Baby, it’s cold outside!

So what better time than to indulge in pies and puds? However, as always I take some shortcuts – but not to sacrifice flavour and authenticity. As always it was soooooooooooooo hard to choose which recipes I could show – and then I had to find simpler ways of doing things, or find a twist. I am such a proud Australian, I had to do a beef and red wine pie. Here I used a classic French technique of reducing red wine and Australian muscat to marinate my beef.  Forget using anything too cheap and cheerful – when you are taking so much care only use the quality of wine you would want to drink. This also makes matching the food to your wine much easier! I chose a Nepenthe Gate Block Shiraz and a 20 year old Yaldara Muscat* to marinate the pie filling with which gave a fantastic depth of flavour.

I then took a short cut by using butter puff pastry for a much easier, but amazingly flavoursome, pie crust. Certainly the outcome pleased my dinner guests at the end of the show! I also use one of my favourite extra virgin olive oil tricks when making this pie – when cooking with butter over high heat (I was cooking vegies), I add a drizzle of EVOO to stop it from burning. That way you get great flavour without the butter burning.

Now, I know everyone is not comfortable making pastry, so I had to show a wonderful olive oil pastry – using Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, of course – which is foolproof even for the novice baker. No machines, no difficult techniques, just mix olive oil, water, wholemeal flour and salt in a bowl and push it into a freeform pie shell. That is quite apart from the health benefits and advantages of using local product – with an added bonus of being egg free. Given olive oil’s origin in the Mediterranean, I used this base for a pie full of sweet vegetables and just melting cheese which will please carnivores and vegetarians alike.

It’s not all savoury food though so in the theme of this episode I had to make a warm, gooey delicious banana caramel sticky pudding.  There is something appealing about the old-fashioned self-saucing pudding. I am still amazed at how gently pouring boiling water over this puddings makes the sauce!

But as with every episode, I go out and about. I have long been a fan of the work TAFE does in educating so many in our community. So I was thrilled to visit Hervé Boutin, an acclaimed patissier whom I have known since his days as the pastry chef at the restaurant in the Hotel Nikko in Potts Point. Fast forward and there he is fronting up the brand new Australian Patisserie Academy at the Northern Institute of TAFE in North Ryde, to meet some of the bakers of the future. The best thing is that this academy offers everything from one off classes, to short courses, to long professional courses for everyone from the novice to the career-seeker.

Much as I am the choux pastry queen (yes, that is one of my specialities), Hervé still had a few tips to share with me which will make them even easier to make – but you’ll have to watch to find out what!

As always, I share a few of my secrets along the way – including the most important, the how-tos of blind baking to ensure crisp bases.

Happy Baking!

*Yaldara Muscat available from Chateau Yaldara Cellar door. ph: +61 (0)8 8524 0225  email: