Friday, July 1, 2011

G'day, Aussie Meat Pies!

I've been hearing more and more about Australian meat pies in recent times.  From what I gather, they have quite a following in the U.S., and meat pie shops are popping up across the country.  I've never had one before, but I figure what's not to like about beef and gravy in a pie?  I love all pies, sweet and savory, so I knew I had to make some Aussie pies for the blog.

I did a lot of internet research on Aussie pies.   The basic idea is always the same, but recipes varied when it came to the crust.  Many called for a basic pie crust, some called for puff pastry.  A few recipes, including some from actual Australians, called for using a regular pie crust on the bottom and puff pastry on the top.  I decided to go with a regular "short crust" pie pastry, as that seemed to be most authentic.   However, I strayed slightly by using a rich short crust recipe, which adds eggs to the dough.  This would give the pie crust a little more structure, in addition to a nice texture and richness from the eggs.  I used my own variation of the crust recipe from Giada De Laurentiis' (the big-boobed, bobble-headed, over-enunciating host on Food Network) Pizza Rustica, which I had made in the past and knew that I like the taste of the crust, as well as its ease of preparation.  However, after making the Cook's Illustrated pie crust with vodka with such outstanding results, I knew I had to get some vodka  in there!  I also changed the recipe from part butter and part shortening, to ALL shortening, because I really do believe it makes a superior crust because Crisco doesn't contain water like butter does.  It also doesn't have as much flavor as butter, which is why so many recipes use all or part butter, but I figure when the filling is flavorful and beefy, who cares.

To bake the pies I used my newly purchased mini pie pans, available from King Arthur Flour. These are 6-inch pans and make pretty big meat pies.  Possibly a little too big, depending on your appetite.  If you don't have mini pans, you can bake one big pie and cut it into slices.   Or you can cut circles, put the filling in the middle and fold them into half-moon shapes, but be sure to seal the edges shut with water and press together with the tines of a fork.

Australian Meat Pies
Makes two, 6" pies

Pastry Crust
This recipe makes enough for a double recipe of filling (4 pies total), possibly with enough left over for a few small half-moon shaped pies.  Because I always like to plan ahead and make life easier for myself, I made the full recipe then divided the dough in half (to make 2 pies) and put part in the freezer for another use.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening, frozen and then cut into small pieces
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tb. ice cold vodka
3 to 4 Tb. ice cold water

Blend the flour, sugar, salt and shortening in a food processor until the mixture looks like a coarse meal.  Add the eggs and blend briefly.  With the machine running, add the vodka and water (start with 2 Tb. water) and mix until the dough just starts to come together, adding more water a tablespoon at a time as needed.  Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two pieces.  Flatten them out and wrap with plastic wrap.  I put one disc into the freezer for later, and the other into the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if you like.  Because I used all shortening in this recipe, the dough does not get rock-solid and is very easy to roll out straight from the refrigerator.

1 lb.  ground beef
1 small onion, minced
3 Tb. flour
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 Tb. ketchup
2 Tb. soy sauce
2 Tb. worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Milk, about a tablespoon for brushing the top crust

Put the ground beef and onions into a saute pan over medium-high heat.   Break apart with a wooden spoon and cook until the meat is no longer pink.  If there is a lot of excess fat, drain off all but about 2 tablespoons.   Add the flour, thyme, oregano, garlic salt, nutmeg and ketchup, still until well combined and cook for about 2 mintues.  Add the water, soy sauce and worcestershire, stir well and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the gravy is reduced and the mixture is very thick.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and place a sheet pan on the rack, which should be positioned  at the bottom of the oven.  Heating the pan will help the bottom of the crust to cook properly.

Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out your disc of dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick, 15-inch circle.  Invert the mini pie pans onto the dough and cut out two circles following the rim of the pans, these will be your pie tops.  Then cut out two circles about 1/2 an inch larger than the pans, these will be your pie bottoms.  (You can re-roll the scraps if you need to, but only do this once or the crust will be tough.)  Press the larger circles into the greased pie pans and divide the cooled filling between the two.  Brush water around the edge of the dough and top with the smaller circles, pressing well to seal.  Use a fork to crimp the edges.  Cut a few steam vents in the top with a sharp knife and brush with milk.  Place the pies on the pre-heated pan and cook for 25 minutes.  Move the entire pan of pies up to the top rack, and cook about another 10 minutes, to help brown the crust.  The pies should be brown and the gravy will be bubbling through the vents and looking quite delicious!  Allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes before digging in, or else you might burn your tongue!  The Australians say that serving these with ketchup is a must, but I'll leave that up to you.

These tasty pies are a perfect stand-alone lunch, or add a salad to make a complete dinner.  Experiment using different fillings if you don't want just beef, chicken and/or vegetables would be delicious too.  And if you really want to save yourself some time, I won't judge you for buying pre-made crust.  Just make them, you'll see what all the fuss is about!

Saute the beef and onions.
Add flour, ketchup, thyme, oregano and nutmeg.  Cook for a few minutes then add the water, soy sauce and worcestershire.
Cook for about 10 minutes until thick.  When you scrape your wooden spoon across the pan, the trail should stay separated like this.
Roll out half of the dough on a floured surface.
Use the pie pan to cut out the two different sized circles.
I re-rolled the scraps to get my last pie bottom.
Press the large circles in to the pans and divide the filling between the two.  Brush the edges with water and add the tops, sealing well.
Place the pies on the pre-heated sheet pan set on the bottom rack of the oven.  Don't skip this step, it makes the bottom crust nice and brown and crisp.
The finished pies!
Get in my belly!
Delicious pie with meaty filling and flaky crust.  You know you want it!
After eating 2/3 of a pie to myself and being thoroughly stuffed, I decided that smaller pie pans are needed for individual servings, or split one pie between two people.  Or just make the half-moon shapes as I described above.  I'll be doing that next time.  And there will be a next time very soon because these really can't be beat!


  1. How do you feel about butter flavored crisco?

  2. I'm OK with it but I think I prefer half shortening/half butter because real butter flavor is better. I know so many people are so afraid of shortening, but I embrace it.