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‘From The Kitchen’ Category

  1. Chiko Roll Revisited

    August 27, 2015 by ThePieMan

    In recent days, I’ve been redoing my recipe collection, and I’ve come to the realisation, that I have three types of recipe books: a) printed books, b) hand written notes,  notebooks and a kitchen diarie, and c) my kitchen scrapbooks – that is books for scrapbooking recipes picked up from supermarkets, snipped from magazines and news papers, and printed copies of online recipes.

     Now, in my hand written nots are my notes for the Chiko Roll. Several pages of them, and it has left me contemplating, in my dreamtime, techniques of cooking the roll. Now, in a previous post i mentioned rolling the pastry onto cannoli tubes and blind baking them, well that didn’t work so I ground to a halt again, need to cogitate.

    In the meantim, here are a few sites of interest of other peoples efforts to reproduce the roll. My main critiscism, if it could be even considered on, is that rolling the filling up like a Spring Roll and putting it in a Chiko Roll Bag, doesn’t make it a Chiko Roll – Tasty! Yes, pretty and parctical, but not the kind of near to result I’m trying to reproduce. 

    This is probably the best attempt I’ve seen so far: Homemade takeaway Holy Grail 

    This mob need to reedit their page for consistence. They list rice as an ingredient and then demonstrate in the Nutritional Info that there’s no rice in it at all, some people… Cooks Info

    The only recipe for an egg dough batter for a Chiko roll that I’ve been able to find. Except for folding the roll like a Spring Roll, this is one of the best dough efforts I’vew seen: Paul’s Cheeky Roll Recipe

    And from a Museum display case, a description of the original process.:

    “The Chiko Roll is an old-fashioned fast food which is still sold in shops today! It was first sold at the Wagga Show over 50 years ago. Wagga was the birthplace of the Chiko Roll. The inventor? A Bendigo boilermaker named Francis Gerald McEncroe. “He made his first rolls on a small hand-fed sausage machine. They were made of boned mutton (lamb), celery, cabbage, barley, rice, carrots and spices. This combination was then wrapped in a thick egg and flour dough, then fried. Both ends were hand-painted.”  (source)

    Addendum: To increase the thickness of a Spring Roll Wrapper, whilst “I” don’t advocate using them: one can brush a wrapper lightly with water then lightly dust with flour and stack the next wrapper on top. Separate the stacked sheets with wax paper and lightly weight the stack when finished and let them rest fo 20 min. or so. Alternatively, join the sheets together using a cornstarch paste.

  2. On Traditional Australian Pie Base

    October 1, 2012 by Villa Tempest

    We all know that a great pie, first and foremost must taste good. The filling should be tasty, tender, moist, not too runny and not too thick but,

    …it ain’t a pie if the pie crust just ain’t right!

    I know this. You know this. We all know this, so why is it so hard for so many businesses to get their pie crust or pie base right? (AND, why has it been so damn difficult for me to find out about it and get it right?)

    Baking is a skill, a skill that scares a lot of cooks because it’s so damn unforgiving of  the, ‘a pinch of this, a dash of that‘  approach to replicating recipes. It requires, rigour, discipline and an even tempered approach on a day to day basis. If you’re the Chef With Flair then you’re probably also, the Frustrated Baker.

    Now to add to this, there are so many references to pie and crust on the net, God love the Americans, their indelible stamp has been tramped all over the place making it hard to find any REAL information of value on this topic – pie is made with sweet shortcrust, or its a pizza, and savory pie is a pot pie which has a puff pastry top only… This is truly war of culture, through domination of the available global information on every topic.

    Be that as it may, it is finally clear to me that of the little information that is around, this is one area that bakers, commercial bakers that is, are happy to let it slide, i.e. if you haven’t done the apprenticeship, than you just dont know and if you have, well its basic knowledge that everybody, who ought to know, knows, right?

    So, here’s a basic run down of Pie Crusts, and a lead into that mysterious iconic pastry known as ‘Pie Base.’

    Pie crust is a pastry made basically with flour, fat and liquid. The difference in various types of piecrust pastry depends on the nature of the flour, the nature of the liquids, the nature of the fat, the ratios in which they are combined, AND the way in which they are combined. In Puff Pastry, the fat and flour is folded and layered, a bit like Damascus Steel, and bound with a scant bit of liquid so that when it is baked, if puffs up into a light flaky, crisp crust. In Shortcrust Pastry, the fat and flour is crumbled together like sand or gravel before being bound together with the liquids, creating a denser, textured pastry. The smaller the grains of fat and flour, the ‘shorter‘ the pastry.

    Pie Base is a short pastry. It is unlike hot water pastry and it is not like the typical shortcrust pastry known to loving grandmas the world over, either. It is made by what is referred to as the ‘Creaming Method‘ – a method that has been documented, and known to bakers, since at least the turn of the 19th Century – (p336). This method is an alternative method for making pastry, particularly in hot, arid climates.

    In essence this method has part of the flour and all of the fat creamed together first with the water until ‘clear‘ and then the final pastry dough is adjusted with the remaining flour, usually by the experienced touch of a skilled Baker. Understand this well, instead of the flour and fat ratios being fixed and the water ratio being variable, here the fat and water ratios are fixed and the flour ratio is varied until the desired result is achieved.

    Now, what does ‘clear’ mean? That is hard to explain in words and is something better shown. To get a close idea about this I recommend you look up a few Youtube Videos on a French technique for kneading wet doughs, currently known as the so called “Bertinet Method.’

    Here is a method I gave to a friend of mine in New South Wales, after being having my eye opened and being properly educated by a couple of great bakers on the Apple Isle.


    Do give it a try and see how this works for you. For me, this marks the end of a long, long search for the Secret to Traditional Australian (Commercial) Pie Base, and the begining of a, hopefully, even longer time of playing with the technique.


  3. Rice Cooker Kidney Bean & Lamb Stew

    June 1, 2012 by Villa Tempest

    Was in the kitchen today, looking at the fridge and the dramatically reduced kitchen cookware at my disposal. I had this lamb that needed to be cooked, or I’d risk loosing it. So, I thought, “stew!” But I only had one, large pot,an elecric table top bbq griddle plate and a rice cooker. “Sweet!” Use the rice cooker as a stew pot, perfect. The recipe is basically a knock it together idea using what was on the shelf, but it turned out super.

    This recipe uses a simple rice cooker as the main cooking pot.


    4 lamb chops on the bone

    1 tin red kidney beans

    ½ red onion

    ½ leak

    6 dry shitake mushrooms

    2 large cloves garlic

    1 tsp Desert Flakes

    1 tsp Savory (or Rosemary)

    ½ tsp crushed black pepper

    1 tsp fish sauce

    1 tsp soy sauce

    1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

    2-3 cups hot water

    1 cup dry wine



    1. Wash the lamb chops and pat dry with paper towel
    2. Brown the chops well on both sides. You are not cooking them here, just aiming for a good crust
    3. Slice the red onion and fry

    4. Shred leak, and garlic and place into the rice cooker pan

    5. Rehydrate the shitake mushrooms in one cup of hot water, remove from the water, add the water to the rice cooker pan, shred the mushrooms and also add to the pan

    6. Open the tin of kidney beans and add the entire contents to the rice cooker pan
    7. Add the wine, seasoning and sauces to the rice cooker pan and mix everything well

    8. Place two chops into the rice cooker pan cover with some fried onions and then the next two chops and the rest of the onions, top up with hot water to cover the chops


    9. Place the pan into the rice cooker and switch the cooker onto “High”

    10. Bring the cooker to a boil and…


    …switch the cooker to “Warm” then, every 15 to 20 minutes switch the cooker back to “High” and bring to the boil again, switch back to “Warm” and repeat until the meat is done; OR after bringing to the boil, switch the cooker to “Warm” and leave unopened for 1 hour, open check adjust, bring back to boil then set to “Warm” for 30 min to 1 hour or until hunger takes over

    11. When the meat is starting to fall from the bone, remove the chops and rest them for 5 min. De-bone meat and coarsely dice then add back to the pot until ready to serve. Serve with warm crusty bread, or rice, or mashed potatoes and a malty beer


    …and there you have my take on a Rice Cooker Kidney Bean and Lamb Stew.





    The wife said this was the best stew she’d ever eaten. It certainly was tasty.

  4. Following Instructions

    May 23, 2012 by Villa Tempest

    The other day I had a rather unremarkable start, to an otherwise challenging day.

    No mater what I did, I just couldn’t seem to get anything right.

    Perhaps you can see where I made my mistake…

    The Instructions said,

    …in a large pan, reduce one bottle of white wine, with a few coarsely chopped mushrooms, half an onion, two garlic cloves, and a sprig of fresh basil…

    Which I did.

    I put all the ingredients in a large pan,

    ….. switched on the heat;

    ………. the fresh ingredients burned, and

    …………… the bottle exploded!


    Terror in the Kitchen!


    I still don’t know quite what went wrong…



  5. A Simple System of Pie Identification

    October 31, 2011 by Villa Tempest

    Here at Villa Tempest, we have explored various methods of identifying what pies are what once they’ve been baked. this is what we’ve settled on.

    To help keep track of our different types of pies, we use a simple, vent hole identification system:

    A slit for beef…

    An oval hole for Chicken…

    Fork holes for Vegetarian…

    Of course, while putting up pics of our tasty treats, here’s our ever popular,

    made with our traditional, Australian-style, homemade savoury sausage filling.

    If you’d like to place an order, feel free to contact us via email.

  6. What’s News: Dough Sheeter, Pastry Roller

    October 17, 2011 by Villa Tempest

    One: Recently, after a long term of searching, designing, and being told, “No! Can’t be done in Hanoi” we finally took ownership of a manual dough sheeter (Máy cán bột). Having first sighted such an item in the kitchen of Cafe CCCP, we managed to track down and eventually find not only a supplier who knew what we wanted, but was also willing to have it made within a week. No Problem! And they delivered. Here’s what it looks like:

    This device was sourced from Nguyen Khuyen Str., and is hand cranked. The roller gap is adjusted by two screws mounted forward of the rollers. Underneath the rollers are two spring loaded pans that are there to stop the pastry rolling around the rollers, but the current mounting system also tends to catch stick pastry from time to time. The stainless steel catch pan was installed by my favorite sheet metal worker in Hang Thiec Str. With this now in the bakery, We plan to use it for making puff pastry and for finishing pastry shells to the correct, set thickness.

    …And that’s the latest news from Villa Tempest.

  7. Free Range Chickens & Eggs

    July 8, 2011 by ThePieMan

    One of the core philosophies guiding the selection of ingredients in the Villa Tempest Kitchen is the choice to use the best possible products available at the time. For example through the “Friends” network we have acquired Kampot Black Peppercorns and Kampot White Peppercorns so that we can grind fresh spice when needed.

    We use Vietnamese Sea Salt because of it’s outstanding savoury flavour. When the need arises we use Tahitian Vanilla Beans as a flavouring and flavour-melding agent,  we use Rau hữu cơ Thanh Xuân Organic Vegetables, and our meat, supplied by Hanoi Small Goods, is usually Halal certified, Australian Beef and Lamb.

    In line with this philosophy to use the best quality ingredients we are proud to announce that we are now purposely selecting our chickens & eggs from Naturally Vietnam. These are wonderful products. They are Free Range birds and are produced according to Fair Trade Principles and are traceable back to the producer.

    Here are a couple of flyers about these new products being used in our kitchen.

  8. Pancake Parlour-style Pancakes Tabriz

    July 4, 2011 by ThePieMan

    A long time ago, I used to live in the suburbs of Melbourne. Each time I or my family travelled to the countryside by train, we would stop in at The Pancake Parlour. I used to love the olde worlde feel of the place, it’s decoration, the giant chess peaces and boards, it was like being in an Alice in Wonderland theme park. 

    My all time favorite dish was their Pancake Tabriz. The menu described it as, “Ground beef cooked in red wine with herbs, bacon, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and other delights.” 

    To me, it was kinda exotic sounding, and was always flavourful, if somewhat salty from time to time. Since those times, I try to take my son there whenever we go back to Australia for a visit. I still order the Tabriz, it still has the same salt issues, but I love it. However, childhood memories, as dear as they are to me, still taunt me with an unattainable past. 

    I make my own crepes now, and occasionally take a tilt at the Tabriz Sauce, which is at it’s core, a Boeuf Bourguignon with tomatoes, made with ground beef. But there are also some specific herbs and aromatics that make this sauce a Tabriz and not a Bourguignon. These are: tarragon, dill, parsley, tumeric, and leeks.

    This recipe is another “pinch and dash” recipe, one of those that you can play with endlessly.

    Pancakes Tabriz


    • 250g Ground beef
    • 100g Whole bacon or bacon rashers
    • 1/4 cup Diced Onion
    • 1/4 cup Diced Mushroom
    • 1/2 cup Diced, seeded, skinned tomatoes (optional) or
    • 1 tbsn Fine diced carrots (optional)
    •  2 tspn Tarragon
    • 2 tspn Parsley
    • 1/2 Leek
    • 1/4 tspn Tumeric (optional)
    • 1 tspn Coarse ground back pepper
    • 1 tspn Rough crushed sea salt
    • 400ml Beef/Chicken Stock
    • 1/4 cup Red wine
    • 1-2 tbsn Olive oil &/or butter


    1. Cut bacon into batons (or rashers into coarse dice) and sweat off in a dry nonstick pan until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, set aside and retain the fat.
    2. Sweat the onions and mushrooms (and carrots) in the bacon fat. Tip off into a stewing pot, add stock and boquet garni bag made of leek, parsley & tarragon.
    3. Brown the beef in the pan with some extra fat, add the pepper and tumeric (optional) and mix well. Deglaze the pan with wine, drop the heat to a simmer and reduce by half.
    4. Add meat mixture to the stewing pot and bring to boil. Finely dice/shred the bacon and add to the stew pot. Simmer uncovered for 20 min. Or until the liquid becomes the consistency of a thin sauce.adjust the seasoning with salt and, if necessary, thicken slightly with cornflour.

    Take two freshly cooked pancakes (crepes) add some of the Tabriz Sauce to the center, roll (or fold over) and top with more sauce. Garnish and serve, with a fresh garden salad if you like.

    And there you have my, “Pancakes Tabriz.”

    That’s all from the Bait Layer today,

    Get that int’ ya! 

  9. Happenings in the Kitchen

    July 4, 2011 by ThePieMan

    Well, I guess it’s well past time for an update of what’s actually been going on in the kitchen.


    That’s right. No sadder or truer statement can possibly be made. Reasons. I could give you dozens. In essence: I’ve been sick; I’ve lost several batches of fresh produce and meat through power outages caused by faulty supply equipment; and, my pie press is still no closer to being completed, after eight frustrating weeks. Between that, getting frustrated, angry and depressed over the situation, the family traveling back to Germany for the Summer Break, and a very sick cat, I’ve let it all get away from me and grossly out of hand.

    If you have placed an order with me, please accept my sincerest apology for not having fulfilled that order. I will make amends and get this sorted.

    Current state of the kitchen? We have the house kitchen, and the pastry space is starting to come along: industrial deck oven with granite slab; marble top benches; a two burner station that still needs connection to gas; temperature controlled water oven; two large sinks but no plumbing as yet; some electrical work that still needs to be done; two freezers; one fridge; another cooling cabinet/refrigerator is desperately needed; Pie Press is partially complete; Dough Sheeter is partially complete; Kitchen Mixer needs to be replaced with a dedicated Mincer and Stand Mixer; need some pallets made up to hold the pi tins as they go into the oven because the sheet pans buckle and warp – providing uneven heating of pies being cooked.

    Our ordering system, based on an the Handshake App for Apple IPad, worked nicely but the IPad has somehow been trashed. None of us have any idea how this might have  occurred. All orders thankfully are being stored in Handshake’s Cloud so past business data has not been lost. And all of this to be done on a shoestring budget largely funded by the orders you place.

    All is not lost, just ever so slowly moving forward, but forward we still move. I will be using this summer break to try and bring order to all of this chaos, with the firm target of having proper systems in place that WILL ALLOW for people to place an order, a week in advance. For pickup and delivery, I will continue to maintain a stall at the Weekend Market , as a kind of once a week shopfront.

    In the meantime, if you’d like to place an order, or refresh/change an existing order please feel free to contact me and I will give you a realistic and personal assurance of production and delivery.

    The Pieman.

  10. Deconstructing Australia’s Chiko Roll

    June 30, 2011 by Villa Tempest

    Today marks a milestone in my ongoing 3 year odyssey, pursuing that classic Aussie food icon, the Chiko Roll.

    Ever since I was a small boy, buying my lunch from Jimmy’s Fish and Chip shop, across the road from Reservoir North East Primary School, in the mid-70’s, I’ve been in love with this snack. 

    That, four’n twenty export piesbeef croquettes, and the cornjack were some of my most favorite fast food items. Later I was to add the Spinach and Ricotta Burger, which pretty much became for me a breakfast staple at one time.

    Today is a milestone for a number of reasons. Mostly, because I think I’ve finally cracked the “True” mystery of the Aussie Chiko Roll. Now, I’m not the first to have sought an answer to this question, many have, but most fail, much like Fast Eddie’s Mystery Roll which is more Spring Roll than Chiko Roll, hell it doesn’t even attempt to remotely look the same.

    To give an idea of how wide of the mark, some people and “Celebrity Chef’s” are on this divine culinary masterstroke, you just have to watch an episode of Masterchef Australia, Season 3. Ok, so it’s a “re-invention” of an old classic, but??? Beef steak? No mutton? Potato, are you serious? No pastry? 

    Now, believe it or not, this actually bugs me, big time, because such ill considered attempts dressed up in all it’s finery, pomp and TV Magic have been a distracting and unfruitful divergence from the true goal, identifying what is the true mystery of the Chiko Roll. However, to be fair at least two of the recipes might prove useful, in retrospect.

    Believe me, the True Mystery of the Chiko Roll is NOT the filling.

    After so long, banging my head against the wall, I’ve realized that the true mystery lies in the pastry casing. It is such a significant mystery the few, if anybody, actually tackle it directly. Why is that? Because its an egg dough pastry, and pastry scares people, and the process of making it is not so easy to reproduce in a short time in the home kitchen.

    So, what is a Chiko Roll and how do you make it?

    After much research, searching and scrabbling around for tidbits of information from the Net, and from product packaging, a Chiko Roll is, in essence: 

    a deep fried, bread-based cannelloni with a mutton & cabbage stew filling.

    It consists of – “consists of beef, celery, cabbage, barley, carrot, onion, green beans, and spices filled into a tube of wheat flour pastry which is then deep-fried.” (Wikipedia)

    Legend has it that, creator, Frank McEncroe was inspired by the Chinese Spring roll and made his on, using a variation on Chop Suey, using mutton instead of beef, ala Chinese Mutton Stew. Looking over the Ingredient List of today’s Chiko Roll, the evidence is sufficiently compelling to say that the filling is a Chinese inspired mutton stew with celery, beans and carrots, plus some pearl barley to bulk it out. – barley was a common addition to Lamb Stew in Australian-British cooking. The spices could have ginger and/or curry powder, but not garlic, and chicken stock was most likely used to soften/lighten the stew. For use a s a filling, the stew would have been lightly thickened with plain flour.

    So, there you have it, the filling is not that great a mystery.

    As I said before, the true mystery here is the wheat flour pastry casing. From various sources this pastry casing has been described as an egg batter dough casing which is first cooked and then deep fried, as part of an industrial process…

    Have you ever tried to make an egg batter dough, form it into tubes, fill them and then cook them? I have. It’s not easy at all, and this very fact, a question of technique, had been bothering me and stumping me for a long time.

    Thus, how to do this at home? It’s taken me a while to realize, that what needs to be done, is to first make a firm egg batter dough, roll it out to around 2-3 mm thick, and then case the dough around lightly oiled, metal, cannelloni forms. These then go into a hot oven to be blind baked until just firm and are then either chilled or allowed to cool before filling with  mutton stew mix. 

    What this does, is allow for the casings to be handled comfortably and filled properly. After filling the ends need to be capped with either an egg and breadcrumb mix or raw egg batter dough disks, before the preliminary ‘blanch’ frying of the rolls, which can then be drained off, packaged and frozen, ready for use as required.

    My “Ah Ha!” moment was finally realizing that the shells needed to be blind baked first.

    This does not solve the mystery of the casing though, just only one technical aspect. What it does do though is allow us to consider candidate recipes for the egg batter dough.

    Egg batter dough, egg batter dough… wtf is ‘egg batter dough?’

     Searching around doesn’t help that much if the search is aimless. We need to consider what culinary influences Mr. McEnroe might have had, especially since he was a boilermaker, in central Victoria, Australia, growing up in the early part of last century. This means, mostly, Australian style British Cuisine, with European/Mediterranean migrant influences. 

    Why is this important? Many of the recipes around the Web, especially pastry/dough recipes are either American or French influenced. Useful, interesting, but not exactly what I’m looking for. However they do allow for introspection and for consideration of cross-influenced cuisine. I believe the most likely source for a recipe for Mr. McEnroe’s pastry is to be found in a savory twist on the making of Italian Cannoli.

    And so we go round, and round, and round. Thickness, consistency, texture profile, pre and post cooking treatments. A reinvention of the wheel… I move a step forward.

    Next time? Recipes and some pictures.