To celebrate the release of Baz Luhrmann’s film “AUSTRALIA” I’ll be doing a series of blogs on Australian food icons.
Australia is not really well known for its cuisine but it is home to a range of food items that could not be denied as quintessentially Australian. Because of its close proximity and association with New Zealand there is an ongoing battle between the two as to which nation invented what and when.
We’ll start with Meat Pie.
A 2007 survey of Australians (affectionately titled as the ‘Top Taste Lamington Aussie Poll’) found that meat pies were the most popular Australian food (Lamingtons came second – to be discussed further in a future post).
So, what is an Australian meat pie?
It’s described by Wikipedia (always a good source of 100% accurate facts *wink* *wink*):
“…hand-sized pie containing largely minced meat and gravy sometimes with onion and often consumed as a takeaway food snack. The pie itself is congruent with the United Kingdom's steak pie.
It is considered iconic in Australia and New Zealand. It was described by former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr in 2003 as Australia's "national dish".”
Meat pies now come in all sorts of varieties but I like mine plain (steak) or with mushrooms. I smother it with tomato ketchup (more commonly called “tomato sauce” in Australia) before eating.
I’ve never actually cooked this but I found a recipe for a Basic Meat Pie from taste.com.au:
Basic Meat Pie
30 - 60 minutes
Ingredients (serves 4)
Plain flour, to dust
375g block frozen puff pastry, thawed (Pampas brand)
Melted butter, to grease
2 (25 x 25cm) sheets ready-rolled frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed (Pampas brand)
1 egg, lightly whisked
700g lean beef blade steak, cut into 3cm cubes
2 tbs plain flour
60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
1 brown onion, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
1 large celery stick, thickly sliced
310ml (1 1/4 cups) good-quality beef stock
2 tbs finely chopped fresh curly parsley
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. To make beef filling, place beef in a medium bowl, add flour and toss to coat. Heat 2 tbs of oil in a medium heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, using a wooden spoon to stir often, for 6 minutes or until light brown. Transfer to a medium heatproof bowl. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining oil to pan. Add onion, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Return beef to pan with stock, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until beef is tender. Increase heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for a further 10-15 minutes or until sauce is a thick gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer beef filling to a medium heatproof bowl and set aside for 10 minutes. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to partially cool.
2. Meanwhile, line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Lightly flour a clean surface and use a rolling pin to roll out puff pastry, rotating occasionally, to a 30cm square 3-4mm thick. Invert a shallow 25cm (top measurement) pie plate on pastry and use a sharp knife to cut pastry 2mm from edge of plate. (Do not drag - the pastry layers may stick together and the edge won't puff into separate crisp layers in the oven.) Lift pastry onto lined tray, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge until required.
3. Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a pie plate with melted butter to grease. Place shortcrust pastry sheets on a clean surface and cut 1 sheet in half. Brush 1 edge of whole sheet with water and lay a half sheet along this edge, overlapping by 1cm. Press to join and smooth out join. Repeat process on an adjacent edge of whole sheet, overlapping ends of half-sheets as well. Gently lift pastry onto greased plate and ease into plate to line. Smooth pastry and press around top rim of plate. Hold plate and rotate while using a small sharp knife at a 45° angle to cut away excess pastry.
4. Use a fork to prick pastry base evenly about 25 times. Place in fridge for 15 minutes to rest (to help reduce shrinkage during cooking). Blind-bake the pie base before adding filling to ensure it is well cooked and crisp. To do this, place a 30cm square of non-stick baking paper or foil over the pastry and top evenly with about 1 cup of dried beans or rice to stop the pastry from bubbling. Place pie plate on a baking tray and cook in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Carefully remove paper or foil and beans or rice (see note) and bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until golden. Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and, if necessary, use a clean tea towel to carefully pat down any pastry that has puffed during cooking. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Increase oven temperature to 220°C.
5. Spread cooled filling evenly into base. Remove puff pastry from fridge. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush pie edge with a little cold water. Place puff pastry on top of pie and gently press edges together to seal. (Do not press the outer edge, or it will not puff well during cooking.)
Use a small sharp knife to cut a 4cm cross in pastry centre to allow steam to escape during cooking. Lightly brush top with whisked egg. Place pie on baking tray and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 190°C and cook for a further 20-25 minutes or until well puffed, golden and heated through. If necessary, shield areas of pastry top and edges browning faster than others with pieces of foil. Serve immediately.