Aussie Meat Pies

I had another exciting encounter with a Foodnetwork chef this week! My friends and I met Anna Olson!!! I don't know what it is about our university that attracts these chefs but I'm totally on board. We attended a small and intimate gathering where she shared her culinary journey and we enjoyed some delicious coconut and sweet potato soup. We actually got to spend a pretty long time with her it was awesome! She is such a lovely person and so approachable... not to mention inspiring. So we're slowly meeting all the Canadian Foodnetwork chefs. Next up? We are dying to meet Anthony Sedlak and Chuck Hughes! Roadtrip to Montreal and/or BC in the near future I think...

Anyways, time for the food:

One of my dad's favourite things to eat in Australia are the meat pies. They are so popular there, you can find them everywhere. When we were in Sydney my dad ate about a pie a day (sometimes 2) for 10 days. Yup, he loves them. You really don't come across fresh meat pies here nearly as often, and the frozen ones are no comparison. Now it's really not convenient to fly to Australia everytime a meat pie craving develops (although I would love to!) so I decided to start baking pies for my dad so he can enjoy them at home.

I graciously welcome any chance to bake with puff pastry. After looking at many aussie meat pie recipes I came up with the most authentic recipe I could (without actually baking them IN Australia). The beef filling in these is deliciously flavourful! My recipe calls for vegemite and if you don't happen to have that in your kitchen you can simply eliminate it from the recipe.

So what does my dad, the meat pie conoisseur, think of my pies? Well I've made these for him three times and with each batch I barely manage to snatch a bite as he fights me off with his fork and grumbling tone. I think he likes them quite a bit.

Australian Meat Pies


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 beef stock cube
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp vegemite
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cup water
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg, beaten for glaze
4 medium pie tins
Preheat oven to 300F

Allow the puff pastry to thaw so that you can cut circles to line the 4 pie tins, and cut an additional 4 circles for the pie tops.

Set a small pot of water to boil over medium heat. Once boiling add the chopped carrots and cook until soft and tender (about 7 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in an sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the onions for 3-4 minutes (until soft and translucent)

Add the ground beef and cook for about 4 minutes or until browned. Drain.

Add the beef stock, vegemite, soy sauce and pepper. Mix everything, cooking for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the flour and stir to cook it a bit before adding water.

Start adding water 1 cup at a time. Stir and bring the mixture to a simmer. After the water has cooked off a bit, add the ketchup and then the other cup of water. You want it to be thick not watery. Add the cooked carrots and stir well.

Spoon the mixture into the pastry lined pie tins. Cover each pie with its "lid" and trim all excess pastry. Use a fork and press gently along the pie edges to seal them.

Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash (1 egg beaten with a couple tbsps of water).

Place them in the oven and bake until the tops are flakey and golden brown.

Allow to cool before removing from pie tins.



4 Desserts and a Pizza

Birthdays are such an excellent excuse to go out to dinner. Nine of us went out for Anna's birthday the other day.. where to? Woodenheads! I don't know why but I have developed a serious obsession for their pizzas... okay and their desserts too. They offer so many different pizzas that I just want to keep returning to try more and more. I've been there twice now this semester and want to go again already! This time I had a huge urge to try their apple butter and so I decided to make my own pizza. And what a good decision it was. On my pizza I asked for apple butter, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, eggplant and chevre. It was absolutely delicious. It was sweet but not too sweet, the garlic balanced the apple butter perfectly. I would definitely order it again. We all enjoyed trading slices and trying a variety of toppings.

Flipping through my pictures I realized that I didn't even snap a shot of my pizza!
But here is Anna's - it was topped with pesto, roasted roma tomatoes, feta, smoked chicken and honey.

Then came dessert... and what a dessert it was. Because it was Anna's birthday and there were nine of us, they brought us one of every dessert so we could try them all. How beautiful our table looked when it was lined with decadent treats - I couldn't wait to taste each one. The desserts circled the table as we tried each, and honestly, they are nothing short of fantastic:

Dessert Lasagna!! Look familiar? I was so excited to dive into these beautiful decadent layers of soft chocolate mousse and crisp phylo pastry. It is a treat with lovely contrasting textures. I think this might be my favourite.

These lemon tarts were delightful. Such a drastic change from the other desserts, they had strong, tangy and tart lemon flavour with a buttery crust.

This apple dessert pizza I had during my last Woodenheads dinner as well. It's like an apple pie in the form of a pizza. Sound amazing? It is. The caramel and crumb topping is delicious and caused my housemate and I to scheme over how they might have created it.

 I'm not sure what you would call this - it was a giant pastry pocket filled with pears and drenched in chocolate ganache. It was nice but probably my least favourite.

Speaking of meeting Chef Michael Smith... he came to our campus again the day of Anna's birthday! So I met him once again, asked for his autograph, a few photos, and discussed cooking and bbqing tips. Yes, we're pretty good friends now.

Definition of an excellent day.


Friends are like Onions

Today Anna turns 22.

Anna likes onions. A lot.

I have spent my entire four years of university living with this girl. Memories include first year residence life, homecoming adventures, meeting Chef Michael Smith (twice!), Spice Girls in concert, roadtripping, lake jumping, house parties, dinner parties, laptop parties... and over the years developing our obsession and love for food together.

Basically, I spend a ridiculous amount of time with her. Enough time that I think she deserves a birthday post. A post all about something she holds dear to her heart, one of her favourite foods. I don't know anyone who could love an onion more than Anna can.

So on her 22nd birthday I am posting a collection of 22 deliciously unique onion recipes.

Happy Birthday Anna


Pancakes for one?

I love coming home for a break. It means I get to catch up with all my old friends from home, which is always really great, especially because it is usually arranged around an outing of eating or drinking. The other day our neighbors, my mom and I all went out for breakfast to a pancake house in a town nearby. Going out for breakfast is always so nice because breakfast food is just amazing. Seriously, I know I would be quite content to eat breakfast all throughout the day, replacing lunch and dinner for cereals, omelettes, french toast, anything really, you name it.

I had already decided before we arrived that I would get pancakes... it's a pancake house isn't it?! Pancakes are awesome because they can be done so many different ways with so many toppings!

When I lived in Sydney we used to have weekly pancake parties and to finish off the semester we went out to a famous pancake house called Pancakes on the Rocks. Now that menu was unbelievable and they were the most decadent and divine pancakes I've ever had! I'll have to post about THAT sometime...

Anyways, when I saw the menu at breakfast I immediately knew I was going to have trouble deciding because there were so many options and different ways you could have your pancakes. After a lot of tough decision-making (it was pretty stressful) I settled on cinnamon apple and raisin pancakes. Now I probably should have asked how many pancakes came with it, because I was quite shocked when the waitress set this mountain in front of me:

5 PANCAKES?!!!? Who on earth could eat that many on their own in one sitting?! They were huge and just drenched with apples and cream. There was no way I was going to finish all of that. I forgot how filling pancakes are and so hadn't really prepared myself for this. I had no choice but to dive into that heaping pile of cakey, sugary goodness.

The cinnamon and cream made a lovely topping along with syrup. The apples weren't really that great, but the pancakes themselves were wonderful. They had a lovely fluffy texture and were spotted throughout with raisins. 5 huge cakes though? I mean is that really necessary? I ate until I was a bit past comfortably full and managed to devour 2 1/2 pancakes. So I ate my way through half the stack and gave myself a pat on the back.

Runaway butter!


Gnocchi Rainbow

As Reading Week was fast approaching we were trying to brainstorm creative ways to use up the rest of our food before going home. I had half a bag of potatoes leftover from the potluck, one housemate had eggs, another had a bag of spinach.. what to make? Gnocchi!

But not just any old gnocchi, no, it had to be unique and most importantly - colourful. Since we had spinach we decided we were definitely going to make some green pasta, and with a sweet potato we were also able to make orange.

Aren't they cute?! I love the look of the speckled green gnocchi. Really, I just love colourful food - the more colours in a meal, the better.

It turned out wonderfully! It had a very soft and smooth texture - if I were to eat a cloud, I would imagine it would be of a similar experience. The spinach one actually turned out a bit softer than the sweet potato and it was probably because we added more flour to the latter.

I always overestimate how many potatoes you should use so we ended up freezing 3 containers of pasta. But really, if you're going to go through the trouble of making pasta from scratch, you might as well make heaps while you're at it.

So I told you in my last gnocchi post that I would give you a recipe the next time I made it. Well I lied, I'm sorry. It's just that you don't really use exact measurements for gnocchi you just follow a general procedure. So I will share our procedure with you!

Making Gnocchi:

You'll need:

all-purpose flour
1-2 eggs

First boil your potatoes and leave the skin on. It is important that they don't absorb any of the water. If you want to make a fairly large batch, use about 6-7 medium potatoes.

Once they're cooked and quite soft, drain the potatoes and carefully peel the skins off.

Mash the potatoes in a bowl until they're as smooth as you can get them (this might take a while).

*It is at this point that if you want to add something extra (sweet potato, spinach, etc.) that you add them into the mashed potatoes. If using spinach, make sure it is cooked first and finely chopped. If using sweet potato, follow the same procedure as with regular potatoes. Mix well with the mashed potatoes so everything is evenly combined.

Next create a well in the middle of the mashed potatoes and crack an egg in it.

Using a fork start to mix the mashed potatoes into the egg in the middle and slowly combine them. If you're making a lot, use two eggs.

After the egg is combined start to add the all-purpose flour a couple tbsps at a time, mixing it into the mixture.

As you continue to add flour, start to use your hands to knead and fold the flour into the dough. It will be very sticky at first. As soon as there's enough flour in it that it's not too sticky, and you are able to roll the dough, stop. You want to add as little flour as possible - the more flour, the more dense and chewy the pasta will be.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface into logs about 2 cm thick and 15 cm long (the length isn't important). Next cut the logs into pieces of the size you would like your gnocchi to be (around 2/3 of an inch to an inch). To get the texture of gnocchi, carefully roll the piece on the back of a fork so the lines are imprinted. Do this with all of the dough.

At this point you can either freeze your gnocchi or cook it! To cook, simply set a pot of water over medium-heat to boil. Add gnocchi pieces once it's boiling. You'll know when it's done when the gnocchi starts to float on the top of the pot!

Top with desired sauce/seasonings and enjoy :)