Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cider Sunday - Australia Day

Happy Australia Day Cider Sunday. To help celebrate, I thought I'd share the links to my some of my favourite Australian ciders. 

I look forward to sampling many new Aussie Ciders here each Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy these classics.


...a complex, well structured cider and what sets it apart is the fact that it creates more creamy characters on the palate, more so than any cider I have tasted...


When this beauty arrived on my doorstep I knew it was going to be good...


Today I would like to introduce you all to a real treat - Pomona Ice by Small Acres Cyder. This one is truly unique and incredibly indulgent...


Hillbilly cider was awarded Bronze in the Class 2 - Medium Cider Award...


This golden cider is made solely with pears from the Adelaide Hills where the juice is extracted and the fermentation process begins the same day to ensure quality and freshness...

Tell me, which Australian Cider will you be enjoying today.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gourmet Dinner Service

Many of you know that Pete and I recently welcomed baby William into or lives. If so, I'm sure you can appreciate that our enthusiasm for cooking waned a little in the weeks following. 

Enter Gourmet Dinner Service (GDS)- A Sydney based food company who offer a wide range of home-delivered gourmet meals and hampers.

Pete and I chose to preview the GDS New Parents Hamper* ( $147.90) which is intended for new parents' first week at home - The hamper provides 5 main meals.

The hamper included:
Greek Lamb Fillet w/ garlic, lemon & sumac
2 x Chicken & Leek Pie - finished with cream, dill and mustard
1 x Russian Salmon Pie w/ fresh salmon and mushrooms
2 x Chicken Cacciatore w/ black olives, anchovies and basil
2 x Arabian Beef w/ Middle Eastern spices
1 x Serve of Lemon Tarts w. crisp butter pastry ( 4 mini tarts)

* We also sampled the Olive Trout w/ Olive & Tomato Crust.

To complete each meal you simply add a salad, rice or vegetables of your choice. These can also be purchased if you don't feel like preparing them yourself. Sides inlcude options like brocoli with garlic oil, salads, brown rice, lemon and herb quinoa and French style cannellini beans.

The hamper arrived in an insulated Styrofoam box with ice bricks and included a range of fresh and frozen meals with cooking instructions, ingredient list, nutritional panel, storage instructions and use by date clearly marked on each item. 

Every meal was fresh and tasted delicious, however the two standouts were the Russian Salmon Pie and Greek Lamb Fillets. 

With subtle flavours of salmon, dill, mushrooms and rice the pie was topped with a flaky buttery pastry. We served it with a fresh salad on our first night home and it was divine.

On that first night we also enjoyed a lemon tart each for dessert. A nice buttery pastry filled with tangy lemon curd drizzled with dark chocolate. The perfect pick-me-up.

The next evening, we pan fried the Greek lamb fillets which were marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and sumac and served them with another easy to make salad. The fillets were full of flavour, juicy and incredibly tender - A must order.

Over the course of the next few days, Pete and I enjoyed the remaining meals and were really impressed with the flavours and ease of preparation involved. Having nutritious tasty meals ready to go enabled us to focus on more important things like catching up on sleep and adjusting to the demands of being first time parents. I can't recommend these guys more highly. A must-have for anyone who is busy and wants delicious easy to prepare meals at home. We will definitely be ordering from them again.

Arabian Beef - Photo Source GDS
Chicken & Leek Pie - filled with large chunks of tender chicken meat & leeks in a cream, white wine, garlic and dill sauce topped with a butter puff pastry - Photo Source GDS.

Gourmet Dinner Service offer a large range of meals, festive entertaining menus, cocktail party food and hampers and are available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane & Canberra. 

They also offer meals for those on specific diets including gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free, low carb, diabetic, low fat and low GI options. All meals have been reviewed by a nutritionist and have been endorsed by a dietician and are preservative and additive free with all produce sourced locally.  Check out their website below.

Gourmet Dinner Service

The Food Mentalist sampled The New Parents Hamper compliments of Gourmet Dinner Service

Monday, January 13, 2014

SodaStream Source - a Review

SodaStream Source is the latest revamp of the popular at-home soda making machine many will remember from the 80's and 90's. World renowned designer Yves Behar was recruited to update the design, resulting in a more modern, user friendly device which also helps to cut down on plastic bottle waste.

Operation & Design
The operation of this unit could not be easier. You simply push the bottle opening into the mouth of the machine and lock it in. Three simple light up indicators allow you to select how much carbonation you add to the water and are activated by pushing down on the block head of the machine. A unique high pitch noise indicates the carbonation has filled the bottle which then allows you to remove the bottle by pulling it forward and removing it from the lock. 

The unit comes in a choice of four colours - classic black, white, blue and red.

SodaStream offers a large range of flavour syrups which include classics like orange, cola, tonic and lemonade, a cocktail range, a kids juice inspired range, a clear range, two energy drink flavours, a stevia and sugar free range and an iced tea flavour.

Of the flavours I tried which included cola, ginger ale, pink grapefruit and iced tea - the one thing I noted was that they were all far too sweet for my liking. SodaStream also offer a Clear range of flavours which are said to be lightly flavoured and lightly sweetened with natural plant extracts and contain no artificial sweeteners or flavours. I however did not try this range but think this would be worth a try. That said I am happy with plain mineral water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime.

The flavours are perfect for entertaining though, particularly if you want to make cocktails. 

For this one I simply combined 150ml SodaStream Pink Grapefruit soda, 40ml vodka and 25ml fresh lime juice with ice. Delicious!

What's included
The RRP is $149, but check online for deals or visit your closest electrical retailer or department store. Included in the initial purchase is one SodaStream bottle, one 60L Co2 canister and a number of sample flavour pods - each make 1 litre of soda. 

Flavours come in 500ml bottles ($6.95-$8.95) and make 10 litres of flavoured soft drink.However, if like me you prefer your soda less sweet you could probably get 1.5 or 2 times that from each. Additional bottles are relatively cheap to purchase - 0.5 litre (2 for $14.65) or 1 litre (2 for $17.80), are BPA free and have a shelf life of about 3 years.

SodaStream also operate a gas cylinder exchange program which helps to keep the cost of replacement canisters down and reduces waste.

Best Feature/s
The best thing about SodaStream Source is that we now have sparkling water at our fingertips and no longer have to lug heavy bottles of soda and mineral water from the supermarket - not to mention the reduction of plastic waste going into our recycling each week. I also love the modern design and its super easy to use.

The Food Mentalist tested the SodaStream Source compliments of SodaStream Australia.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cider Sunday - Sidra Del Verano - Apple, Blackcurrant & Cranberry Cider

This week's cider is made in the Basque region of Spain by the Soroa Family - Fifth generation cider makers.

Get ready for a sugar rush with this one - Tasting more like an RTD than a traditional cider, this one is easy to drink if you love sweet alcoholic drinks. 

Sweet sticky berry aromas and flavours blend to make a very sweet soda-style drink.With medium carbonation and only a slight acidic finish due to the cranberry this cider is definitely lacking complexity.

This cider will definitely appeal to those looking for something sweet to finish off a meal and would perhaps be best served as a dessert rather than a drink paired with a main meal.

At 4.0% alcohol, a 500ml bottle will provide you with 1.6 standard drinks. 

The Food Mentalist purchased Verano at Dan Murphy's for $6.90 (500ml bottle). Also available in a carton of 12 for $59.90.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cider Sunday - Darkes Cider Howler

This week's cider has a personal connection - It comes from a part of NSW where my Mother's family grew up. My uncle and a family friend actually worked at the Glenburnie Orchard picking fruit for owner Ted Fahey as kids in the 1960's.

A fourth generation orchard, the Glenburnie orchard is located 30km north of Wollongong in Darkes Forest. Now run by Joanne Fahey and her husband Glen, visitors can actually pick their own fruit and purchase a range of local produce and condiments. 

Resident cider dog Stevie is the inspiration for the name Howler and he features on the label. 

A crisp and refreshing cider that pours to reveal a pale straw colour with delicate carbonation. Made using 100% fruit - a combination of Delicious, Pink Lady, Jonathan and Granny Smith give this cider a lovely sweetness. The sweetness is balanced by the tannins created by apple skins deliberately included in the process. Joanne Fahey says this gives the cider a 'bit of bite'.

To make this cider, Joanne and Glen enlisted the services of Eling Forest Winemaker Services. The quality is evident thanks to the talented Jeff and his team who are also known for the amazing Dcider and were the first to introduce us to The Apple Thief cider.

This cider will pair really well with spicy flavours. A nice szechuan or chilli basil stirfry come to mind.

At 4.5% alcohol, a 330ml bottle will provide 1.2 standard drinks.

Darkes Cider - Howler can be purchased direct at Glenburnie Orchard or online through Farmhouse Direct here

Glenburie Orchard
259 Darkes Forest Rd 
Darkes Forest NSW 2508. 
T: (02) 4294 3421. 
M: 0407 921 709