And so the festive season of eating too much begins…

Roast turkey, meat pie, oven-baked salmon, bread rolls, salad, chocolate cake, tiramisu. That was my lunch this weekend gone by and the start of some serious (over)eating.

My friends and I decided to do a shared lunch and Secret Santa. I was tasked with a main and dessert, both of which turned out pretty well. For the main, I made Guinness steak and mushroom pie and for dessert, tiramisu.

I’ve come to realise that pie takes a heck of a long time to make – much longer than it would take you to drive down to the local pub and order one there, and it would taste about the same too. However, I’m glad I made the effort this time because it turned out delicious. It’s based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for a boozy Guinness steak and cheese pie but I did my own thing with it by adding shiitake mushrooms.

Guinness steak and mushroom pie
Serves 6

1 red onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
About 10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water overnight and cut into thin strips. Keep the water that the mushrooms have been in to top up the stew.
600g stewing beef
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
A couple of sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
300ml Guinness
200ml beef stock
2 heaped tablespoons of flour
Puff pastry (I used store bought because I am terrible at making pastry)
One egg, beaten

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Heat olive oil over low heat in saucepan and gently fry the onions for about 10 minutes. Don’t let them color too much.
  2. Turn the heat up and add carrots and garlic. Mix it together before adding mushrooms. Stir together and add beef, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.
  3. Fry for 3-4 minutes and then add Guinness and stock. Stir in the flour and then top with the water saved from soaking the mushrooms.
  4. Bring to a simmer and then pour into an ovenproof dish. Cover with tin foil and place in oven for about 90 minutes.
  5. After 90 mins or so, remove from oven and stir. At this point I added more salt and pepper to taste because it tasted quite bland – it may pay to do the same but always check first!
  6. Place back in the oven for another hour or so the beef is tender and stew is thick.

For the pastry lid I took out a sheet of pastry, laid it over the top of the stew, folded the sides down to make a bit of a crust, sliced the top with a sharp knife, brushed it with the egg and popped it back in the oven for about half an hour.

When I was looking for a tiramisu recipe, I quickly came to the realisation that most recipes for the fluffy Italian dessert use raw egg. Considering I didn’t want to unwittingly give my friends food poisoning, I looked semi-hard for a recipe that doesn’t use raw egg. I trawled through some Google results and found one using cooked egg yolks. You can find the recipe here: and trust me, you will love it. I had heaps leftover after lunch and I found the tiramisu actually tastes even better once it’s been in the fridge for a day. Not sure whether that’s because I wasn’t so stuffed when I ate it a day later or if it’s actually legitimately better.

I’ve been tasked with making Christmas lunch on the actual day again this year. So far, I have a crayfish. More ideas?

Christmas lunch feast with friends. Photo: Tao Lin

Christmas lunch feast with friends. Photo: Tao Lin



New goal: Conquer pizza dough


That’s what the yeast was when I went to make my pizza dough. To be truthful, it was way past its best-by date by about a year. The last time I used it was the last time I made pizza, which was apparently so long ago that no one actually remembers it.

Boyfriend: “This is the first time you’ve made pizza eh?”

Me: “No, I’ve made it before and you liked it.”

Boyfriend: “Really??”

Mum: “This is the first time you’ve made pizza isn’t it?”

Me: “No, I’ve made it before and you liked it.”

Mum: “No, I don’t remember…”

Despite other people’s lack of memory, I do remember making pizza for the first time and one of the things I remember about it was making the pizza sauce, which I made out of tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, herbs, onions and seasoning, cooked for quite a long time (1-2 hours). It felt like it took forever but it tasted really good as a result.

I was running short of time this time around so I thought I’d cheat and just use ready-made pizza sauce. I got home, opened it up and tasted it – way too sour! So I scooped it out onto a frying pan, cooked it with some oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and celery for about an hour. Everyone commented on how delicious the kitchen smelt, reinforcing my stubborn insistence on cooking as many things from scratch as I possibly can.

What has completely evaded me though, both last time and this most recent time, is good pizza dough. I don’t have a pizza oven, or own a pizza stone, or have that special 00 flour that a lot of pizza dough recipes recommend. The first time I made pizza, the base was really crispy and hard, which I didn’t actually mind so much, but it made for some serious jaw work. I also have trouble stretching out the dough because it rips, which indicates to me that it’s perhaps not glutinous enough.

The type of base I’d really love to replicate is the chewy, Neopolitan style base. My expectations are zero though, considering my lack of tools in my pizza-making toolbox. That’s until I at least get a good quality pizza stone and some more pizza-making experience.

This time, I followed some suggestions here and set my oven grill on and placed the pizza right under that. I wasn’t initially going to use the frying pan after the pizza had gone into the oven but the dough was undercooked when the pizza came out so I ended up delicately shoving it onto the skillet anyway.

The result? The base wasn’t the consistency I wanted it to be (it came out more like crackers to me! And yes, I did buy new yeast, which worked fine) but everything else tasted really good according to the boyfriend and parents. Considering the base can make or break the pizza, I have a lot of work to do and mastering a decent Neopolitan-style pizza dough is now one of my definite cooking goals.

I have to say though, I’d still much rather make and eat my own homemade pizza with crappy base than go out and buy one from Pizza Hut, Domino’s or Hell Pizza.

Now, I have two things on my Christmas wish-list: new ballroom shoes and a pizza stone 😉

Photo: Tao Lin

Steak pizza with capsicum, mushrooms and onion. Photo: Tao Lin