Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not So Aussie Meat Pie

First published Canberra Times 26 January 2011.
What better way to celebrate our diverse and multicultural heritage than by making a traditional Aussie meat pie for the Australia Day holiday. To stand tradition slightly on its head, these pies contain a hit of North African and Moroccan flavours, thanks to the addition of preserved lemons and spices.

At this time of year, pies make easy picnic food that can be prepared in advance, as they retain their heat for quite a while or, if preferred, they can be eaten cold.

Photo by Steve Shanahan
Instead of tomato sauce, I used a store-bought jar of tomato chilli chutney and added some of my preserved lemons to it to spice it up a bit. The pies were made in mini spring-form tins, but they can be made in any pie tin you have on hand, including a full size pie plate; you will just need to adjust the quantities of ingredients. Leave the pies to settle in the tins for about 10 minutes before removing, with any pastry breakage adding to the rustic style of the pies.

In keeping with tradition, use good quality minced beef, although minced lamb will work as well. Just make sure the meat you use is as lean as possible.

If you don’t have any preserved lemons in the cupboard, you could use some large slices of lemon zest instead, made with a potato peeler. Don’t forget to remove the zest and the bay leaves before filling the pies.

Served with a crispy, green cucumber salad, and a glass of cold beer, this makes a great Australia Day lunch. The quantities in this recipe make four 10 cm individual pies.

1 packet frozen shortcrust pastry (thawed)
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry (thawed)

1 tbsp oil
750g beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups beef sock
2 heaped tbsp cumin, ground
1 tsp cloves, ground
1 tsp nutmeg, ground
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp preserved lemon, skin only chopped
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp cornflour
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease pie tins.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes or until soft, then add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Add the meat and cook for 5 minutes until browned. Add the cumin, cloves, nutmeg and tomato paste and preserved lemon and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves to the beef and simmer, uncovered for about one hour or until the meat is tender. At this stage you may need extra liquid, if so add more stock or water. Blend the cornflour with 2 tbsp water until you have a smooth paste. Add the cornflour paste to the beef mixture and stir for 4 minutes or until the meat mixture has thickened and returned to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside to cool.

Roll out the thawed shortcrust pastry on a floured board till about a 3mm thickness. Cut out 4 circles to fit the pie bases. (If using spring-form pans, roll out the pastry for the sides separately) Roll out the puff pastry the same way and make 4 lids for the pie tops. Line the bases and sides with the shortcrust pastry and fill each pie with the meat mixture. Place the puff pastry lid on the top, trim and press the edges of the pastry together. Brush the tops with the egg wash and make a slit in the top of each pie. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.