All hail Sally Wise’s chicken stroganoff double-crust pie

All hail Sally Wise’s chicken stroganoff double-crust pie

It’s become cold in Sydney all of a sudden. Well, I guess it is almost June, but having had nothing of a summer, it’s confronting to be suddenly faced with winter. I wish, wish, wish the rain would stop and give us all a chance to dry out a bit. Winter isn’t exactly known for being ‘not damp’ where I live, but at least we’d stand a chance?

Time to chop the wood for fires and drag out the door snakes to stop the drafts from rattling through our home. It’s nice to be perched on top of a hill in summer, not so much in winter. At least the open fire keeps things warm and a bit drier. We have central heating, but I’m not a big fan. It’s been saving us from being over run with mould these past few months, but it’s not the best for atmosphere. You can’t beat a fireplace for that.

To really get us into the wintry spirit, this weekend I’m planning on baking this chicken stroganoff double-crust pie from Sally Wise’s The Comfort Bake. It’s a beautiful pie from beautiful book by a beautiful cook. I basically want to make every single recipe inside – so much good stuff. The book’s byline is “food that warms the heart” and just leafing through it is enough to make you feel calm and cared for.

Other recipes I have my eye on (besides this yummy chicken stroganoff pie):

  • Apricot and blueberry tray bake
  • Creamy potato bake
  • Ultimate sausage rolls
  • Spiced ginger cookie sandwiches
  • Honey and caramel topsy turvy pear cake

Yes please to all of the above!

But let’s get on with the chicken stroganoff pie first. That ‘double crust’ has got me intrigued and more than a little excited – more pastry!

Chicken stroganoff double-crust pie

Chicken stroganoff double-crust pie from Sally Wise

From The Comfort Bake by Sally Wise

In this warming winter dish, a luxurious creamy mushroom sauce blends with oven-baked chicken. Baking the chicken first seals in its juices and enhances the flavour.

Makes 6–8

For the pastry
250 g  plain flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
125 g cold salted butter

1 egg yolk whisked with 20 ml water, for glaze

For the filling
20 ml extra virgin olive oil
10 g (¼ oz) salted butter
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon mustard powder
500 g skinless chicken breast fillet
300 g mushrooms, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) slices
1 small onion, diced
1 leek, white part only, cut into 8 mm (3/8 inch) slices
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
300 ml chicken stock
3 teaspoons cornflour mixed to a paste with 30 ml cold water
125 ml (4 fl oz) pouring cream, whisked together with
1 egg yolk
3 teaspoons lemon juice
sea salt, to taste

To make the pastry
Place the dry ingredients and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, this can be achieved by rubbing the ingredients together with your fingers.)

Transfer to a large bowl, make a well in the centre and drizzle in enough cold water – around 125 ml (4 fl oz) – to make a soft dough. Don’t add more water than is necessary or it will become too wet.

Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up before using.

To make the filling
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Heat the oil and butter in an 18 x 28 cm (7 x 11¼ inch) flameproof baking dish, 5 cm (2 inches) deep, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the salt, paprika, thyme and mustard powder in a small bowl, then rub all over the chicken breast. Add the chicken to the hot dish and bake for 5 minutes, then turn and bake for 5 minutes more, or until just cooked through. Remove from the oven, cut the chicken into 1 cm (½ inch) pieces and set aside to cool.

Add the mushrooms, onion, leek, garlic and chopped thyme to the dish and stir to coat with the chicken juices. Heat over medium heat and sauté until the onion is soft, around 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Thicken with the cornflour paste, boiling for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream mixture and the lemon juice, then add the chicken pieces. Add sea salt, to taste, and set aside to cool.

To assemble for baking
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a 20 cm (8 inch) round pie dish, 6 cm (2½ inches) deep.

Cut one-third from the pastry, cover and set aside. Roll the remaining pastry out on a lightly floured surface until large enough to fit the base and side of the dish. Press into place, spoon in the cool filling, then brush the upper pastry edge with a little cold water. Roll out the reserved pastry to make a circle large enough to cover the top. Lay the pastry top over the filling and crimp the edges together with your fingers or a fork to firmly seal. If desired, make small leaves from the scraps of pastry. Brush with the egg glaze. If using, place the pastry leaves on top and glaze. Prick the top in several places with a fork.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C and bake for 20–25 minutes more, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot.

Note: The filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge.

Images and text from The Comfort Bake by Sally Wise, photography by Samuel Shelley. Murdoch Books RRP $39.99.

Don't miss The Comfort Bake by Sally Wise

17+ Netflix series for tweens and teens you can binge-watch together

17+ Netflix series for tweens and teens you can binge-watch together

Netflix series for tweens and teens that are interesting enough for adults are actually quite hard to find. Of course, you’ll have your own idea of what kind of show is suitable for your child. It might be quite different to mine. So bear that in mind as you read through my selections.

I know, I know, we’re probably all getting enough screen time without binge-watching Netflix with the kids. But hear me out – a shared show is very bonding. Think of all the points of reference we have with our peers because we all watched the same shows growing up. You can have that kind of experience as a family, too.

What makes a Netflix series okay?

The kinds of Netflix series for tweens and early teens that I think are okay include shows that have kissing, flirting and a little bit of swearing. Once they’re a bit older, I’m okay with sexual references, bad language and complex emotional issues being raised (this is one of the reasons why it’s great to watch a show together: so much to discuss!).

I’m never okay with any kind of OTT violence, racism, sexism or nastiness, not even when it is “an integral part of the story”. I don’t like shows like that and I won’t show them to my kids. Oh, fair enough, Game of Thrones is an exception. But that one is definitely not for the kids!

Limiting the binge in binge-watching

Have a meander through these suggestions and see if one suits your fam. Once selected, it’s best to keep the “binge” out of “binge watching” – try to limit yourselves to a couple of episodes a week at most. That way you limit TV watching, plus you have plenty of time to talk about each show and anticipate the next instalment. I’m confident that at least one of these Netflix series for tweens and teens will spark your interest and lots of good conversations!

Don’t miss this list too: 12 terrific under-the-radar TV shows for tweens


Netflix series for tweens and teens you'll want to binge-watch too

Check these out too: 16 really good podcasts for tweens

Netflix series for tweens + teens

Little Lunch

We love this homegrown mockumentary on the high drama of the year 6 playground. It was filmed using actors at a real school – St Kilda Primary – while the genuine school kids played in the background. Bearing in mind that the actors are all old enough to be out of uni by now, this show feels completely fresh no matter the year. In fact, it could have been filmed in the early eighties when I was in year 6 myself! If you missed it on the ABC, you can catch it on Netflix

You vs Wild

I heard Bear Grylls (who I’d never watched before) on the High Performance Podcast and I was instantly a fan. You could do much worse than have this guy as your kids’ role model. Just a stellar human being doing kick-ass things he has no business doing in the jungle. You vs Wild flips that into an interactive experience show where your kid will feel like they’re making the decisions for Bear while he leaps around avoiding snakes. Excellent.

Odd Squad

This clever show almost had me liking maths, so that’s gotta be a good thing. The Odd Squad use maths to solve mysteries and puzzles around town. It’s basically a superhero show for nerdy types, but we all want to be nerds so we can be part of it. One warning: your kids may well get a lesson in sarcasm along with mathematics. These kids are sassy and mouthy as. This is probably a Netflix series for tweens, rather than teens.

Suits: 5-12+ years
Look out for: Sassy kids might do your head in
Inspires: Love of learning; positive attitude


Another good Netflix series for tweens. This one is a cute, slightly dated, Aussie show about 11-year-old Taylor and her embarrassing family.  They’re basically a bunch of free-spirits, which is, of course, mortifying to a tween girl. The show touches on some important themes about materialism, friendship and just being yourself. There’s also a really lovely friendship between Taylor (Marny Kennedy) and her BFF, Hector (Nicholas Dunn). Hector is in love with Taylor, but she’s clueless and likes a cool kid called Leon (Luke Erceg) instead. The tweenies will love this one and you’ll find it watchable too. FYI, Marny Kennedy is now 24 years old…

Suits: 7-12+ years
Look out for: Nothing much, it’s a solid G rating
Inspires: Self acceptance

The Letter for the King

In this big budget production, three kingdoms of Eviellan, Unauwen and Dagonaut are at war. Our underdog hero Tiuri has been raised by his powerful stepfather Sir Tiuri the Valiant to become a knight, even though Tiuri is small and hopeless with a sword. One night at knight training, Tiuri helps an old man pleading for help, and is given an important letter to give to the King. This sets Tiuri and his friends on a quest across the warring kingdoms. Part medieval adventure, part teen sitcom, the cliches in this series are many, but most tweens won’t know that and most parents won’t mind.

Suits: 10+ years
Look out for: Violence – medieval times were not gentle
Inspires: Justice

Good stuff here for tweens too: 100+ engaging, non-cringe things for teens to do at home

Full House

This US show is as dated as you’d expect, given that the Olsen twins were infants when they first debuted. They are now 31 years old. The show ran from 1987-1995 and was rebooted in 2016 as Fuller House. It’s a timeless, cheesy formula for fun, and it still brings the laughs, especially for tweens. Widower Danny is raising his three daughters with the help of his brothers Jesse (John Stamos – still hot to this day) and Joey (Dave Coulier). The men are excellent male role models with emotional depth and the family work through problems together. Confession time: My girls have watched every one of the 192 episodes more than once… so, and excellent Netflix series for tween girls!

Suits: 7-13+ years
Look out for: it’s slightly sexist, though it tries hard not to be. There are dated notions of ‘girl power’ that fall really flat, especially as they seem rooted in the girls growing up too quickly.
Inspires: Sibling and family love

Anne with an E

Netflix series for tweens and teens you'll want to binge-watch too

I was determined not to like this remake, but it got me in the end. In a darker retelling of everyone’s favourite redhead story, AmyBeth McNulty shines as Anne Shirley. My girls were instant fans of the feisty girl who has to overcome some serious childhood trauma, and ongoing prejudice about her orphan status and poverty. Note that Anne’s dark childhood is emphasised in this series more than you would expect from reading the books – a warning for sensitive young viewers, as is the sadness that pervades the second half of the series. Feedback from parent reviews suggest that some are also upset over the sexual innuendo appearing in episodes 3 and 4, but it honestly barely registered for me and was never mentioned by my kids. We were too busy focusing on Anne’s endless optimism and admirable courage.

Suits: 9-13+ years
Look out for: sexy references, though they are not the focus of the story
Inspires: Perseverance; fortitude; courage; optimism

Dr Who

Most of us probably watched the original Dr Who series when we were kids. Gone are the dinky Darleks (remember yelling at the screen, “Go down the stairs!” when Dr Who was being chased by these fiends on rollerskates?), but this UK show has lost none of its quirky charm. It’s a classic good-versus-evil show with the good Doctor always calm and cool when faced with evil – as we probably all would be if we had regeneration up our sleeve. His weapons are charisma and wit, with the usual violence in this kind of show kept to an absolute minimum. That makes this is a good Netflix series for tweens and teens and their nostalgic parents.

Suits: 9+ years
Look out for: scary moments, but nothing the good Doctor can’t handle
Inspires: Loyalty; optimism; integrity

The Hollow

Netflix series for tweens and teens you'll want to binge-watch tooAn animated mystery-suspense featuring teens trapped in a strange, dark world, trying to find their way out by working out how they got there in the first place. It’s weird and edgy and suspenseful, with some really scary moments, so it’s a good one for kids who think they want to watch Stranger Things (see below) but are just a bit too young. There’s a great mix of characters and the girl roles are equal and meaningful. Lots of action, suspense, drama and mystery.

Suits: 11+ years
Look out for: Scary moments; villains; monsters
Inspires: Teamwork; friendship

Mr Young

Adam is a genius who graduates college at the age of 14 and mysteriously decides to be a teacher. Only in Canada, right? So, Adam ends up teaching a class of kids his own age and struggles with wanting to be their friends while keeping some authority. Adults will need to suspend reality in order to enjoy this one, but kids will love the premise. Despite being formulaic, the script is really sharp and puts Adam into countless awkward situations for our amusement. The show is also packed full of real-life lessons on everything from science to history to geography, so that’s a bonus.

Suits: 10-13+ years
Look out for: the slightly awkward nature of Adam crushing on one of his students. Sure, he’s only 14, but it’s still icky watching a teacher pursue a student.
Inspires: Sibling and family love

Check out some podcasts too: 24 awesome podcasts for teens

Alexa and Kate

A US dramedy that manages to find tasteful light-hearted laughs in the midst of a cancer story. It’s highly watchable for adults, but this is definitely a Netflix series for tweens. It’s aimed squarely at the preteen/early teen set. Teen Alexa has been diagnosed with cancer and her bestie Katie is by her side throughout. The show brings a fresh perspective to the usual teen themes of appearance, acceptance and finding love. There’s a bit of talk about crushes and some mildly worrying pranks played on adults, but it’s harmless good fun with some serious messages.

Suits: 10-13+ years
Look out for: mild language (‘fart’ and the like)
Inspires: Big talks about death and illness

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This US Netflix series for tweens and early teens is a little-bit spooky, but well-tolerated by most kids. Fans of the books will adore seeing Violet (Malina Weissman), Kraus (Louis Hynes), baby Sunny and even Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris – hardest working actor ever, right?) brought to life. It’s brilliantly shot and scripted with each episode ending on a cliff hanger… it might be hard to stick to your ‘just one’ rule. This macabre series balances creepiness with humour, but check in with your child regularly, especially if they are prone to anxiety.

Suits: 10+ years
Look out for: Scary bits, but that’s all
Inspires: Resilience; confidence; humour

Gilmore Girls

Netflix series for tweens and teens you'll want to binge-watch too

Most of us are familiar with this sweet noughties show, featuring young single mum, Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her college-age daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) who live in the quaint town of Stars Hollow. When my girls wanted to watch Gilmore Girls (Arabella was 11, Lottie 9), I turned to my trusty GG fanatic, Pip Lincolne. Pip said, “I think it’s TOTALLY suitable and pretty wholesome! There is ONE episode you might want to watch first and think about age-appropriateness and it’s [episode 22, season 4]. But apart from that ep, it’s actually very dorky and sweet and raises some excellent mum/dad and kid discussion points!” If Pip says it’s okay, that’s a green light for me. The girls adore this show and have watched every episode more than once (even the ‘Rory has sex’ scene in episode 22, season 4).

Suits: 11+ years
Look out for: Some adult concepts regarding relationships; some homophobia (“gay” is often used in a derogatory way); that one sex scene waaaay into the series
Inspires: Family love; positivity; quirkiness; creativity; honest relationships

Dance Academy

Just quietly, I think some of the cast in this Aussie drama might have been chosen for their dance skills, rather than acting prowess… but if you can get passed the dicey theatrics, you’ll find much to like. There’s a load of great characters, all on their own ‘journey’ as they compete at an elite dance school, overcoming personal hurdles for their chance to shine. It’s a progressive co-ed set up, so cue lots of crushes, dating, and boyf-girlf / boyf-boyf angst. It’s actually really nice to see Aussie teens in action – I’m quite over all the shopping and materialism that seems to be part of American teen shows. Our kids will appreciate seeing teens who are ‘more like me’, even if they are hanging out in their undies a lot.

Suits: 11+ years
Look out for: body image depictions, though reasonably well-handled, are as prominent as you’d expect from a show about dancers.
Inspires: Ambition; tolerance; doing your best; self-belief

The Healing Powers of Dude

Season one of this show, aimed squarely at under 12s, as a huge hit. When 11-year-old Noah bravely goes from being homeschooled by his dad to starting at middle school, he gets a high-energy emotional support dog named Dude to help him cope. Scruffy Dude (voiced by comedian Steve Zahn) is sharp and hilarious (yes, he talks, but only for us – nothing like, say, Look Who’s Talking Now!). These two make a charming, watchable pair and the series depicts Noah’s social anxiety in a responsible, relatable way. This series is loads of fun, so let’s hope Netflix commissions season 2!

Suits: 9+ years
Look out for: it’s all good fun.
Inspires: empathy, acceptance of mental illness, friendship

Greenhouse Academy

This US show will hook you from the first couple of episodes, when siblings Hayley (Ariel Mortman) and Alex (Finn Roberts) are enrolled at an elite boarding school following the mysterious death of their mother which plunges their father into depression. The two are put into separate rival boarding houses and immediately have their loyalties tested. The show has all the usual high school dramedy moments – smart kids, bad kids, mean kids, sporty kids – but mixes it up with a little suspenseful intrigue when the twins delve into their astronaut mother’s death. It makes the show an interesting meshing of wholesome cheeriness mixed with darker, quirkier elements. The darker moments mean this isn’t really a Netflix series for tweens – I’d stick with high-schoolers only. Each show ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so this will be a tough one to turn off at the end of each episode.

Suits: 12+ years
Look out for: it’s a little dark at times plus a bit sweary; adult characters are two-dimensional
Inspires: Teamwork and leadership

The Good Place

Original, funny, well-scripted and unpredictable, there’s a lot to like about this comedy. Lying, cheating Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself in the “good place” after she dies, but she’s not actually supposed to be there. Her attempts to prove her worthiness to stay to her “soulmate”, ethics professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper) are hilarious but admirable. The show has an interesting take on what “good” and “bad” is and will incite many discussions with the junior burgers about being a good person. The concepts are quite sophisticated, making this less a Netflix series for tweens, more teens. Ted Danson is adorable as outrageously camp “heavenly coordinator” Michael.

Suits: 12+ years
Look out for: moralising, though it’s not extreme; black and white depictions of “goodness”
Inspires: tolerance; good behaviour (we hope); discussion about life after death and dying

Older kids

Moving away from Netflix series for tweens and firmly into those for teens. You may feel differently about that, but I’d encourage you to watch quite a few episodes before making the call.

Stranger Things

One for sci-fi fans (which I am) who don’t mind a lot of suspense and a bit of horror (which I am hopeless at).  I confess that as much as I love the script of this show, I haven’t actually been able to watch the whole first series yet… What with a large, guttural creature flitting just out of vision, I can only view it in daylight hours and daylight TV-watching time is minimal around here. That said, I reckon most normal types would love this series and with younger kids (aged about 10-12) the stars of the show, it’s appealing to tweens too. The horror has got just enough of the cheese factor to keep kids relatively courageous (more so than me, I suspect).  It’s dark, but not “torment” dark, more squirmy-I-can’t-watch kind of dark, but definitely not one for anxious kids or their mothers.

Suits: 12+ years
Look out for: suspense; mild horror; heavy kissing; some violence; mild language
Inspires: keeping the lights on!; talk about 


Netflix series for tweens and teens you'll want to binge-watch too

I was a big fan of this US show for the first series, but it quickly jumped the shark and that was that. Teens continue to watch in droves and that’s not a bad thing. It’s an interesting blend of cutesy and dark and it explores true-to-life teen themes like slut shaming, bullying, gang culture and sex. Most of the themes are well-resolved, although consequences are sadly lacking.

Strong female characters keep Riverdale well balanced, especially when depicting female friendships. Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) embody feminist principles and a solid, believable friendship that is prized over boyfriends and flirting. Both girls are smart, sassy and strong leaders in their communities. A warning that the teens in this show are sophisticated and glamorous and adult characters and authority are secondary bit parts.

Suits: 13+ years
Look out for: dark themes; scary night scenes; stereotypical characters (it’s based on a cartoon, after all)
Inspires: Friendship; standing up for what you believe in

How I Met Your Mother

This show is about young adults, rather than teens, it’s still a fun one for the family. The script is spot on, genuinely funny and full of quirkiness. The basic premise is Ted (Bob Saget) talking to his teenage kids, looking back to when he was a fresh-faced architecture graduate and new to New York, looking for love (which, we presume given he has kids, he eventually finds). 

Friends Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and on-off-on girlfriend Robin are along for the ride. There’s a lot of talk about sex and Barney is basically a sexist womanizer, but visuals are rare and the sharp jokes will mostly go over younger kids’ heads. The other four main characters pull Barney into line every time and their comments and boundaries provide a good moral backbone for the show. Oh, on top of that, the characters are all basically alcoholics and much of the action takes place in a bar, so… watch a few episodes yourself before you unleash the kids.

Suits: 14+ years
Look out for: sexism; casual sex; drinking; swearing; all the good stuff
Inspires: Friendships; loyalty; positivity; self-confidence

13 Reasons Why

Tread carefully as this show has been issued with warnings from everyone from psychologists to schools to trauma units. Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) commits suicide and leaves a series of tapes addressed to fellow classmates and acquaintances to explain her motivations why. This ‘casting blame’ is one of the (many) reasons so many experts are worried about this series – sensitive teens may feel anxious and fretful about their real-life encounters after viewing some episodes. Some scenes are needlessly graphic (suicide, rape scenes, bullying, homophobia), but overall I think it’s a fair depiction of what life is like for many teens. Definitely worth a watch with your older teens, especially if you encourage open discussion about the issues raised in the show. I’d rather watch it together than risk them watching it without me.

Suits: 16+ years
Look out for: graphic depictions of suicide, rape, assault; alcohol and drug abuse; sexism and macho culture; homophobia; racism
Inspires: Discussion about all of the above

Other shows tweens and teens love (but you probably won’t):

The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia – though 15-year-old brilliant scientist Ashley is a pretty cool character, this show misses the huge opportunity to be anything but a trite teen sitcom.

Family Reunion – way too wholesome and cute to be watchable by anyone over 12.

Life with Boys – so formulaic it’s practically algebra.

Project MC² – the ‘smartest girls in the school’ are simply annoying cliches who happen to be good at STEM.

Richie Rich – so cheesy, so generic, so shiny…

Nailed It! – Nicole Beyers just isn’t my cup of tea. Lots of shrieking, lots of mocking, lots of whhhhhy… but teens will probably think this show is hilarious.

That 70’s Show – so many stereotypes and rather dull after the first few episodes.

Pretty Little Liars – one for highschoolers that’s so OTT glam and shallow that I couldn’t get through the first three episodes. I really can’t handle shows that depict teens mocking adults. Loads of adult concepts plus rampant bullying, all mis-managed here.

Did I miss your fave? Got any recommendations?

How to get early entry into university in Australia

How to get early entry into university in Australia

I wrote an article about different ways to get into uni without an ATAR and I’ve been asked by so many people how to get early entry into university in Australia other than NSW. I covered NSW in the original article because that’s where we live and my son had already done the research.

But, time to get off my lazy horse and cover early entry into university in Australia for other states. It’s definitely a game-changer for so many kids who are freaked out about the pressure of final exams. Early entry basically means you’re in based on factors other than those last, stressful exams. Things like your year 11 and early year 12 grades; reviews from your teachers and principal; your engagement in extra-curricular activities like your job, sport or music; volunteering commitments you’ve taken on; and your responses to questions asked during the early entry admissions process.

Early entry essentially means that you know before you finish year 12 whether you’ve got a place in your chosen degree or not. It’s not offered for every course, but it is for many.

This isn’t a get out of jail free card. You’ll still need to finish school and you’ll want to do your best in your final exams. After all, why not do the best you can seeing as you need to be there anyway?

So, let’s go state to state and find out what you need to do to get early entry into university around Australia.

Take your place with an early entry into university

Take your place with an early entry into university. Image: Photo by Mathias Reding via Pexels.

Early entry into university in NSW

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Australian Catholic University
ACU Guarantee – Open to year 12 students who completed year 11 in Australia
– Based on year 11 results
– You can write up to personal statements to increase your chances of an offer
Opens 1 June 2022 – check website
Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt Advantage – Open to year 12 students 
– Based on year 11 results and demonstrated ‘soft skills’ like resilience, communication, empathy and motivation.
Open now until 24 June 2022 (second round) or 31 August (3rd round) – check website
Griffith University
Year 12 Early Offer Guarantee – Open to year 12 students in QLD and northern NSW
– There’s specific criteria to meet depending on where you are doing year 12, so check their website
Open now – check website
Macquarie University
Macquarie Leaders and Achievers Early Entry Scheme – Open to year 12 students completing the HSC or IB
– Based on year 11 academic performance
– You need to show three examples of your involvement in leadership, sport or casual work activities
Opens 1 June 2022 – check website
Macquarie University
Schools Recommendation Scheme (SRS) – Open to year 12 students completing the HSC or IB
– Based on your year 11 academic performance and your school’s view of you as a student
Opened 12 April 2022 via UAC
University of NSW
Gateway Admission Path – Open to year 12 students doing their HSC
– Based on a written personal statement, year 11 results and your school’s rating of your aptitudes and performance in relevant areas of study
– Administered through the UAC Schools Recommendation Scheme
Open now until 19 September 2022 via UAC
University of Newcastle
Schools Recommendation Scheme (SRS) – Based on your year 11 academic performance and school recommendation
– SRS offers for all undergraduate degrees (excluding B Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine and B Midwifery)
– An application must be submitted via UAC and if successful, does not consider your HSC marks
Open now until 19 September 2022 via UAC
University of Sydney
Early Offer Year 12 (E12) Scheme – Assessed by UAC through their Educational Access Scheme
– The conditional early offer comes with an additional scholarship of $5950
– Students must be experiencing financial hardship, residing in an area of socio-economic disadvantage and/or attend a rural or regional school to be eligible
Open now until 19 September 2022 via UAC
University of Wollongong
UoW Early Admission – Open to Australian students completing year 12

If you can meet these four criteria, you’re in with a chance: academic readiness, motivation and passion, communication and collaboration and, planning and persistence
– You’ll also be assessed on your marks so far, relevant to the degree you want to study

Open 18 July – 12 August 2022 – check website
Western Sydney University
HSC True Reward Early Offer Program – Conditional early offer based on year 11 and 12 results plus achieving a minimum band in your HSC for subjects specific to your degree
– Based on your HSC results, not the scaled ATAR
Open now – check website
Early entry into Sydney University

University of Sydney. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

UAC Schools Recommendation Scheme (SRS)

As noted in the table above, many NSW universities run their early entry through UAC via the SRS. Note that ‘many’ is not all universities – many run their own early entry program directly and UAC is not involved. One of the key things to note about SRS is that the offer of early entry happens much later than through other early entry pathways. You probably won’t know you’ve been accepted until after you’ve sat your final exams. That said, your ATAR won’t be counted towards your acceptance.

Here’s a list of the unis you can apply for early entry for via SRS: 

− Australian Catholic University
− Charles Sturt University
− International College of Management, Sydney
− Macquarie University
− National Art School
− SAE Creative Media Institute
− Torrens University Australia
− University of Canberra
− University of New England
− University of Newcastle
− University of Notre Dame Australia
− University of Sydney
− University of Technology Sydney
− UNSW Sydney
− Western Sydney University 

Key dates for the 2022 SRS:

19 Sep Applications close
3 Nov Finalise preferences
11 Nov First conditional and unconditional (not based on ATAR)
offers released

Remember, whether you apply through SRS or direct, always check with your chosen universities to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. 

Early entry into university in VIC

Melbourne University

Melbourne University. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. 

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Deakin University
Special Entry Access Scheme  – Deakin doesn’t really offer early entry, however the Monash Guarantee program aims to help disadvantaged student gain access, even if they don’t meet ATAR requirements.
 – It’s available for students who are from an under-represented or regional school; students with a disability or medical consideration; those experiencing financial hardship; students with a difficult life or family conditions; and to Indigenous Australian students.
Check with the university.
Federation University
Early Offer Program – Open to year 12 students or those who finished school in 2021 or 2020.
– Based on year 11 results
– You can write up to personal statements to increase your chances of an offer
Open now until December – check website
La Trobe University Aspire  – both an early entry and scholarship program
 – open to year 12 students who are sitting their VCE and are current community volunteers
 – you need to show examples of your community or leadership work 
Open now until 16 September – check website.
Monash University
The Monash Guarantee

Special Entry Access Scheme

 – Monash doesn’t really offer early entry, however the Monash Guarantee program aims to help disadvantaged student gain access, even if they don’t meet ATAR requirements.
 – It’s available for students who are financially disadvantaged; or are Indigenous Australian; live in a low socio-economic area; or attended a Monash-listed under-represented high school.
Check with the university.
Early Offer Program  – Open to Australian year 12 students
 – Based on an early offer ATAR which is lower than the general ATAR
 – Demonstrate leadership, teamwork, creative thinking and critical thinking skills
Open May 2022 – check website.
Early Entry Program  – You will need a recommendation from a representative of your school.
 – Also based on your responses to key questions in the application.
Open now – check website
University of Melbourne
Access Melbourne  – The Uni of Melbourne doesn’t really offer ‘early entry’. The Access Melbourne scheme is more for helping disadvantaged students gain entry after receiving their ATAR.
 – Current Year 12 applicants who are eligible for at least one of these four Access Melbourne categories: disadvantaged financial background; resident of a rural or isolated area;  difficult circumstances; disability or medical condition.
 – There is still a minimum ATAR requirement (check website) and the University of Melbourne does not adjust ATARs but does allocate bonus points (see above).
Check with the university.
Victoria University
VU Guaranteed  – Note, this is not an acceptance into a specific course, only general acceptance into the university.
 – You’ll still need to meet ATAR requirements, but VU Guaranteed may give you bonus ATAR points to help you reach your goal.
 – be a current Year 11 or 12 student at school in Victoria and complete Year 12
 – add a VU course to your VTAC preference list or apply direct to VU Polytechnic courses for apply-direct courses.
Open now – check website.

Early entry into university in ACT

ANU early entry

ANU. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Australian National University
Direct Application Admissions – Open to Australian year 12 students who receive an ATAR
– Based on year 11 or year 12 depending on which round you apply for
Open now until 23 May – check website.
University of Canberra
August Early Offer Round – Open to ACT and NSW year 12 students intending to go to university.
– Based on year 11 results and must achieve an overall 60% grade.
Open 2 May until 24 July.

Early entry into university in SA

Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide

Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Flinders University
Year 11 Grades Admission Pathway  – At this stage, it’s unclear whether Flinders is still offering this Covid-introduced program in 2023 – check with the university.
 – Open to SA and NT year 12 students as well as students from border towns in Victoria and NSW
 – Application is via SATAC
Check with the university.
Torrens University Australia
Early Entry Program  – Open to SA, QLD and NSW year 12 students intending to go to university.
 – All you have to do is complete the online application.
Open now – check website.
University of Adelaide
Year 11 Entry Pathway  – At this stage, it’s unclear whether UA is still offering this Covid-introduced program in 2023 – check with the university.
 – Open to SA and NT year 12 students as well as students from border towns in Victoria and NSW
 – Application is via SATAC
Check with the university.
University of South Australia
Year 12 entry  – Not quite ‘early entry’ but a pathway that doesn’t put all the pressure on achieving a set ATAR.
 – Put UniSA as your first preference
 – based on your three best Year 12 subject grades (achieving As or Bs), plus complete SACE Stage 2 and achieve a minimum ATAR of 50
Put UniSA as your first preference.

Early entry into university in WA

University of Western Australia

University of Western Australia. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Curtin University
Curtin Early Offers  – Meet the admission criteria for your preferred course.
 – Apply via TISC by uploading your latest school report
 – Eligibility is based on your year 11 WACE results
 – Your early offer is received within 5-7 business days.
Open now via TISC.
Edith Cowan Australia
Early Offer Program  – Know your predicted ATAR
 –  Based on latest school results available when you apply – ie. year 11 or 12
 – Have applied for your course via TISC with ECU as your first preference.
Open now via TISC.
Murdoch University
Year 12 Early Offer Program  – Based on your year 11 or mid-year year 12 ATAR subject results
 – You will also need to meet Murdoch Uni’s English requirements
 – Apply direct with the university or via TISC
Open now until 9 December 2022.
University of Notre Dame Australia
Young Achievers Early Offer Program  – Any Australian year 12 school-leavers completing the ATAR pathway
 – Based on year 11 or mid-year year 12 reports and grades
 – Supporting documents like school or community recommendations and any awards, certificates and your CV
 – Application form asks questions like ‘Tell us how you contribute, and how frequently, to community life’
Open now until 30 September 2022.
University of Western Australia
Predicted ATAR entry  – based on your final Year 11 or mid Year 12 results with a minimum predicted ATAR of 80 (calculated by UWA)
 – complete Year 12 with an ATAR, or gain entry via the STAT pathway if not sitting the ATAR
Open now – check website.

Early entry into university in QLD

Queensland University of Technology

Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove campus. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Bond University
Year 12 Early Guaranteed Offer Scheme  – Meet the admission criteria for your preferred course.
 – Apply via TISC by uploading your latest school report
 – Eligibility is based on your year 11 WACE results
 – Your early offer is received within 5-7 business days.
Apply as soon as you receive your year 12 semester 1 report.
Principal’s Recommendation Scheme  – Open to all current year 12 students in any state
 – Based on the recommendation of your high school principal, rather than ATAR
 – Unconditional offer received within 48 hours of applying
 – Apply direct to university for your chosen course and upload your recommendation letter
Open now until 1 December 2022 – check website
Griffin University
Year 12 Early Offer Guarantee  – Open to current year 12 students in QLD and northern NSW who meet eligibility criteria (check website)
 – A range of degrees are eligible under the scheme
 –  Apply via QTAC with your course as your first preference
 – Note: early offer not received until after the QCE/HSC/IB exams
Open 2 August until mid-November (date TBA – check website)
James Cook University
Early Offer Program  – Open to current Australian year 12 students who complete their QCE or equivalent
 – complete a Nomination Form and recommendation via your school
 – Offer received within 48 hours of application
 – You will still need to lodge a QTAC Application after applications open on 2 August 2022.
Open 16 May until 14 October 2022.
Queensland University of Technology
Year 12 Early Offer Scheme  – open to Queensland year 12 students
 – subject to achieving minimum mark criteria in your eligible subjects
Open 3 August – 24 October via QTAC
University of Queensland
No program    
University of Southern Queensland
USQ Early Offer  – Open to year 12 students who select USQ as their first preference on their QTAC application
 – Based on either completion of a USQ Head Start Course or on your principal’s recommendation
 – Apply via QTAC with your course as your first preference then submit the principal’s recommendation letter and application plus your year 11 report to
 – emailed outcomes received from 12 August 2022
Open now until 10 October 2022.
University of the Sunshine Coast
Early Offer Guarantee – Open to year 12 students who select USC as their first preference on their QTAC application
 – based on your school principal’s recommendation and is independent of your Year 12 results
 – academic performance plus motivation, talents, passions and abilities as noted by your principal
 – as long as you meet the program-specific requirements, you’re guaranteed early entry
Open 2 August until 14 October 2022.

Early entry into university in TAS

University of Tasmania

University of Tasmania Image: Leigh Woolley via Wikimedia Commons.

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
University of Tasmania
Schools Recommendation Program  – Open to Australian year 12 students
 –  Based on school recommendation and year 11 results
Open 30 June until 1 August for round 1 offers. Open until 7 October for other offers.

Early entry into university in NT

University Early Entry Scheme About Application
Charles Darwin University
No program    
How to get early entry into university in Australia

Good luck getting early entry into uni! Image: Karolina Grabowska

Feature image by Buro Millennial

Tibetan sha balep are delicious for lunch

Tibetan sha balep are delicious for lunch

I made the moreish honey and granola bars from Taste Tibet this week and it reminded me that I have another recipe from the book to share with you. Sha balep are little Tibetan pastries that I think of as sharing the same eating space with foods like Mexican empanadas or Indian samosas or Aussie meat pies. That is, make them en masse, freeze them and then heat them up for snacks, easy dinners (they are traditionally served with soup) or even for breakfast as the Tibetans do.

I mentioned in the article I wrote to accompany the granola bars that sharing food from other cultures is a preoccupation of mine. Sha balep are an example of this: the food has a story and the story enhances the food.

In Tibet, you’ll most likely find yak meat in your sha balep, but beef mince substitutes just fine. Unless you happen to know where to get your hands on yak meat in Australia? Hmm.

Enjoy making these little meat pastries, and perhaps finding a new love of Tibetan rap music as Julie and Yeshi suggest below…

Sha balep (Tibetan pasties)

Make some sha balep pastries from Tibet

From Taste Tibet by Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa

Sha balep (literally, ‘meat breads’) are widely and wildly loved by Tibetans. Vegans, do not look away now! You can make a vegan version using the tofu, Chinese cabbage and mushroom filling on page 161. Potatoes are another good fit, but have a go with any veggies you enjoy and have to hand.

There’s a saying in Tibetan, ‘If you mess up, I’ll give you a sha balep’, which means that if you step out of line, you’ll get a slap. The Tibetan rapper Shapaley has produced a wonderful ode to sha balep that references this expression. It’s a very catchy tune to listen to – YouTube is your friend – while you make these delicious pasties.

In central Tibet many people eat them for breakfast, but they are more typically served for lunch or dinner, usually with a soup side. We like to serve them with Yeshi’s super salsa (see page 200): the trick is to take a bite out of the sha balep and then spoon in some of the fresh-tasting salsa for a wonderfully refreshing contrast.

Makes 10

For the dough
450 g (3 cups) self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon cooking oil

For the filling
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) minced (ground) beef, ideally 15–20% fat content
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns (yerma)
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
50 g (1¾ oz) spinach, washed and finely chopped

Cooking oil, for deep-frying

For the dough, place the flour and oil in a mixing bowl. Using your dominant hand, start pinching together the oil and the flour, while slowly pouring in 200 ml (7 fl oz) of warm water with the other. Mix and then knead, adding just enough water to make a dough. As the dough comes together, keep kneading until you have a nice ball of dough in the bowl. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the filling, put the beef, salt and 1 tablespoon of the oil into a bowl and mix together, either with a fork or by hand. Add the Sichuan pepper and coriander and stir well, followed by the onion, garlic and spinach. Mix thoroughly. Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, and when it’s hot, stir the meat mixture through it for 4–5 minutes until the beef browns. Set aside and allow to cool.

Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface. Take the dough out of the bowl and loosely roll it into a sausage shape. Divide it evenly into eight pieces, then roll each piece between your palms into a ball.

Working with one ball of dough at a time, lightly flatten it with your hands and then roll it out with a rolling pin, pushing and pulling the dough up and down quickly and firmly. Use your other hand to hold the dough and turn it little by little as you go. You are aiming for a circle about 10–12 cm (4–4½  inches) in diameter, with the middle a bit thicker than the edges.

Spoon a generous amount (about 2–3 tablespoons) of the cooled filling into the centre, then gently fold one side of the circle over the filling to meet the other side.

Starting in the middle, use your fingertips to press the edges together into the board, trying not to trap any pockets of air inside. Just before you completely seal the pasty, gently press down on it to release any trapped air and then close. Lift the joined edge up bit by bit, pressing it back into the pasty to seal it again. When you are confident it is well sealed, you can crimp the edge with as much flair as you dare – and if you are not satisfied with the design, you can always use a fork. Set aside while you make the rest of the pasties.

When you’re ready to cook your sha balep, pour a 7.5 cm depth of cooking oil into a large, stable wok and place over a high heat. (Alternatively, you could use a frying pan to shallow-fry the sha balep, turning them over once halfway through, in which case you will only need a 2 cm (¾ inch) depth of oil.) Check the temperature of the oil by tossing in a tiny scrap of dough: if it bubbles vigorously and rises quickly to the surface, you are good to go. Turn the heat down to low and slide in as many sha balep as will fit into the pan – probably no more than four at a time. Once they are in the oil, you can use tongs to move them around and turn them over from time to time, so they cook evenly.

Let the sha balep cook for 4–5 minutes, or until they are golden brown, then drain on paper towel before serving.

Yeshi says ‘If you make your sha balep nice and plump, you shouldn’t end up with any left over filling, but if you do it can be boiled for a few minutes in some water to make a nice side soup – add a little coriander for greenery and extra flavour. If by any chance you have any dough left over, roll it out flat and use it to make some Numtak balep (fried breakfast bread or Balep (Tibetan flatbread).’

Images and recipe text from Taste Tibet by Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa, photography by Ola O. Smith. Murdoch Books RRP $49.99.

Buy Taste Tibet book

Why Heartstopper needs to be on your watch list

Why Heartstopper needs to be on your watch list

If you’ve got a high school-aged kid, chances are that the Netflix show Heartstopper will be on your radar. Everyone is watching it. Everyone is falling in love with it.

And that’s a very good thing indeed.

It may as well be called Heartwarmer, because this show is lovely to its core. 

It’s a British boy-meets-boy story adapted from Alice Osmen’s graphic novel series by the same name (fun fact: the series actually started as an uber-cool tumblr web comic).

The story treads a familiar path: after a sweet encounter, Charlie (Joe Locke) develops a massive crush on the popular rugby-playing Nick (Kit Connor). Charlie’s trio of pals Tao (William Gao), Isaac (Tobie Donovan), and Elle (Yasmin Finney) try to warn him off because they’re certain Nick is straight. But Charlie thinks differently.

There’s a lot for Charlie to navigate here, given that he’s the only openly gay kid in the school – though he’s secretly meeting the nasty Ben (Sebastian Croft) in the closet. There’s also the fact that transgender Elle is secretly in love with Tao, so there are more teen romance twists to follow. All are sensitively handled and interesting to follow.

But Heartstopper is really about the effervescent Charlie and the charming Nick. It’s not giving anything away to tell you the pair “develop a friendship that turns into something more”. Like I said, this is well-trodden teen romance ground, plus the trailer for the series more than covers that.

What will take you by surprise, however, is how much joy this show will inject into your days. Osmen’s animation weaves in and out of the show, highlighting the emotions and complexities the boys experience as they slowly fall in love.

This is solid PG stuff, given an M rating most likely due to the LGBTQI+ content (which vexes me no end, but it is what it is). Heartstoppers is a reminder that not all teens are drug-abusing, sexed up narcissists ala Euphoria. (Which is an excellent show, BTW, but no way is my 13-year-old watching it!!) Instead, they’re chasing happiness and doing their best in a way that feels familiar to most parents of teens. The boys exist in a world where people support each other and try to understand, not undermine, differences. It’s an idyllic place, but I reckon it’s one that is just as true to real-life as the Euphorias of the world. Don’t you?

To add to the general wonderfulness of this romcom series, they’ve brought in Olivia Coleman as Nick’s understanding mum and Stephen Fry’s voice as the school headmaster (we don’t actually see him in the first series, but maybe he’s coming soon?). I could watch either of these stellar actors sell paint, so having them in the show is a big plus for me. Coleman superb in her role, bringing love, fear, understanding and pride into Sarah’s acceptance of Nick’s bisexuality.

This isn’t some fantasy queer utopia, however. Heartstopper handles issues of homophobia, bullying, self-loathing and rock-bottom self-esteem with grace. It will spark some excellent conversations with your kids if you watch it together, or even if you watch it apart.

I really urge you to get on board this wholesome, big-hearted show and encourage your teens to watch it too. With a bit of luck, this series will spark their interest in picking up an actual book again, like it did for my Year Niner. The graphic novel series is on the birthday list.

Watch it on Netflix.
Buy the book series at Booktopia.

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