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Chicken, Mushroom & Leek Pie

July 15, 2015
“Brrrr ….. We’re right into the thick of winter and it seems so much colder this year!  So when I think of winter, one of the dishes that springs to mind is a good, wholesome pie. I am really fussy with my pies and homemade ones by far outweigh store-bought. It’s often a good way to use up leftovers or whatever you have in the fridge.
So, I had some beautiful large leeks, button mushrooms, potatoes and some fresh chicken thigh fillets that I had just bought. On the cheese front, I had picked up some Scarmoza from Paesanella in Marrickville (Sydney) a short while ago. If you haven’t tried this, you must. It’s lightly smoky and provides a wonderful stringy, stretchy texture when melted. Then, all you need is salt, pepper and some milk.
A good pie must have a good pastry. I’ve given you a recipe to make a rough puff pastry. To get the beautiful layers that a puff pastry must have, you MUST have patience with this – don’t rush it. Start early, so, by the time dinner comes, it’ll be nicely laminated and ready to puff! Then again, if you don’t have much time, grab a good quality store-bought puff pastry. I always have this stocked in my freezer.
Chicken, Mushroom & Leek Pie
500 g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed off excess fats, diced
2 cups diced leek (about 1 large leek)
4 cloves garlic, crushed, skin discarded, finely chopped
2 cups diced button mushroom
1 1/2 cups diced peeled potato (about 1 large potato), boiled till just tender
sea salt
black pepper
3/4 cup full cream milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons plain flour
20 g unsalted butter, small cubes
olive oil
cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, gruyere…)
rough puff pastry
250 g plain flour
pinch of salt
250 g unsalted butter, cold, cubed
about 1/2 cup  cold water
1 egg for eggwash
To make the rough puff, mix the flour and salt together and tip onto a clean cold surface along with the diced butter. Using two pastry cutters, chop the butter into the flour until it’s reasonably well mixed through. Don’t worry if there are some lumpy bits of butter. Drizzle over the cold water, and mix to form a dough. Avoid kneading this too much as we don’t want to blend the butter through the dough.
Now to laminate the pastry. Roll the dough into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface, then from the longest end, fold into thirds. Make a quarter turn and roll out again, repeating the above step two more times. Wrap with cling film and rest in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes. Repeat this process 5-6 times dusting lightly with flour in between.
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To cook the filling, in a large saucepan over medium high heat, fry the leek and garlic in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until slightly softened. Add the diced chicken and brown  all over. Season with lots of cracked black pepper. Add the mushrooms and potato and toss to combine. Pour in the milk and water. Mix gently. Season with salt to taste. sprinkle over the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and mix through. Add the butter and mix through.
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Preheat your oven to 200C degrees.
Roll out your pastry to about 3mm thick.
Run some butter around the top of each ramekin. Fill each with enough filling to about a cm from the top. Sprinkle over your favourite cheese. I had Scarmoza, a smoked mozzarella in the fridge which works incredibly well. Using the right sized cookie cutter, cut out a disc of dough to cover each ramekin. Use a chopstick to poke a hole in the middle and brush lightly with egg wash.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden and crisp.
Serve immediately.
Note: Make sure all your ingredients are diced to a similar size, about 1 cm x 1cm.
Happy baking! ~ Audra”

Chocolate Easter Egg Piñata Cake

April 3, 2015


Easter seems to be the perfect time for family gatherings. Brief trips away are the way to go whether it’d be hardcore camping out in the bush or a comfortable bungalow somewhere serene. For me, in and amongst day trips out to the Bells of Line Road to pick apples and chestnuts, I just love pottering around home and doing lots of baking.

So, what am I baking this Easter? My friend Kylie introduced me to the world of piñata cakes! I wanted to make something fun and special for the kids this Easter so I thought I’d try my luck at it. I decided to combine Easter, a chocolate egg hunt, a glorious rich moist chocolate cake and a mean spread of hundreds and thousands to tie it all together. This is, in my book, a novelty cake that will impress the best of the best and it’s so easy to put together, not to mention, very forgiving. I might warn you however that it can get a little messy and there will be hundreds and thousands all over your house for a long time to come. But it’s well worth it!

To start, bake your favourite chocolate cake. I love Ina Garten’s chocolate cake recipe and have adapted it based on what I had in the fridge. My version is a lot less sweet and incredibly moist. I’ve also used 2 x 15cm round cake tins as I wanted to create a tall structure for the effect of lollies and eggs cascading out when the first wedge of cake is cut out.

Here is my adaption of Ina’s chocolate cake:

1 3/4 cups (260gm) plain flour, sifted

1 1/2 cups (300gm) caster sugar

3/4 cup (60gm) good quality cocoa powder 

2 level teaspoons baking soda

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (140gm) Greek yoghurt

1/2 cup (140gm) sour cream

1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (250ml) freshly brewed coffee

You can use a cake mixer but I find it just as easy to work it by hand. Here’s the how to:

Preheat your oven to 175°C degrees. Lightly grease the 2 cake tins, line with greaseproof paper, lightly grease again and dust with flour.

In a mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, sour cream, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Pour in the coffee, lightly fold until just combined. Please don’t over mix or you’ll get a tough rubbery cake.

Pour the batter equally into each cake tin and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven, set aside for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

To piece it together, you will need about:

  • 3 small bags of chocolate/lollies. I’ve used a mix of mini M&Ms, large peanut M&Ms (replace if you have nut allergies) and mini chocolate eggs. The idea is to mix it up with lots of bright colours and different sizes.
  • ganache – 150gm-200gm dark chocolate couveture (or eating chocolate) + 50gm unsalted butter + 30ml water. Place all ingredients in a heatproof mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water, leave to melt, then stir until smooth and glossy.
  • 1 packet of hundreds and thousands
  • raspberry jam

The construction begins:

Using a sharp knife, cut out a cylinder shape piece from the middle section of each cake. Slice a 2cm thick piece from one cylinder and set aside. Then slice each cake into 2 halves creating 4  layers. Alternatively you can slice up the layers first, then cut out a hole in the middle or each layer leaving the top layer intact.

Place the first layer of cake onto a cake stand. Smear with raspberry jam, top with a second layer, smear with jam and continue until all four layers are stacked on top of each other. Fill the hole with your chocolate mix, packing it in to the top leaving a gap and cover with the 2cm cylinder piece of cake. If your final layer is not cut out, fill the hole then simply place this layer to cover.

Pour on the ganache generously and spread with a spatula to cover the entire cake. See Note: remove the slips of greaseproof paper from under the edges of the cake and discard.

Now the fun begins, I suggest you do this in the garden for minimal mess. Carefully but forcefully, throw small handfuls of hundreds and thousands up against the side and the top of the cake until it is entirely covered. If you have a better way of doing this, I’d love to hear about it!

The unveiling of this cake must come with a big introduction, so make sure everyone is gathered   around and you build a little bit of suspense before cutting out that first impressive wedge! Happy Easter everyone!

Note: to keep it a little clean and tidy, cut out 6cm wide strips of greaseproof paper and slip them under the edges of the cake. This will catch all the excess ganache drippings. Once the ganache has been applied, simply pull out the slips and discard.

For the full video, go to the Tasty Conversations Facebook page.


1. Frangipane tart

January 20, 2015

This is a delicious tart and one that everyone should learn to make. Use good quality vanilla extract and the yummiest fruit for the best results. There are a number of fruits that work really well with a frangipane, pear, figs, dark sweet plums just to name a few. The wonderful thing about this tart is you can bake it with the fruit or add the fruit after baking. In addition, add chocolate to the frangipane mix to create another dessert altogether. It is by far, “truly”, my favourite tart!

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2. Laksa

January 19, 2015

Give me a bowl of laksa anytime and I’m happy. One of the greatest dishes ever created in Asia and presumably one that will continue to melt the hearts of many like me! I was one of the lucky ones, to have eaten so many different versions of laksa from a really young age, might I also add, for breakfast mostly! I love my laksa rich and spicy! Master the technique of separating the oil from the coconut milk and you’re there! All I can say is, thank you thank you thank you for the clever people who came up with this dish!

Serves 4
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3. Nonya chicken curry

January 18, 2015

Ask me what my favourite curry is and this would have to be it! I love Nonya cuisine. The use of aromats create such complex and delicious flavours like no other cuisine. Thank goodness for those intermarriages in the early 17th century between the Malays and Chinese bringing the best of both cuisines together.

Serves 4
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4. Cinnamon Spiced Apple & Candied Walnut Bundt Cake

January 17, 2015

Apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves…..are a fabulous combination. Top this with a walnut praline and you will be guaranteed to be transported to a very happy place! This is a version of my mom’s apple cake and it’s truly my type of cake. Unfortunately, I could probably bake this and devour the entire cake before anyone even notices. This cake is made with oil instead of butter so stays incredibly moist. It’s the sort of cake that is perfect for winter when apples are in season and the oil keeps the cake soft and moist. There is nothing better than a spiced apple cake with a strong cup of Orange Pekoe tea to satisfy any craving!

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8. How to season your wok

January 13, 2015
  • Wash your wok in warm and lightly soapy water and dry with a tea towel.
  • Soak a small piece of kitchen paper with neutral flavoured oil (vegetable, canola or rice bran) and wipe it all over the wok.
  • Use a clean piece of kitchen paper and wipe down the wok removing all excess oil and leaving just a film of oil covering the wok.
  • Place the wok over medium heat and burn for 15-20 minutes until the bottom of the wok blackens.
  • Your wok is now ready to use.
  • You many need to repeat this periodically when food starts to stick while cooking.