RSS Feed
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Free E-Book: Chángshā Kǒuwèixiā 长沙口味虾

    April 15, 2015 by Villa Tempest

    I wrote a little booklet back in 2012 about this wonderful Chinese dish.

    Today, I just updated it, making a few corrections and changing the recipe a little to reflect an improved understanding of the process of making this dish.

    Couple of things to add though, if you have access to Louisiana Crawfish, then feel free to use that instead of the Chinese variety. If you don’t have access to either then one option is to use IKEA Kräftor, which on last check are sourced from China and are of the correct crayfish species. Another alternative is to use some other medium to large, fresh water crayfish, e.g. if you’re in Australia yabbies are a good substitute. If using Kräftor, they need to be rinsed and soaked to reduce the influence of the dill that they are packed with.

    Oh and one last thing, when adding water to hot oil, be really careful! The oil has to have had a chance to really cool down so that the temperature is around 100°C or a little lower. This is really important!

    Have fun.

    Chángshā Kǒuwèixiā

  4. Pancake Parlour’s Tabriz Crepes (Revisited)

    September 27, 2013 by ThePieMan

    Previously I wrote down my recipe for a Pancake Parlour-style Pancake Tabriz, and I must say I was very happy with it. But this update is even better!

    But after extensive searching I felt that I needed to revisit this recipe and analyse it just a little more. So instead of a traditional recipe this is going to be a bit more of a “Talk Through” of the changes and reasons for the changes.

    First off, that elusive, Tabriz Sauce. Its been the cause of much frustration for myself and for others for some time. At one end is that Sauce, in this case stew-like sauces in arabic are called Khoresh whereas Sauce in the genreal sense is refered to as Salsa. Add into this the way words are combined and you get search terms such as khoresht-e Tabrizi and Tabrizi khoresht and other odd things i don’t really understand that google translate doesn’t explain.  Tongue out

    It turns out that a lot of these khoresht sauces use a base spice mix which is then enhanced or “seasoned” to taste. This base spice mix is called, Advieh Koresht. That’s cool, I’ve got most of these spices in my pantry anyway, so then what changes to the sauce might make it a Tabriz? Well, most references seem to refer back to variations on one recipe, Koofteh Tabrizi whereas wikipedia has doesn’t have it listed as Iranian food famous to Tabriz

    Disecting this recipe we find that the broth in which the meat balls are cooked consists of: water, some onion, some savoury, tarragon, leek chives, mint, tumeric, advieh khoresht and tomato paste. As for the meatballs, they consist of: split yellow peas, ground beef, salt, ground chili peppers, onions, and the previously mentioned herbs; everything else in the recipe are fillings for the meatball centers.

    Of course all of this adds to the overall flavour and texture of the dish. But that’s not our meat sauce, really, is it. Even turning it into a stewed meatsauce isn’t on the money, there’s no wine, bacon or mushrooms in it for starters. Thus we confront the question, How true to regional flavour is Pancake Parlour’s Tabriz Sauce? Another question is, is this Tabriz Sauce an Aussie-fied recipe or something that’s had a hint of the exotic added to it and then named accordingly to make it seem even more exotic?

    I suspect the last part, a nice bit of marketing – and look how successful it’s been, people are chomping at the bit trying to find this recipe, which effectively doesn’t exist except as a standard resipe for use in Pancake Parlour.

    So, going back to my old recipe, what have we got?

    Pancakes Tabriz

     With part by part analysis


    • 100g Whole bacon or bacon rashers
    • 1/4 cup Diced Mushroom
    • 1/2 cup Diced, seeded, skinned tomatoes (optional) or
    • 1 tbsn Fine diced carrots (optional)

    One thing that can westernise, Aussiefy any recipe is to toss bacon into it. Because, everything is better with bacon, right? Another is to add carrots. Mushrooms are used in another Khoresht recipe and diced tomatoes are also not out of place but in pieces small enough but just large enough the add comfortable recognisable flavours that we know. As such these items are really not optional… well maybe the carrots.

    •  2 tspn Tarragon
    • 2 tspn Parsley
    • 1/2 Leek

    These are the herbs I guessed at, and looking at the Koofteh Tabrizi recipe are certainly not far off from being right, but I’d recoment changing them out and using the other herbs: Savoury : Tarragon : Leek Chives : Mint in a ratio of 4 : 4: 4: 1 – this ratio is important other the mint will overpower every thing.

    • 1/4 tspn Tumeric (optional)
    • 1 tspn Coarse ground back pepper
    • 1 tspn Rough crushed sea salt

    Here we can certainly spice things up a bit more to bring it a little closer to traditional Irranian Sauce spices. For authenticity I’d suggest making the Advieh Khoresht mix listed above. However the key ingredients seem to be Cardamon : Tumeric : Nutmeg, in a ratio of 4 : 2 : 1 with tumeric adjusted dishside for colour and flavour.

    • 250g Ground beef
    • 1/4 cup Diced Onion
    • 400ml Beef/Chicken Stock
    • 1/4 cup Red wine
    • 1-2 tbsn Olive oil &/or butter

     This last bit is classic French cookery and a mainstay typical Aussie meat sauces. The fancy bit being the plonk! (red wine)   😜

    So, where does that bring us to now? Tabriz Sauce as I remember it from the Pancake Parlour in Melbourne, Australia always seemd like a Burgundy sauce with aliitle bit of something else, It was salty, oh boy definietly salty I would have never called it sweet, certainly winey and a touch peppery, but no noticeable heat. 

    Let’s take our experiences and thoughts on this and bring together a new recipe One that is true to my memories and one that would do well to tantalise with Hints of the exotic, subtle, understated, and not in your face, Here I am, taste me!”

    Tabriz Sauce

    ala Pancake Parlour, Melb. Aust.

    Ingredients for Advieh Khoresht Mix

    • 1 tsp of each of the following: star anise, black cardamom, green cardamom, tumeric, corriander seeds, ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp of the following: groung black pepper, ground nutmeg

    Ingredients for Tabriz Herb Mix 

    • 1 tsp mint
    • 4 tsp of the following: Savory, Tarragon, Leeks/Chives


    1.  Remove the skin(cases) from the cardamom pods and discard, keep the seeds; combine all spice ingredients in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and reduce to a fine powder. Bottle and store in a cool dark place, ready for later use.
    2. If using fresh herbs, wash and shake off excess water, place in a blender and add a scant amount of olive oil and process into a pesto-like paste. bottle and store in the fridge ready for use.

    Ingredients for Tabirz Sauce

    • 250g ground beef
    • 100g finely diced bacon 
    • 1/2 cup diced, seeded skinned tomatoes 
    • 1/4 cup finely dices white onion
    • 1/4 cup finely diced field mushrooms
    • 400ml Beef stock
    • 1/4 cup dry Red wine
    • 1 Tbsn Tomato paste
    • 1-2 tbsn Olive Oil
    • 1-2 tsp Advieh Khoresht spice mix
    • 4-6 tsp Tabriz Herb Mix
    • ground salt and black pepper to taste 


    1. Heat olive oil on a medium heat and warm the spices on the dry pan. 
    2. When fragrant and aromatic, spread half the mix on a cold plate and place into the fridge
    3. add oil to the other half in the pan increase the heat
    4. add dice onions and sautee over medium-high heat until soft and translucent
    5. add the bacon and cook out a little
    6. add the mushrooms and the carrots
    7. drain and keep the fat and set the cooked ingredients aside
    8. add the fat back to the pan and start to brown the mince
    9. add the tomato paste to the browned beef, mix together well and caramelise for 2-3 min
    10. deglase pan with red wine and reduce to 1/3 the volume
    11. add the previously cooked ingredients and mix well
    12. add beef stock and check the flavours and seasoning, adjust to taste
    13. bring the stew to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 20 min or until the liquid has a sauce starts to thicken
    14. Check the seasoning anf lavour once more and adjust accordingly and slightly thicken with a tsp of arrowroot/tapioca starch mixed with a little water.

    And there you have my new and improved take on Pancake Parlour‘s Tabriz Sauce. That’s all from the Bait Layer today,Get that int’ ya! 

  5. Gemüserolle auf vegetarische Art – Vegetarian-style mixed vegetable roll.

    December 17, 2012 by ThePieMan

    In recent times I’ve had pretty good success with my “Piebase” [a shortcrust style pastry typically used in Australian-style handheld savoury pies) so much so that making it is no longer a chore – I enjoy the process and the results. Now, I’m experimenting with grinding my own flour. This means my piebase is morphing into a wholemeal pastry, but at present I’m still wrestling with grit that is noticeable to the tooth. If I can get this sorted, I’ll be very happy.

    Meanwhile, I was thinking about my pietops and sausage roll pastry – a puff or rough puf pastry. Now, it was mentioned to me, by a great bvaker in Tasmania, that I could take ordinary piebase and use it as the détrompé for making rough puff pastry, but like usual I forgot that little detail in the mass of many things happening at the time.

    However, today I was researching vegetarian dishes, in particular Indian and Turkish as some of the vegetarians in my German language class are vegetarian, Indian or Turkish. I came across a great website that had a listing for Puff Borek, a Turkish style vegetarian sausage roll, so to speak and reading through the recipe details reminded me of what I’d been earlier told, so… having some leftover piebase in the fridge, I pilled it out and followed the details for Puff Borek Pastry. Two turns later, some chilling and filling with an ad hoc vegetarian filling, and here’s how the pastry looked, out of the oven.

    The layered structure is clearly visible. Looking good so far, but what about the crispness, lightness, flakiness? Cutting it open and I couldn’t be more happy.

    Basically, what I did was pass the piebase through my dough sheeter until it was about 1 mm thick. I then took melted margarine and laid down a coating on a section of pastry, folded the pastry over itself and repeated the process. This produced three layers of dough with two layers of fat in between. I then butter half od the top of the dough and folded it over itself again. The edges were sealed and the pastry wrapped and placed into the fridge. Turn One Complete (6 layers of dough, 5 of fat). I repeated this process a second time (36 layers … ) and after chilling, rolled the pastry out to 3mm thick, filled it and then baked low in the oven at 250C for 25min.

    “Very Happy” with the results. Not hard to do, takes a bit of time, but in the intervals I was able to make the filling, drink tea and do other things. No Problem. This is very easy pastry making at its best. Love it!

  6. 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.


  7. 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.

  8. 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…



  9. New Digs

    January 28, 2012 by Villa Tempest

    It is sad to say that Villa Tempest will be relocating from Vietnam, but our time in Hanoi, is coming to a close.

    If you’re interested in taking up and developing the Villa Tempest Pie Concept in Hanoi, please feel free to contact us for some mutually beneficial offline discussions.

    We are happy to note though, that we have finally found a suitable new location in Poppenbüttle, Hamburg, Germany and that we are making the final arrangements neccessary to purchase the house.

    For your forward planning, last orders will be fulfilled by the end of February. If you’ve been a past customer, we thank for your patronage, and wish you well.

    Best Wishes one and all from Villa Tempest.

  10. 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.