out and share our lives together.

Time of day?

Since I’m not big on playing host at dinner parties, I love when guests pop in for a late afternoon party. To me there is nothing better than sitting around with a few champagnes and watching the sunset. Also, having it that time of day means it can stretch easily in to the early evening, and sometimes kick on even later if the party is going really well!

Best invitation received?

In my line of work I get a lot of great invites, the ones that stand out are the ones that come with a bottle of something!

For more intimate parties, I suggest sending out printed invites for that personal touch. We are on email all day and every day and I think we all still like a personal envelope delivered. An email invite tends to lose the personality of the party or the personality of the host. I know it’s a bit old school but I like that.

I also love wedding invitations as you can really get a sense of the style and personality of the couple, and how they want the event to be. I always keep wedding invitations, plus they’re a lovely reminder of all my friends’ special days.

Etiquette for inviting guests?

I suggest inviting your guests at least three weeks in advance. Receivers of an invite should also not text their RSVP as that may get lost in translation. Therefore, hosts should give an email address for their guests to RSVP to. That way it is saved and you can go back to it when you finalise the confirmed guest list.

To theme or not to theme?

I absolutely love themed parties! It doesn’t have to be extravagant; it could be something as simple as asking guests to wear something, like their favourite hat or sunglasses. It really gives your guests a talking point, especially for those that are a bit more reserved.

Guests who are nervous at striking up a conversation will automatically start talking about the outfits or the theme of the party, which keeps the conversation going.

Ideas for parties on a budget?

Food does not have to be fancy for it to be a hit with guests. I don’t personally believe you always need to go over the top with smoked salmon and caviar, for example.

Sometimes even the old party favourites like party pies are great to serve, depending on the type of event and your guest list. So if you don’t have a huge budget, go for simple, wholesome but really satisfying foods like vegetable sticks, dips, cheeses, fresh bread and flavoured nuts like Wonderful Pistachios.


Best location for a party?

Anything with a view. I think a fabulous view can be the extra guest at a party. If you’ve got no one to talk to or you don’t really know anyone, you can look at the view.

Worst venue? 

Conference centres! They are very large and most events I’ve been to never fill these rooms adequately. I find them too big and very unemotional. There’s nothing worse than trying to fill up a room that potentially holds 300 and you’ve got 100 guests attending. I tend to feel a bit lost and very much exposed.


What makes a good party guest?

- Isn’t the last to leave

- Likes to contribute and is able to chat to everyone and anyone about any topic

- I suggest inviting a few guests that you know are very social and outgoing so that they can help you in working the room.

Favourite party guest (dead or alive)?

It would have to be Michelle Obama. You see her on so many levels, as a mother, the wife of a powerful man and a business woman. I am interested with and in Michelle Obama’s layers of her life and it would be a great chat to have.

What makes a good host? 

Always make sure you greet each guest and say good bye as they leave. During the party, spend time with each guest, don’t monopolise any one person or group, hang with your best friend the whole night, or be holed up in the kitchen, otherwise you will be neglecting the other people who made the effort to come. 

Do you bring a gift for the host/should you expect to receive a gift?

I always bring a bottle of wine or a small gift like a candle when I’m invited to someone’s house. Try to bring something tangible that won’t stress the host out. Flowers are lovely but sometimes the host may find it stressful to find a place for them in the middle of party preparations. If flowers are your choice then organise to send them the following day of the celebration. 

Is it rude to ask your guests to bring something? 

No I don’t think so, although of course it depends on the event. If you’re throwing a party at home, for example, it’s perfectly acceptable. Be confident to put the request in the invite but subtly rather than demanding specific numbers of things! Also, don’t rely on the items that your guests may be bringing, make sure you’re prepared with food and drinks yourself.

It’s also fun sometimes to theme your party around food and drinks. You could suggest guests to bring a plate of their favourite nibbles or have a champagne party and everyone can bring their favourite drop. I think this allows guests to contribute in conversation and brings out a bit of personality from everyone.

Do you have any tips for entertaining teenagers/ throwing a party for teenagers or kids?

Offsite! I would advise parents of any kids from 3 years and up to have the birthday party away from the home, particularly if you have a small house with not a lot of room. Taking the kids to a fun activity like bowling or ice-skating is great fun. Or, party coordinators at themed venues like recreational parks like Luna Park in Sydney or children party centres like Lollipop Land are fantastic with the children and it just gives you peace of mind. The kids always have a ball.

Tips for social media with teen parties?

It takes just one text message to another friend and you could end up having 100+ rocking up at your front door. You must have a blanket ruling to not divulge any information about the party except to those that are on the guest list.

What is your favourite food to serve at a party?

I like to serve lighter foods and serve them on large platters. Pate, soft and hard cheeses, mixed-herb olives and gourmet dips are my favourite. The platters make serving these items so easy and they are all items that you can buy at your local grocery store. 

I love pistachios. They are so much fun and I find it distracts those more nervous types of guests or shy guests. The shells allow guests to play with something and it’s actually fun watching guests throw the pistachio into their mouths and usually missing! I usually have bowls with a few varieties of flavoured pistachios and by the end of the night they’re all gone!

My typical platter of nibbles includes a bowl of pistachios, brie, camembert, cheddar and Jarlsberg, chili crab, guacamole, babaganoush and beetroot dips and some mixed marinated olives.

Do you have any tips for last minute entertaining?

Get a mini fridge and ensure it’s always stocked with a few bottles of wine. I love RosĂ© in the summer; it’s something about the ruby colour. A Sauvignon Blanc is always a winner and enjoyed by all. I’m not a heavy red wine drinker but keep a few bottles for guests who enjoy it.

Above all, my favourite is Champagne. It’s quite affordable now in Australia so I tend to keep a few in my fridge, especially for those more personal moments of celebrations.

Melissa is a huge fan of Wonderful Pistachios. 

Pistachios are actually one of the lowest kilojoule and among the highest protein nuts, a 30-gram serving of pistachios provides more than 30 different nutrients, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients.

Here are some excellent foodie ideas for working them into your next party.

A pop of colour; a pop of flavour. See how crunchy pistachios pop in Latin flavour combinations as they deliciously mix and mingle with the tart crunch of lime potato chips and the cool taste of refreshing watermelon lightly dusted with chili-lime salt. The spicy-sweet notes make for a can’t-get-enough combination. Accompany with margaritas or lime soda, and your fiesta will be popping in no time. 

How to serve: Fill colourful bowls with Wonderful Pistachios, chunks of fresh watermelon sprinkled with Mexican chili-lime salt, and lime potato chips. Try nestling the watermelon serving bowl in ice to keep the melon chilly and the presentation cool!  

Your guests will be raving about this pairing, so don’t be surprised to see this flavourful combo at their next party. The creamy texture and buttery flavour of pistachios meld with the subtle goodness of Chevre cheese, an ideal pairing to the sweet dried apricots. The bright, citrusy flavours of the grapefruit beverage offer the perfect pairing to the creamy goat cheese and chewy, tasty apricots. 

How to serve: Roll soft Chevre cheese into marble-sized balls then coat in poppy seeds. Fill a bowl with Wonderful Pistachios and place in the centre of a platter surrounded with the cheese balls and apricots. 

Take the savoury-nutty flavour of Wonderful Pistachios up a notch with the spicy kick of wasabi peas and the salty crunch of rice crackers in this trinity of contrasting flavours and textures. Pair with a crisp, refreshing beer to chill out this uber-hot, uber-cool flavour pairing. 

How to serve: Fill a trio of serving bowls with Wonderful Pistachios, wasabi peas and soy crisps…then, get ready to crack and crunch! 

The subtle earthiness of pistachios really ignites when paired with its Mediterranean counterparts, popcorn and olive-salami skewers, rounding out this savoury snack trio. 

How to serve: Fill two bowls – one with Wonderful Pistachios and the other with salty popcorn tossed with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil. Skewer oil-cured pitted olives with slices of artisanal salami and serve on a small platter alongside pistachios and popcorn.

Wonderful Pistachios are available at both Coles & Woolworths supermarkets.

Enjoy x

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Orecchiette w/ Hot-Smoked Salmon, Peas & Beurre Blanc Sauce

This recipe is from the latest cookbook by Valli Little and the team at ABC's Delicious. Titled Love to Cook it's a fantastic cookbook packed with easy to follow recipes using simple, fresh and delicious combinations. The photos and styling are also equally appealing and will have you throwing on your apron wanting to make each and every recipe.

After attending a recent cooking demonstration with Valli, I was inspired to make this dish, particularly because Pete and I are currently obsessed with making dishes containing orecchiette. It usually finds its way onto our Sunday lunch menu here at home.

This recipe turned out exactly as it promised - it was fresh and absolutely stunning.

Orecchiette with Hot-Smoked Salmon, Peas & Beurre Blanc Sauce

400g orecchiette or other short dried pasta
1/3 cup (80ml) white wine
1/3 cup (80ml) white wine vinegar
2 eschalots, finely chopped
175g chilled unsalted butter
1 cup frozen peas
250g hot-smoked salmon or trout fillets, skin removed, flaked
2 tbs thickened cream
2 tbs chopped dill, plus extra sprigs to serve

( We also served ours with some very finely grated Parmesan and cracked pepper)

cook pasta in a saucepan of salted water according to packet instructions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, to make beurre blanc sauce, place wine, vinegar and eschalot in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes until liquid has been reduced to about 1 tbs. Whisking constantly, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, until mixture is thick. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.
Blanch peas in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Combine pasta with the sauce in a large serving bowl, adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen, if necessary. Add peas, salmon, cream and dill and gently toss to combine.

Serve with the extra dill.

Finely grated Parmesan and cracked pepper ( optional)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Win with Harry's Ice Cream

Launching their first flavour last year - Passionfruit Pavlova, Award Winning ice-cream maker Harry’s Ice Cream now offers three delicious iconic Aussie flavours with the recent introduction of two new flavours; Sticky Date Pudding and Raspberry Cheesecake.

Made in Brunswick, Victoria, the 500ml tubs are made using premium ingredients. The Raspberry Cheesecake has a light lemon tanginess with delicious butter biscuit pieces sprinkled throughout. Existing favourite; Harry’s Pavlova is a vanilla ice cream with a tart passionfruit ripple and crushed meringue pieces. Those who love Pavlova will scramble over this one - it's combination of flavours, texture and sweetness are spot on.

Raspberry Cheesecake - The Butter Biscuit pieces were my favourite

The Sticky Date Pudding had sold out at my local supermarket, but it promises a deep rich toffee flavour complete with toffee ripples and fudge pieces. 

Following the range’s launch into freezer aisles last year, Founder and Chief Ice Cream Maker Lawrence Harris, said the two new flavours were created in response to requests from their passionate fan base.

“As a local Australian business we listen closely to the suggestions from our customers. They spoke and we have spent months perfecting their most requested flavours”, he said.

“We’re thrilled with how they’ve churned out”, Lawrence continues. “The ice cream has been made with milk from Aussie cows and lovingly produced in our Brunswick production facility”, said Lawrence.

All three flavours are available are available at Woolworths and select IGA stores throughout Australia with a RRP of $6.99.


Thanks to Harry's Ice Cream & The Food Mentalist one lucky winner has the chance to win the following prize:

2 x Maxwell and Williams ice cream sundae glasses
A classic ice cream scoop ( pictured below)
A retro ice cream fridge magnet
A $20 Woolworths voucher to try the ice creams

All you have to do is comment below and tell us which of Harry's Ice Cream flavours appeals to you most and why. Please include your current email address so we can contact you if you are the lucky winner. 
The Competition is open to all Australian residents and will close on Saturday 16 November at midnight (EST). 

*If the winner cannot be contacted within 7 days a new winner will be chosen so please include your email contact details along with your answer. The winner will be announced on this blog, Twitter and on The Food Mentalist's Facebook Page here

Monday, November 4, 2013

Chewy Fruit & Nut Seed Slice

I first tried out this recipe a few weeks ago after wanting something sweet to snack on for afternoon tea at work before my maternity leave began. My aim was to save a little money and to prevent me from attacking Haighs during my lunch break. It is a little worrying when you start to know the staff on a first name basis.

It filled the brief perfectly and Pete also enjoyed it, so much so that he has asked I make it regularly from now on for him to take to work too.

Even though it does contain a fair amount of butter, the goodness lies in the seeds, nuts and fibre content. I have tweaked it a little from the original recipe by adding chia seeds and substituting a few other ingredients.

 I hope you enjoy this as much as we now do.

Chewy Fruit & Nut Seed Slice
Adapted from Breakfast & Brunch - Murdoch Books

makes 18 squares
200g unsalted butter
175g golden or maple syrup
125g peanut butter ( smooth or crunchy)
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
30g plain flour
30g ground almonds/almond meal
1/2 tsp mixed spice
300g (3 cups) rolled oats
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
185g soft brown sugar
45g shredded moist coconut
50g toasted sesame seeds
30g chia seeds
90g Pepita's
80g (1/2 cup) chopped dried dates
45g mixed candied peel

Preheat oven to 170'C (325'F/Gas 3). Line shallow baking pan (20x30cm) with baking paper so that the paper comes part way up the sides.

Place butter and golden ( or maple)syrup in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Make a well in the centre and add the melted butter mixture. Mix with a large metal spoon until all combined and then spoon into the pan and bake for approx 25 minutes, or until golden and firm.

Cool in the pan and then cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Do you have a favourite 'healthy' slice you like to make? If so, please share it with us below. Links welcome.