Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beef and Ale Pie!

Another dish much inspired by my trip to New Zealand, meat pies! It's not quite a pot pie but if I had to describe it, that's what I'd say it closely relates to.

While I was over there, when you hear the word pie, as an American, I think sweet pies for desserts, but when you're in New Zealand and even Australia, pies have a whole different meaning. Their pies are savory and often times a meal. They even have places dedicated to these little guys. The one I went to in New Zealand was called Pie Face (which apparently originated from Australia) and there had to be at least 20 different types of filling from your veggies to venison. So many to choose from! 

They looked so cute too, I think that might also be a reason why I wanted to try making some for myself, they're the right size. 

Though this was not labor intensive, it took forever! Making everything from scratch didn't help with that either but mainly it was because the beef had a long cooking time. I suppose it wasn't a bad thing, I ended up spending that time very wisely... doing fun day Sunday!
 and before I get into sharing recipes, here are my travels continued: New Zealand! 

A tour through history @ Waitangi Treaty Grounds:
Learning about the Maori culture is very enlightening.

Dolphins sightings @ Bay of Islands:

The ultimate nerd experience visiting the Shire @ The Hobbiton, Matamata 

Beautiful Hot Geysers @ Rotorua
Beautiful, yes. Stinky, Oh yes!...oh well, everything has its pros and cons.

A day in the park @ Hagley Park, Christchurch

Starting the new year with a roaring waterfall @ Arthur's Pass, Devils Punchbowl Trail

and a recipe to help reflect my awesome adventures! 

Beef and Ale Pies
Adapted from DonnaHay
Makes five 4.5” pies


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Roughly 2 lbs of beef brisket, cut into 1 inch pieces ( I used beef chuck which works fine)
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 stalks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups of pale ale (I used apricot), roughly 12oz bottle
  • 1 cup of beef stock
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • tapatio hot sauce (optional) 
  • 1 ½ stick of butter
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 2 ½ cup of flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

    1. Heat oil in a frying pan, sprinkle beef with salt and pepper, dust with flour and cook, in batches, 3-4 minutes each side and set aside
    2. Heat oil  and sauté onions, celery, and garlic for about 5 minutes or until tender
    3. Return beef to pan with bay leaves, tomato paste, beer, vinegar, beef stock, and sugar and bring to a boil.
    4. Reduce heat, cover pan, and cook for 2-3 hours or until tender.
    5. Remove beef to shred and then return to pan.
For pastry and pie assembly:
  1. Place butter and water into a sauce pan over high heat and bring to a boil
  2. Remove from heat, stir in flour and salt until smooth dough forms. Knead until smooth and elastic.
  3. Roll out pastry dough (roughly ¼ inch thick) and line your pie pans, make sure you save enough dough for later to cover the pies. Divide beef among the dishes and then roll out remaining dough to cover pies. Make sure to adhere the pie crust together by pressing a fork along the side of the pie dish.
  4. Cut a small slit on the top of the pies
  5. Brush the top of the pies with egg
  6. Bake at 400F degrees for 30-35 minutes

Monday, January 20, 2014

White Chocolate Panna Cotta!

Ever since that lovely meal I had at Rosetta in Melbourne and especially that panna cotta with strawberry rhubarb compote (...that was to die for!), it was so good, I wanted to make my own...and so I did (minus the compote)!

This is actually the second time I've played with this recipe because the first time I made it, I was in Australia but because I'm super OCD and I didn't have my "special" food photo dishes, I didn't really take any pictures...well I did but none of them blog worthy, more for personal celebrations more than anything. I figured I wouldn't be devastated if I had to make that again, it was pretty darn good. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make that strawberry mouth is already watering just thinking about it...

As it turns out, panna cottas are super easy to make, don't let those cooking competition shows on TV intimidate you, its really not that bad and most importantly, it will set (unless of course you forget an ingredient in which case, it might become a nice cool thick cup of white cocoa). This recipe calls for vanilla beans but I'm sure using vanilla extract will do just fine. I wanted to use vanilla beans and at this moment, I'd like to take a tangent: What the heck?? Vanilla beans are so hard to find! I looked in normal chain grocery stores and nothing! Finally found them at Whole Foods (which I love...and that can be a bit dangerous as their stuff is normally pricer than other stores)...but anyways I also thought it'd be a good time to make some panna cotta to console myself on the Niner's loss against the Seahawks last night... quite devastating... Regardless, we had good season not the ideal end but we'll come back next year fighting hard again, QUEST for 6!

Now that is slightly out of my system, lets get back happier things. In the last few of my blog posts, I've been sharing some of my vacation pictures so lets continue (still in Australia):

Wine tasting @ Yering Station:
It'd be wrong not to go to at least one or 2 wineries being in the wine industry

Delicious meal @ Whispering Vines Cafe, Trofeo Estates
Enjoying my summer fruits:
Cherry and strawberry pickings (and enjoying the lovely view)

Reaching new heights @ Mt Feathertop:
...of course to burn off all that I've eaten 

And of course delicious panna cotta recipe:

White Chocolate Panna Cotta!
Adapted from Donna Hay (aka as I like to call her the Australia Martha Stewart)
Makes 4 1/2 cup servings

  • 1 1/2 tsp gelatine 
  • 1/8 cup of milk
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream (or 500ml)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 50 g of white chocolate
  1. Place gelatine in a small bowl, pour over milk and let stand for 2-3 minutes
  2. Place cream , sugar, and vanilla in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat
  3. Add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth (can remove from heat at this stage)
  4. Add gelatine mixture and whisk until dissolved
  5. Strain and pour into containers. Refrigerated for 4-6 hours before serving. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Parmesan Biscuits!

As a rule of thumb since my last trip overseas a few years ago, never, and I mean never, return to work the next day if you've just gotten off a plane the day/night before. I guess you could, I did once, but that was disastrous, I was so tired from jet lag and work, my overall jet lag recovery took an entire week! Don't do it if you can help it. 

So learning from the past, I didn't. I decided to take the remaining of the week off so I can rest/recover... turns out I don't really need much recovering this time around. There's a slight set back in terms of jet lag but honestly that just puts me into what most of the world call a normal weekend schedule of sleeping in until 10am. I'm just particularly special and prefer to wake up around 7am and so this is bugging me somewhat... I'll get over it I'm sure and if not, work schedule will for sure throw me back into my groove. 

In the mean time I guess I can use this time wisely to update blogs and make messes in my kitchen. Vacation was fun but man after a while do I miss the small things! There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed, hotel beds are just not the same. And as awesome as it is to eat at lovely places, I do miss a good old home cooked meal, not to mention I kind of miss cooking myself....which of course led me to this recipe: parmesan biscuits! First of all, it was cold and for some reason a hot biscuit sounded really nice so I decided to whip up a batch of my own. Ahhhh... the kitchen is so nice when its filled with the aroma of hot biscuits in the oven...

Before I get to my recipe, lets talk travels: highlights continues:

Spending a day @ Philip Islands:  
Means meeting all sorts cute animals(more koalas, kangaroos, wallabys, emus, etc), walks along its beautiful coastline, eating delicious fish&chips with a view to die for, and watching little penguins return home from the sea!



And now after your eyes have feasted, its time to feast on this recipe, super easy and results a super flaky biscuit. So I was 1/4 cup short of buttermilk when I was making this and thought, "eh regular milk should be fine" I don't know if that was what made this better than the last batch of biscuits I made, but I think I'm just going to keep this portion for future batches, it came out so flaky and light!

Parmesan Biscuits

Makes 6-7 standard sized biscuits

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ cup of butter, grated or cut into small cubes
  • Approx ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup of buttermilk
  • ¼ cup of milk
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    1. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add in grated butter/ butter cubes. If butter is grated, the butter is easier to incorporate into the flour but if butter is cubed, may need a hand pastry blender.
    2. Add in buttermilk, milk, cheese, and bacon mix into the dough batter. Mix together and knead dough.
    3. Flatten or roll out dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut out biscuit using biscuit cutter (or a sturdy cookie cutter will work too)
    4. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of the biscuits (optional) for a crispy top layer.
    5. Bake in oven for approx 15 minutes at 400 degrees

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Peach Pastry Braid!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! I certainly did! Usually my holidays are quiet but this year I decided to make a small change, I decided to go international! Not that I mind spending a quite holiday at home but traveling has always been a love of mine so why not?! Now that I've gotten a taste of exploring the world, I may have to attempt this again...but that's quite a bit away, so let's just spend some time reflecting the vacation that just occurred: my adventures in Australia/New Zealand.

Unfortunately there is no possible way to post an entire month of adventures into one post so they will probably be spread out amongst the next few posts.

Getting to my destination was a bit of an adventure in itself, instead of flying out on Dec 12th going from SFO > Auckland > Melbourne, there was an engine fuel leak on the plane and it was delayed (where I got to spend a glorious night in SF) until Dec 13th and my flight became SFO > Hawaii > Fiji > Auckland > Melbourne so that the plane could refuel every 5-6 hours... I've never had a longer flight in my life! I guess there were many firsts for this trip... wouldn't mind skipping that part though. 

Finally after 3 days (because I also lost a day flying across the international date line...) of travel time I made it to Melbourne, Australia! 

Here are a few highlights to start:
High tea with delicious little desserts @ The Waiting Room! Literally a couple of hours after I landed. My super delayed flight might had something to do with planning things so close to just landing... but seriously who can say no to food?! (Please forgive my not so great pictures, they clearly reflect my not quite oriented state of mind that day) 

Hiking @ Brisbane Ranges National Park:
Results in meeting a wild koala (I also couldn't help myself and named him Charlie)! What's more awesome, I tracked him down with his droppings (skills or pure luck? totally not important...). There was a sign along the tracks showing different types of animal droppings...I may have made it a personal goal to memorize the one for koalas after I found out there might be wild ones for me to find... and I found one! 

Dinner @ Rosetta:
Pure delicious! The pictures should also just speak for itself. Yum. 

Roaming thru Royal Botanical Gardens:  
Pretty nature things, there's never a wrong there.

Conquering heights @ Eureka Sky Deck:
A 360 degree view of Melbourne from 88 stories high!

And finally recipe! Peach pastry braid, I had made them for a work brunch and they were so popular, I had to make them again for an encore. 

Peach Pastry Braid
For peaches:
  • 2 medium size peaches, thinly sliced
  • 2 puff pastry sheets (1 package generally will come with 2)
  • ¼ cup sugar (1/8 brown, 1/8 white sugar is best)
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp grand mariner (optional)
Candied pecans (optional)
  • ½ cups of  chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ tbsp of butter
  • ½ tsp of vanilla
Caramel drizzle:
Taken from Martha Stewart

Makes 2/3 cup:

I eyeballed everything to make a smaller portion but feel free to use this as a reference:
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (I find that whole milk works too)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

  1. Combine all the ingredients and peaches into a bowl and mix. Set aside.
Candied pecans:
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the pecans onto the sheet. Bake in oven @ 325 degrees for 10 minutes (stirring once)
  2. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan or 8in skillet over medium heat melt about ½ of the sugar, shaking pan to evenly melt the sugar (syrup-like), only stir to keep from over browning. Stir in remaining sugar as it melts.
  3. Reduce heat to low and continue melting until a light golden brown
  4. Add butter and vanilla to melted sugar, stirring until everything is well mixed
  5. Turn off heat, add warm nuts, stirring to coat.
  6. Pour and spread nut mixture onto a baking sheet and cool completely.
Braid assembly: 

  1. Thaw puff pastry via instructions on package (normally can be done by moving the puff pastry from freezer to the fridge and let it sit over night OR thaw for 2 hours in room temperature).
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet, starting with one side of the pastry, with a knife or kitchen shears, in parallel slants cut the flaps about 1/3 into the sheet (about 1 inch apart) and then repeat on the opposite side of the sheet making sure they line up with the other side. 
  3. Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar onto the middle of the pastry sheet and place the peach slices down the middle of the pastry sheet.
  4. From the top of the pastry, in alternations, fold the flaps down.
  5. Set oven to 400 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Once the pastry is done, drizzle on caramel sauce and top with chopped pecans.
For sauce:
  1. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, butter, and cream to a boil over medium-high. Cook, stirring, until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and salt.