RSS Feed

Author Archive

  1. One Great Australian Bite!

    April 26, 2023 by ThePieMan

    Australia Day has come to a close, and my project is complete. I present to you an, “Aussie Meat Pie.” A beef, onion and black pepper puff pastry pie, in the shape of a stylised Map of Australia.

    For a long time, I’ve been wanting to do a pie like this. On Australia Day, some copper metal banding that I bought online arrived, so I soldered it together, and then hand folded it into the shape of Australia. In hindsight I probably should have shaped it first before soldering it. However, job done. It certainly took me far less time than trying to get various, “Text to Image” AI-bots to draw a photo-realistic facsimile (I spent days on it and got nowhere fast.)

    Now, this is a fiddly pie. The pastry was rolled and placed into the form and pressed carefully into the edges and put back into the freezer several times to keep it all together. I made the filling, chilled the filling, and then filled the pie. As there is no rim on the top, I have to rethink the crimping design. Pressing with a fork, whilst it did work, is not optimal, and I didn’t leave enough pastry hanging over to do a propper finger crimp.

    After a 40 minute bake, I gingerly removed the copper ring, and put it back in for another 10 minutes. I then cut Tasmania off from the mainland (but didn’t forget it, like they did in a past Commonwealth Games,😜 😜 😜 ) and used some tomato sauce to create a rough outline of Lake Eyre: Australia’s fabled, and mythical, inland sea. Did you know that Lake Eyre, at it’s deepest point is 15m below sea level? Neither did I.

    Now, here it is, my take on a real, Aussie Black Pepper Beef Pie. Now that’s one… “Great Australian Bite!”

  2. Tea Master 🤣

    January 3, 2023 by ThePieMan

    The PieMan is now a Tea Master. All jokes aside, what has been an exploration into all things “Tea” over the past 3+ years has culminated in graduation from the Dilmah School of Tea, Certified Tea Master Certificate program. Starting off with the ITA Tea Sommelier Milestone Program back in 2019, and extensively focusing on Chinese Tea, COVID pandemic management got in the way of completing the Mastery Level Program. In spite of living in China, it now looks like that program will not be operating again, any time soon. Be that as it may, it led to the development of my Tea Blog, 茶笔 Chá Bǐ – The Tea Pen.

    Looking around at what was available, Dilmah Tea, recognising the difficulties the pandemic presented in accessing tea schools, took their programs online and offered significant discounts on all their programs. This, in and of itself represents a significant benefit to the aspiring tea professional. The program is a self-paced study system, and I took just over 12 months to complete the program. You can definitely complete it in a much shorter time, however there were a few challenges that I needed to dwell on until I was more comfortable with completing certain tasks.

    The program is interesting, and mentally challenging, it is also highly unforgiving. You get one go only at the quizzes and some a sufficiently short enough that a single wrong answer can penalise you heavily.The program culminates in a practical presentation where the student needs to present, on video either a food or drink inspired by tea. My presentation can be seen here:

    Recipe Below…

    This Jasmine Green Tea Flummery contrasts the grassy astringency of the tea, against the sharp acidity of the fruit, and the sweetness of the shortbread biscuit. It blends the aromas of the fruits with the floral bouquet of the tea, and counterpoints the temperature and texture of the mousse against conventional conceptions of how tea looks and presents on the palate.” 

    Tsc Tempest, DCA. Shanghai, China. 2022.12.31


    1. Make a strong green tea:
      1. 250ml hot water
      2. 4 tea bags of Dilmah Jasmine Green Tea
      3. Steep for 5-7 min. and remove the tea bags
    2. Bloom the Gelatine:
      1. place one sheet of gold leaf gelatine in some cold water
      2. when fully hydrated, squeeze out the water and use immediately.
    3. Make Tea Jelly:
      1. combine tea, reheat if necessary, and gelatine
      2. stir until gelatine is dissolved
      3. place in refrigerator and chill for 20-25 min.
    4. Make a Dairy-free Flummery (Whipped Jelly):
      1. Remove jelly from refrigerator, it should be thick but not set
      2. beat into a foam with a whisk until light and airy
      3. pour flummery into glass cups and place aside in the refrigerator until firmly set


    1. Shortbread Biscuit Wafer:
      1. coarsely crush 70g of shortbread biscuits
      2. add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of dried passionfruit pulp (blot the pulp with kitchen towel)
      3. melt a tablespoon of coconut oil 
      4. combine oil with the biscuit mix and spread out thinly on a plate or platter
      5. cut into wafer shapes
      6. place in refrigerator to chill
    2. Kiwifruit circles:
      1. slice kiwifruit into 1-2mm thick pieces
      2. cut out small circles from the firm flesh with a smooth piping bag nozzle
      3. set aside
    3. Mango slivers:
      1. take a slice of firm sweet mango
      2. peal and cut into thin slivers
      3. set aside
    4. Passionfruit Foam:
      1. add soy lecithin (6g/l) to strained passionfruit juice
      2. blend with stick blender until foamy
      3. expedite use quickly


    1. remove flummery cups from fridge and place on saucers
    2. garnish with a shortbread wafer, kiwifruit circles,  mango slivers, and a teaspoon of passionfruit foam
    3. serve immediately.

    My Inspiration for this Creation

    I started with the simple idea of Tea with Shortbread Biscuits, and fruit. A play on Afternoon tea, if you will, using an old memory of a non-dairy flummery from my childhood. 

    Flummery, also known as whipped jelly, is an old technique which surprisingly fits well into today’s Modernist cooking techniques. It is a whipped, cold set, foam that provides a blank canvas for a modern chef’s creativity whilst retaining tangible links to a storied, 400 year old, pedigree. First mention of flummery early 1600’s First mention of Tea in the UK early 1600’s

    Flummery originated as a starch based set jelly. Over time its flavour has varied between sour, and sweet, increasingly included a dairy ingredient, and the setting agent had varied between starch, innisglass, and gelatine.  

    I was fascinated with the idea of turning a drink into a desert and initially thought of making a kind of cheesecake-like presentation. However, feedback was not very flattering so after discussions with my Mum, always infomative, I decided on a presentation using a cup, reinforcing the idea of a drink but not a drink.

    Concept is good, biscuit base needs a darker contrast, the fruit topping could use red grapes, strawberries, dark berry fruits, or passionfruit pulp rather than the passionfruit foam, for more colour. This is worth revisiting.

    Now, Modern Cooking science has expanded the range of possible setting agents for various gels, foams, mousses, and airs, expanding the potential for making both hot and cold, sweet or savoury, flummeries.

    A Flummery in the 21C, ought to be considered a class of foods made with similar whipped gel techniques, that has a history, or pedigree, that extends back in time equally as far as that of the history of Tea in Britain.

    In essence, the flummery should be, ought to be, an essential 21C Afternoon Tea element, as a class of food items, rather than a ye olde worlde simple gelatine set mousse.

    Imaging if you will: 

    • a Flummery of Tomato Consommé served on a base, or garnished with slices, of tea smoked duck confit; or
    • a vol-au-vent filled with black tea and lemon infused flummery mousse topped with strawberry liquid spheres or caviar; or
    • a smoked tea infused potato and leak (and bacon) soup with hot, piped konjac or agar agar flummery islands, infused with black cardamom chai.

    This was the basis of my final practical exam submission for the Certified Team Master certificate, and I am happy to say that I fulfilled the requirements and successfully graduated from the program.

    The PieMan is now a, Tea Master! 🤣

  3. The Art and History of Pies

    November 19, 2021 by ThePieMan

    This video interview is a fascinating discussion with Calum Franklin, “The King of Pies” and author of the book, “The Pie Room.” What fascinated me was his exploration into British Culinary Traditions and Pie Making Technique in response to the realisation that everyone in his Kitchen Gang had no idea about how to use an old pie form they had found in the cellar of their restaurant.

    Culinary tradition is an important aspect of a region’s culture and should be preserved. I have visited this issue before when exploring the background to the making of the Chiko Roll – an issue I still have not resolved to this day. It is still on my to do list. Please enjoy this video interview, it is well worth watching.

    The Art and History of Pies – Interview
    Book: The Pie Room by Calum Franklin; its available on Amazon and from all good bookstores.

  4. Announcement!

    February 24, 2021 by ThePieMan

    We at Villa Tempest are proud to announce that, the Australian, “Pie Minister” is now in residence at Villa Tempest.

    We’d like to wish the Pie Minister all the very best as he strives to establish new, global polices for all of Villa Tempest’s foreign operations and international interests.

    Although this is a daunting task we have faith that the Pie Minister will prove a resounding success in these endeavours.

    Australian “Pie Minister” at Villa Tempest

  5. The Ever Elusive “Egg Batter Dough”

    November 25, 2020 by ThePieMan

    What is a Batter? What is a Dough? And, what is an Egg Batter Dough?

    Batter and Dough seem to be mutually exclusive, a batter is liquid and pourable, whilst a dough is malleable, and usually holds its own shape. There are exceptions, such as high hydration doughs, but in essence this is the delineation.

    With this foundation, it would seem that and egg batter dough is a nonsense. Yet an egg batter dough is at the very heart of the making of Australia’s iconic snack food, the Chiko Roll.

    A batter also has two forms, a) its used in its own right inside a form or allowed to spread as a distinct product goal, and b) as a coating for deep fried foods, either alone on its own or in conjunction with some form of breading, to act as a crisp coating and barrier to oil when fried.

    It is this second use that is of interest to us, as the Chiko Roll had a thick paste-like casing that enrobes the filling and provides structural stability to the roll. In essence, this coating is a batter. Yet, its handling and shaping is clearly characteristic of a dough, more akin to that of a pie crust, yet on analysis it is clearly not a fat shortened paste. Nor is it a leavend “soda” bread or yeast dough. Finally it has none of the mouthfeel characteristics of a pasta dough.

    So what IS this Egg Batter Dough? Three Words: three different arrangements (with and without punctuation) – Egg Batter Dough; Egg-Batter Dough; and Egg Batter-Dough.

    Egg-Batter Dough: what is this? A dough that is essentially an egg batter that has been stiffened until it can be worked like a dough? Plausible!

    Egg Batter-Dough: what is this? There is no trace as far as I can find to such a culinary beast, and the two words, by themselves occupy the opposite ends of a spectrum. Then to this should we then add egg? It makes no sense.

    An Egg Batter contains, flour egg, and water or milk. The eggs are normally separated, and then folded into the rest of the ingredients. the batter may also contain added seasonings and flavourings depending on whether it is sweet or savory.

    The problem with a stiffened batter is that the additional flour and working in order to obtain a “strong” paste that can be worked, rolled, cut, and shaped to keep its form, by necessity knocks the air out of the batter that had whisked egg whites in either soft or stiff peaks, folded in.

    This project is still ongoing. It is a thorny problem, because the very classification of the pastry casing of the Chiko Roll, does not, in and of itself, make any sense.

    This truly is not rocket science, and the casing was “invented” by a boilermaker. So, it is easy to overthink the problem, or is it? It is clear that there is no such thing anywhere else in the world as an, “Egg Batter Dough” other than the pastry casing used for making Simplot’s Chiko Rolls and Corn Jacks.

  6. Introducing…

    November 27, 2019 by ThePieMan

    In last 3-4 months there have been many activities afoot at Vila Tempest. We are still based in Shanghai but have relocated to a smaller location. This has meant we’ve had to downsize Life in many ways. However, this has opened up some new possibilities to explore.

    Allow me to introduce to you some new products and services we are beginning to explore and offer.

    I-Reiki: Being a Reiki Master/Teacher since 2015, we thought it was about time to explore offering Reiki to others. You can find out more about this over at I-Reiki.

    Intentional Oils: We have begun exploring cold pressed nut and seed oils infused with Reiki Energy and Positive Intentions. This is an exciting product as we believe there is currently no other supplier of such a product anywhere in the market. To find out more visit Intentional Oils.

    Black Garlic: This is an exciting product par excellence! Our first commercially available batch is still a bit over a week away, but initial trials have been outstanding!

    Black garlic is a transformative product, a respected and desired superfood, and we can’t wait to see how it tastes in some of our new pie recipes. Who knows? You might even see it infused into some of our cold pressed nut and seed oils! So, watch this space.

  7. Technical Difficulties

    November 26, 2019 by ThePieMan

    Apologies to one and all.

    Due to Technical Difficulties our site went offline in August, but we only became cognisant of that fact just the other day and have been busy working behind the scenes to get back online.

    The Internet is becoming more and more a weird, and wild place, in which to have a presence. However, we are glad to be back up and running.

  8. The PieMan is Back!

    July 19, 2019 by ThePieMan

    Aussie pie connoisseurs rejoice! The PieMan is back! and you can find him in residence in Shanghai.

    This summer we will be exploring a whole new world of pie fillings, to bring to you the best pies on offer, to all you true pie connoisseurs, in Shanghai.

    Villa Tempest Pies are bespoke, hand made on demand, made to order pies. They offer exceptional flavour, and are the pies you choose for us to make, not what we choose to make that day and then offer to send to you.

    Unlike commercial companies, Villa Tempest is a one man show, offering a person to person, personalised service in order to bring you the best tasting pies, outside of Australia or any other pie-oriented culture, today.

    For now, relax and rejoice, because The PieMan is back!

  9. That Infamous Black Substance in KFC Original Recipe

    April 1, 2016 by ThePieMan

    One of the more intriguing contentions within the KFC O.R. test & research community as championed at The Colonel’s Kitchen Forum (last posts 2015), its mirror (currently having Server problems) in the UK, Lumpy’s Larder (now defunct), and more recently at Reddit & the KFC11 Forum is the accepted wisdom that Tahitian Vanilla is an integral component and the suggested recommendation for Vial C, shown above.

    Tahitian Vanilla, especially the Grand Crue Raiatea variety is a fine ingredient and it does indeed enhance the synergies between the various other spices BUT it has never sat comfortably with me that it was a, common ingredient in every Southern cook’s kitchen, that the ingredients to CHS’s most famous secret recipe could be found on, “…everybodys kitchen shelves at home.” 

    Given this statement, and that the argument has already been put before, why Tahitian and not Burbon Vanilla? Moreover, if not Burbon, then why not Totonacs, the true and original source of vanilla in the world?  It’s these mental rumblings that cause me pause in accepting the status quo support for this ingredient.

    Now, the argument has also been put that the selection of herbs and spices ought to be made from those that were common to the Cuisine of the, “Old South” as typically identified in books such as, “What Mrs. Fisher knows about Old Southern Cooking.” (dated 1881.)

    The problem with this book, good that it is, is that its a book written by white folk, for white folk. It, and others of similar ilk, fail to encompass the extent and variety of spices that may have been used, and their common name variants. Thus other, “Black Spices” (a reference purely to the colour of the spices only!) such as Nigella SeedBlack SessameDried LimesGorakaPassilla Chilies, etc. are all but ignored because no one can put an easy finger on their use in Southern and Latin American Cuisine, even though there is a verified history of trade in spices from north Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and Asia, as mentioned in books like “The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 7: Foodways” (Page 75) and Wikipedia.

    What compounds the issue further is that many of these spices are now seen as modern spices, with no Southern historically use, yet many historical ingredients and their uses have gone the way of the Dodo due to changes in Agricultural Industry Practices, changes in International Trade, and the effects and impacts of post-slavery migration.

    Now, I am no expert on Southern Cuisine, so I cannot put any true force to my assertions, but I can ask questions, and seek answers, from those more experienced and knowledgeable in this area, thus encouraging discourse through open dialogue.

    Recently, on the KFC11 Forum, much has been made of applying the rigors of mathematics and logic to any underlying recipe formulation.

    I Applaude this! 

    It makes rational sense to start from the basis that CHS with collaborator Eula Gordon would have started with a pinch of this a dash of that into a known quantity of flour, tested and tasted until they got that right, THEN asked the question, how many pieces can we bread with that? Moving from there to wholesale supply is a natural extention and the demands of manufacture and the economies of scale would also dictate necessary changes in the formulation. These changes would then be examined in a homogeneous mix to be tasted at the per chicken piece level, not in amounts, but in impact on taste.

    However, Great Wall – Great Fence! Near enough is good enough! especially when it comes to turning over a penny 3 or 4 times before deciding to spend it. It is said that CHS was quite pernickerty about his formulations. However, it also appears he was never the fool with money, and would not spend extra just to, Gild the Lily  – cost, feasability, simplicity, and practicality were some of CHS’s core hallmarks.

    Another area of investigation Not Looked Into is the impact on the spice trade due to growing demands by KFC spice manufacturers for good quality raw materials. This brings us back to the core of my dis-ease with “Tahitian” Vanilla as an ingredient (so sayeth The Pieman.)

    Show me the uptick in trade for this comodity against the background of increased sales in KFC and franchise expansion, and you might just win me over. 

    So, if not Vanilla then what? The three ingredients from above that stand out the most for me are:

    • Dried Limes (DIY Method over at Charlie Eats, top one, mate!)
    • Nigella Seed, and
    • Pasilla Chillies

    Why these three?

    Nigella Seeds: also known as Fennel Flower, Black Cumin, Roman Coriander, and  Black Carraway, has been described as tasting like onions, black pepper and oregano. It is a common enough pepper used in North African and continental indian dishses, and is particularly paired with poultry. Knowledge of this spice would have transported with slaves and possibly made its way into Southern Cooking… I have no specific verification for this and am still looking for evidence of its use or trade into the US and Latin America. Certainly it might be masked by common names like those listed here, or perhaps under another trade name.

    Dried Limes: also know as black limes are small limes, like Key Limes cooked in brine and then air dried until black. They are commonly used in noth African stews and chutneys. Knowledge of how to make them would have travelled with African Slaves and been applied to Key Limes. It is quite possible that this would be considered so common as to be almost without need, to be mentioned. Again, I have no hard evidence of their usage in Southern Cuisine or their ready availability as a household staple.

    Pasilla Chillies: are a Mexican Black Chilli. Others have posited that Red Pepper or Ancho Chilli (a dried chilli) is an ingredient common enough to be known to CHS as an every day staple. So I posit the qusetion if this, then why not Pasillas? I know nothing more about them, but consider them to be local enough to be on the table for consideration.

    With all of this it comes back to, What was the real flavour profile of CHS’s Original Recipe 11 Herbs and Spices Mix? Those with the experience are now passing on, the forums are grinding to a halt, are closed to new membership or have been shut down. Those that are still in the search, the new guard, are going it solo, or have no memory, recollection, experience of, or connection with the Original Recipe that has been the source of much of the efforts described in the above mentioned forums.

    At 50 years old, I hardly even remember the KFC of the 70’s – I didn’t like it then, it was grey, salty and goopy, and merely tollerate what we have today. So why am I in the Search?

    Simply for the fun of it, the mental discipline, and the application of clear, logical thought to the problem at hand… and the idea that one day, I may find a recipe that I truly like that I can pass on to my kids, so that they can genuinely claim to be the first! to state they have truly discovered the Original Recipe, with no help from anyone, anywhere… did it all on their own. 🤪🤪🤪

    This search requires an eye on ingredients, and eye on tradition, an eye on history – both recent and distant; and, an eye on commerce. That’s a lot of eyes…

    It is not enough for some Copycat Replicator Wannabe to jump up and say, “Here it is!” “I’ve found it, The Original Recipe!” “I AM THE ONE! (the only one)” … “Just gimme da prize!”

    Fuck that shit! 

    Show me the evidence of the claim, show me the research, show me the truth of it all, and not some goddammed, shuckster histrionics, and flim flamery.

    Get that shit out of my face!

    Its an insult to the dedicated, concerted, & consdered work that so many people have so far done and becomes increasing irrelevant as time ticks on.

    I am known in the forums above as, “The Pieman,” this commentary here is my personal view.

    If you don’t like it just remember…

    Who’s Cookin’ This Chook?

    That’s all from the Bait Layer today,

    Get that int’ ya! 

    (reposted from the Bait layer Blog)

  10. Australia’s Iconic Dim Sim : A Marathon Quest

    January 23, 2016 by ThePieMan

    Any search of the Internet for “Dim Sims” – an Australian Classic; will pull up no end of recipe suggestions, and lamentations from Expat Australian’s wanting to recreate a little taste of home.

    That being said, almost everything out there is wrong; with many an arm chair expert chiming in and correcting those poor Aussie Expats, telling them that what they’re searching for is, “Dim Sum,” not, “Dim Sim.” Dickheads!

    To add insult to injury, the one person (Elizabeth Chong) known to have provided an authentic recipe via a TV Interview Series – unfortunately the video is not available: a recipe said to be the basis for Melbourne’s once epic South Melbourne Market Dim Sims.

    [Addendum 04.2016 – at a guess based on what was listed above try: 500g meat, 75g prawns, 50g water chestnuts, 40g spring onion, 2 tspn light soy sauce.

    Depending on the State they come from, every Aussie Expat will have a different opinion on what constitutes a “great” Aussie Dim Sim. My search is for something, known to almost every Melbourne School Child: that is, how to make at home, Marathon-style Dim Sims – a classic Aussie staple in Supermarkets, Service Stations and every Victorian Chippie out there.

    After exhaustive searching and testing here is my current recipe (based on this ingredients list.)

    Classic Australian Marathon Dim Sims Recipe 


    130g diced Cabbage

    97g Pre-made Wrappers (flour, water)

    78g cooked Ground Beef (this should be approx. 23% of the total mix)

    2 tspn Water (approx. 21.0g)

    2 tspn Wheat flour(starch) (approx. 4.1g)

    1/4 tspn free flowing Table Salt (approx. 1.0g)

    1/2 tspn Onion Powder (approx. 0.7g)

    1/8 tspn granulated white Table Sugar (approx. 0.4g)

    1/8 tspn granulated MSG (Flavour Enhancer E621) (approx. 0.3g)

    1/8 tspn Chinese 5 Spice Powder* (0.2g)

     * According to Australian Food Standards, “All the ingredients which make up a compound ingredient must be declared in the ingredient list, except when the compound ingredient is used in amounts of less than 5% of the final food.”

    *Chinese 5 Spice is only a guess on my part as it is a compound ingredient, and at the bottom of the ingredients list is the listing, “Spices.” Note, this implies more than one spice. 5 Spice, or Mixed Spice are options, but then so too are proprietary blends. I don’t think this’ll ever be know, but this is my best guess.


    1. Combine all Ingredients into a bowl and mix well
    2. Fill a Food Processor with the mix and pulse until the mixture combines
    3. Empty Food Processor contents into a clean bowl and continue to process the rest of the ingredients
    4. Set mixture aside to rest and meld for 30-60 minutes before using
    5. Take a fresh wrapper, place it on your open, non-dominant hand and put 1-2 tablespoons of mixture in the center
    6. Fold the corners up over the mixtureso that they come together, then flute and fold the sides up s well
    7. Carefully form the Dim Sim into a rectangular parcel and stand on its end until read to steam or fry, or freeze.
    8. When ready, cook the Dim Sims in your prefered way. If deep frying ensure that the oil is maintained between 180°C and 190°C It is the heat that causes the blistering effect on the wrappers.

    Dim Sim Wrappers This is also a contentious area, so here’s my take. There is no egg listed in the ingredients list on Marathon Dim Sims, nor is there any oil! Its just flour and water, with perhaps, a little salt. Given the above recipe the combined weight should be around 97g give or take. In the above links it is mentioned that the “Original Recipe” used a custom siu mai wrapper. If you’ve looked at this kind of wrapper you can clearly see that Dim Sim wrappers are by neccessity thicker – this is the, “Custom” aspect. Dim Sim Pastry Dough Recipe Ingredients:1 cup of plain white flour (dip and shake method) 1/4 cup water (a tspn or two more if the dough is a little dry) 1/8 – 1/4 tspn free flowing table salt (optional) Method:

    1. Season the flour if using salt (optional) and mix well
    2. Add water to flour and combine until it forms a dough, add a scant more water, if neccessary, to produce a soft, non-sticky dough
    3. Cover in cling wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes
    4. Either by hand, or with a pasta press, roll the dough into a 12cm wide strip, and approx. 1-2mm thick.
    5. Cut the dough strip into 12cm squares and keep covered until ready to use
    6. Dough can be frozen in stacks if you place a square of non-stick baking paper between each dough wrapper

    So there you have it, my take on the Australian Classic Marathon Dim Sim.