When I entered my first Australian pie shop, I envisioned glossy cases filled with lemon meringue, banana cream, and perhaps blueberry with a lattice crust. Much to my surprise, there wasn’t a sweet pie in the bunch. Instead, I saw racks of mince pies (Aussie for hamburger), potato top pies, and something I’d never even dreamed of: bacon and egg pie.
Once I got past my initial shock, I was thrilled, and set about tasting and testing until I found my favorites.
Meat Pies: Starting with the Basics
I’d been making meat pies back in the States and Canada for years, but they were my own concoctions, renditions of the meat pies I’d read about in English novels. I was excited to learn how to make the real deal from Australian meat pie connoisseurs.
While nowadays you can find posh new pies like Thai chicken curry or lamb with rosemary or even vegetarian options, my friends inform me that a real Aussie meat pie contains beef, either minced or cubed, with a few additions like onion, garlic, tomato sauce, or a few veggies like potato and carrot.
When I asked if vegetable pies were authentic, I was met with horrified looks and a firm, “No Aussie in their right mind would ever eat a vegetarian pie. If it doesn’t have meat in it, it’s not a pie.”
Australian pies are made with a shortcrust pastry base (traditional pie crust for North Americans) and a puff pastry top.
Adventures in Pie-making
With these guidelines in mind, I set about making my first Australian meat pies.
I started with the basic: steak and veg. This is basically a hearty beef stew tucked in a pie crust. Simple, savory, and absolutely delicious. I made mine in my friend Ann’s pie-maker, a dandy device much like a waffle iron with spaces for pies instead of waffles. It makes cute little 4-inch pies that are perfect for grabbing as a snack on a busy afternoon or packing for work or a picnic. The pies freeze brilliantly, so you can make a whole bunch at once and freeze some for a day when you really don’t feel like cooking.
Then I made peppered steak, basically the same as steak and veg, but with onion as the only veg and lashings of black pepper.
I finished with what turned out to be our favorite: hamburger and cheese pie topped with mushy peas and mashed potatoes. Oh my. Warm, savory deliciousness, perfect for a rainy night or a potluck supper.
Next up was bacon and egg pie, the easiest pie of all, made by filling the pie crust with crispy-fried bacon and topping it with a whole egg and a puff pastry cap. Delicious fare for a lazy weekend breakfast.
The next time you’re invited to a potluck dinner or brunch, break out of the casserole mold and bring an Australian meat pie!
All photos courtesy of the author.