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Happy Father’s Day!

Wait, what did you say?! Father’s day was two weeks ago?!

I’m just kidding. I actually celebrated Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June  and made dinner for my dad. And my family. I didn’t just feed my dad.

Being the sort of girl who has tons of ideas to put on a celebratory menu, but is seriously impaired at whittling them down into something feasible, I decided that I would stick to something simple.

Now, unlike my mom and grandpa, my dad doesn’t like sweet things. He doesn’t like cake. Or cookies. Or ice cream…which leaves my repertoire at…nothing.

So, I got out my handy dandy notebook, and jotted down a couple of things my dad might like. As a rule of thumb, I’ve figured out that guys really like meat, which meant that it had to be the feature of the meal. But as my dad is master of slab-of-meat cooking in the house, steak and salmon were surely out of the question, especially as my experience with cooking  meat is thimble-sized.

Luckily for my tender and un-meaty hands, I came across a recipe for apple pie, which inspired me to make a beef meat pie studded with red bullet chillies (though my dad doesn’t like sweets, we are both absolutely coco for chilli).

Instead of the six course dinner that I imagined, I made a lovely Aussie Meat Piesalad with dressing and taters. That’s po-tae-toes. You can boil ‘em, mash’em or stick ‘em in a stew. I mashed them good, Samwise Gamgee. I mashed them goo-od!

Blabbering aside, let’s make some pie!

First of all, I love my glass baking dishes. It means I never really have to make a pie crust, which not only saves me tons of time, but also makes the food way healthier, since there is usually truckloads of butter hidden in those  crusts. Either way, some simple premade puff pastry will result in a deliciously  flaky crust.

You’ll also notice that I use my glass baking dishes for brownies. This is because when you grease them, they’re wonderfully non-stick so that I never have to use greaseproof paper, which doesn’t really seem to available here. Also, they’re easy to clean, and look super pretty!

Anyways, you’ll want to dice some onions really small. Because this recipe uses beef mince, and not chunks of beef, you want the onions to be indistinguishable from the meat when you’re eating the pie. While you’re at it, finely chop three cloves of garlic and two or three red bullet peppers. They look a bit like this. They’re really small. Like…well, bullets.

Stir fry your finely chopped onions until they’re yummy and sort of translucent, then throw your beef mince, chilli and garlic in. Keep cooking until your beef is nicely browned. I actually precooked the beef and garlic so that I would have less to do on the day, and  because the beef needed to be cooked while it was still fresh.

Combine 1 tbsp of cornstarch with an equal amount of beef stock. If you actually have real beef stock, that’s great. Your pie will taste amazing. If that sort of thing isn’t just laying around your house, a beef stock cube will also work, and your pie will still taste amazing. Cornstarch is usually used as a thickener, so that the sauce from the beef in your pie will be thick instead of watery. Now put that aside, or your beef will burn.

To your beef, add in the rest of the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Stir well to combine, then taste it. If it’s not salty enough, add some Vegemite. However, my beef was already salted, and I used a beef stock cube, so my filling was already plenty salty.

Add in the cornflour mixture, then stir well to combine again. Bring it to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about ten minutes, or until the sauce is thick and has a gravy-like consistency. While it’s simmering, preheat your oven to 220°C and take out your package of puff pastry to defrost. Using a sharp knife and the pan as a guideline, cut puff pastry about 1cm larger than the pan. Wait for it to soften before removing it from the plastic.

By this time, your filling should be about ready, so tip it into the pan and even out the filling with a spoon. Peel off the puff pastry and cover the filling, folding in any sides that are too large.

Beat an egg, then brush onto top of pie. All that’s left to do is bake for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your mashed potatoes.

By the way, this is the professional way to fish potatoes out of the pot.

I like lots of pepper in my mashed potatoes, especially freshly ground pink peppercorns. Extra cute!

Stop. Check out your awesome french manicure.

Start. Make salad, with dressing of your choice. I made a Greek Salad Dressing with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar (more on this next time!)

Pop open a bottle of red wine, and fill your plate with a scrumptious dinner!

P.S. I always find it helpful to make short, cooking notes.

Spicy Aussie Meat Pie

Ingredients:

  • 400g beef mince, defrosted
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4c beef stock or 1 beef stock cube
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Vegemite (optional)
  • 2-3 red bullet chilies (optional)
Crust:
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten

Method:

  1. Heat oil in saucepan at medium-high heat. Add in garlic and onions. Stir fry onions until soft and translucent (approx 3-4 minutes).
  2. Add beef mince to the pan, and cook until brown.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 tbsp beef stock. Stir well.
  4. To the saucepan, add remaining beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and Vegemite (to taste). Stir well to combine.
  5.  Add cornflour mixture and stir well. Bring filling to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until thick. Remove puff pastry from freezer.
  6. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Using a sharp knife, cut puff pastry to the correct size.
  7. Fill the pan with the filling and even out with a spoon (as in, press it down, not eat all the uneven bits). Place the puff pastry on top of the filling, folding in any sides that are too big.
  8. Brush puff pastry with beaten egg.
  9. Bake approx 20 minutes, or until puff pastry has puffed up, and is browned at the top.
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brownie mosaic cheesecake, part 二

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The reason I baked a packet mix the other day, or joining “the dark side” as Alan affectionately called it, is because it was part of a bigger picture. Juggling the ridiculous mountain of Biology past papers and baking, it seemed like a good way to use up some brownies and time. So what is a brownie mosaic cheesecake?

A brownie mosaic cheesecake is…a toasty caramelly-digestive biscuit base, topped with a fluffy vanilla cheesecake with – hold your horses! – an abundance of fudgy, brownie chunks floating in it. The result? One pretty damn orgasmic cheesecake.

It’s time to get down to some serious business. Put on your apron, tie back your hair and roll up those sleeves. We are going to…take out your cream cheese and yoghurt from the fridge. You want to let them warm to room temperature before we do anything because cream cheese hardens really easily.

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Now we begin. You want to get some digestive biscuit first. I’m sure an oreo or chocolate biscuit base would be equally blissful, but nothing carries a toffee-like flavour like digestive biscuits do. So there. I used about 175g of digestive biscuits for this crust. If you’re one of those people who absolutely love crust, like me, you can double the crust for a doubly delicious cheesecake. Damn. I should have done that.

Anyway, select your weapon of choice. I decided that the meat tenderising hammer was a good way to smash some biscuits to oblivion.

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But then I felt that my gigantic mixing bowl’s life was in danger, so I settled on a much less threatening wooden rolling pin.

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Of course, you could just chuck all of it into the food processor but I really cannot be bothered to wash that thing, so instead, I spent a good 10 minutes smashing biscuits into crumbs. Did that not make sense? Get used to it.

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Once your biscuits are sufficiently crushed (chunks are cute too!), chuck in 3 tablespoons of fine brown sugar. Then melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of black treacle in the microwave. Do this in little increments of 5-10 seconds because if the treacle boils…well, good luck. Vaguely whisk this mixture together, even though it really doesn’t want to and pour it into your biscuit crumbs (Hulk! Smash!). Mash the mixture together with a pinch of salt until it’s nicely blended and there are no pebbles of brown sugar.

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Tip this into your prepared pan. I used a 9 1/2 inch springform pan, but a 9 inch springform would also work. It might be a good idea to grease the sides of the pan. I didn’t, and it came out absolutely fine – just not as pretty as it could have been. Press the crumbs into the base of the pan until there are no gaps and it’s nicely compressed. Loose bases are not cool. Like how if I decided to chainsaw through the foundations of your house, causing a collapse, it would also not be cool. (:

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Chuck this into an oven preheated to 175 C for about 10-12 minutes, until it smells DELICIOUS! Take it out and let it cool completely before filling.

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…Meanwhile, we’re going to make the cheesecake filling! To make this recipe all that much easier, I chose a really really easy cheesecake recipe. All you do is cream your…cream cheese until it’s nice and fluffy. Then add your sugar and salt and cream that in too.

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Basically, cream your mixture after every addition of the following.

Eggs. Vanilla. Yoghurt.

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I recommend using full-fat sugar-free yoghurt, by the way. The imported kind. Carrefoure carries it in several brands and they’re all okay for this recipe. The reason I use imported yoghurt is because the texture is more pudding-like, unlike the liquid, sugary Chinese yoghurt.

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Can you believe it? You’re almost done already! Chop your brownies roughly to about 1cm cubes and scatter them evenly on your pre-baked crust. Then pour your cheesecake mixture over the top and wiggle the pan about to get the batter around all of the brownie chunks and up to the sides. Bake this for 25-30 minutes in an oven preheated to 175 C, then very quickly rotate the pan 180 degrees and turn off the oven. Without opening the oven door, let the cheesecake sit for about 40 minutes. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave it outside for a while. Cheesecakes crack because of sudden temperature changes, but while it’s outside, it’s at risk. While the cheesecake is baking, you should take advantage of the time and prepare a fort and armed guards to protect your cheesecake. When your cheesecake is cool to the touch, you can move it to the fridge.

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And that’s it! Now, you can all be jealous of my delicious cheesecake.

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See you next time! (;

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And that’s the end of my Biology mountain, too!

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

Brownie
Use your favourite brownie mix, or wait for my upcoming low-fat brownie recipe!

Digestive Biscuit Cheesecake Base

Ingredients:

  • 175g digestive biscuits
  • 2 tbsp (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 175 C.
  2. Using preferred weapon, crush biscuits into crumbs in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the brown sugar and salt to the crumbs and stir to combine.
  4. Melt butter and black treacle together in the microwave, whisk gently, then pour into crumbs.
  5. Stir until well combined, then press firmly into the bottom of a 9 or 9 1/2 inch springform pan.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before using.

Vanilla Yoghurt Cheesecake
Adapted from Baking Bites
Ingredients:

  • 150g unsalted cream cheese, room temperature
  • 350g plain yoghurt, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese using a stand mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Approx 1 min.
  2. Add sugar and salt beating until well combined. Add eggs, vanilla and yoghurt, beating well after each addition.
  3. Blend mixture until extremely smooth, then pour into a 9 or 9 1/2 inch springform with pre-baked base.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then very quickly, rotate the pan 180 degrees. Turn off the oven, and without opening the oven door, let cheesecake sit for about 40 minutes.
  5. Let cheesecake cool for at least 2 hours before moving to the fridge.

happy new year! cheesecake part 一

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It seems that each time a big holiday rolls around, I get the urge to blog again. Unfortunately, China has not been the kindest and has blocked wordpress. Yet again. But it’s alright, guys, because here I am, blogging via proxy.

Now, I’m not really a resolution kind of person, but here’s a resolution for this year: blog. often!

Let me admit something now. I baked a package mix the other day. I’m not proud of it, and I still cannot stand the processed packages of dust, but I made one anyway. Why? My brother requested brownies, I felt lazy and there was a package of Betty Crocker brownie mix that would expire if no one ate it. And I would not eat it.

You see, the thing about package mixes is that yes – they’re horrendously easy and can be whipped up in under 10 minutes – but in terms of flavour, they fall flat. Literally. You see, in a packet brownie mix, you can taste the…sugar and chocolate flavouring, but mostly just the sugar which has been added with all the finesse of a tow truck. But when you taste real, baked-from-scratch brownies, you can taste all the levels of flavour: the chocolate, cocoa powder, butter, milk. It’s an amazing amalgamation of flavours and textures that makes you go to dessert heaven.

So I’m a package mix snob. It’s not a big deal. I just believe that some things shouldn’t come in packages. Mashed potatoes for instance. Just add water?! That’s insane. They’re not mashed potatoes if they’re not potatoes or mashed and potatoes are most definitely not powdered. Still, being this snob has made me the butt of jokes before. A certain someone has covered my eyes while in the supermarket, claiming to “save me from the packet mixes”.

Now that I think about it, packet mixes aren’t all that bad. I mean, it’s actually where I began (with the same mix, at that!). So if that package mix on the shelf will get you, my non-baking friend, into the kitchen and stirring up a bowl of love, then by all means, go for it!

These brownies were actually made for another reason – which will be made clear in part 二.
For now, just bear with me here (:

Of course, no post would be complete without some calorie-cutting!

The recipe card on the back of that oh-so-familiar box calls for 2/3 cups of oil. Psh. No way. I used a scant 1/2 cup and made up for it with two dashes of milk and some extra water.

Secondly, bake the brownies in a laaaarge rectangular tray. And I mean LARGE! I chose the biggest one that would fit in my oven, so that I could have a nice, thin brownie. You’ll see why later.

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 175 C as specified on box.

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Line that tray with aluminium foil and grease it too if you want them to be easy to remove. I totally didn’t do this and kind of regretted it later but no worries – you can still get the foil off quite easily.

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Pour that sugary madness of a mix into your large bowl and mash madly with a spatula at all of the lumps, cursing at how you cannot sift it because all the sugar would jam your pretty German sifter.

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In another bowl, beat 2 eggs and 1/2 cup oil together. I always do this first, even when it’s not specified because the eggs emulsify the oil, making it easier to blend! Add in the water and two dashes of milk. Skim or whole, your choice!

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Make a crater in your sugar mountain and pour the egg mixture in and stir like a madman with your spatula. This is a packet mix. Nothing can go wrong. Ever. Unless you are my brother and decide to stir in a packet of cream cheese. It just…makes rock solid brownies that can be used to bounce knives en pointe off of.

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Pour it into your tray and bake! Mine took about 20 minutes, which is alright, I guess. I like fudgy brownies so I think I kind of overbaked it. Oh well.

Another day, another post.

P.S. for those package snobs (just like me!), I’ll be updating with a low-fat brownie recipe sometime soon. Remind me (;

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