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Story of the Down Under Pies

When visiting Australia, I am always trying to come to terms with what Australian food really is. There is a core theme that runs true in every area I visit. Queen Mum's favorites, such as Fish and Chips, Beef Roast, and Meat Pies still reign. But don't get the wrong idea about Australian food- Fast and Fresh Asian is an enormous part of the food scene. It’s astonishing how much home cooks know about Asian cooking.

World-class wine and cheese make Australia a formidable contender for other parts of the culinary world competing to be the best. The real message is that Australian is very much like American food. There is no one cuisine across the land. It has been influenced by so many immigrants that it is a melting pot with pockets of exotic flavors and ingredients with roots in the traditions of its settlers.

As a professional chef, always traveling on my stomach; tasting what the locals consume is what it's all about adventuring in the land down under. Of all the national edible treasures I sampled, the Meat Pie impressed me the most which spurred my husband and me to embark upon a hunt for the best pie. Lucky us, we happened to be visiting during national pie week. Every September in Sydney for a week, it attracts pie makers nationally and is the last authority on meat pies.

My favorites were the exotics like green chile, chicken with exotic spices, and British cheeses. My husband, who grew up in Oz is a purist, so he stuck to the meat varieties served with tomato sauce (known as ketchup to us Yanks). We did have tasting standards, we refused to eat any frozen varieties and none with peas or veggies (akin to its American cousin). Steak and Kidney, Sweet Chili and Cheese, Green Thai Chicken, and Beef and Bacon were the arrays of selections on the menu during the pie week. Our discovery was with the influence of other cultures, pies have many colors and flavors that show the true diversity of a sunburnt land that is often mistaken for cowboy country.

Thai Pie

This filling is reflective of the strong Asian influence of Australia.

Yield; 1 large 9" double-crusted pie

For Dough:

Prepare or buy frozen pie crust for two 9 inch pies, or prepare the crust for six 4 1/2 inch pies.

1 egg, beaten for washing and attaching dough lid

For Filling;

2 teaspoons hot sesame oil

5 green onions, sliced thin (1/2 bunch both green and white parts)

1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 1/2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breast meat, diced in ½ inch pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 teaspoon freshly grated lime peel

Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 can (14oz) lite unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup half-and-half cream

Instructions for Filling:

In a 3 quart saucepan, Sauté green onions in hot sesame oil over medium heat for one minute. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add chicken breast, lime peel, and lime juice. Cook for about 10 minutes until firm and white.

Sprinkle flour on cooked chicken mixture and stir until blended. Add can of lite coconut milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, simmer until slightly thickened and chicken is cooked thoroughly.

Add Fresh cilantro, fish sauce, soy sauce, and cream. Adjust fish sauce and soy to taste.

Let mixture cool before pouring into the prepared pie shell. (See recipe for pastry crust)

To Bake Pies:

Preheat oven to 350F

When the mixture is cool, fill the baked shells and cover with the cut pastry lids. Attach lids with egg wash and wash the outside of the shell for a deeper glaze when baked. Bake for 15-20 minutes for small pies and 30-40 minutes for family pies at 350 or until golden brown.. Pie is done when bubbling and golden brown in color.

Tried and True Ozzie Meat Pie

It's a classic- This recipe makes a sizable batch, great for freezing.

Yield: Filling for 2 family pies (9-inch crust)

For Dough:

Prepare or buy frozen pie crust for two double 9 inch pies

1 egg, beaten for washing and attaching dough lid

For Filling:

3 lbs beef chuck or pot roast, cubed in 1/2 inch pieces- fat removed.

2/3 cup flour for dredging

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, (approximately 1 ½ cups) diced small

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 cups of water

1/2 cup dark beer (4 ounces)

Salt to taste

Instructions for filing:

Dredge meat in flour, set aside. In a large heavy-bottomed 3 quart Dutch oven, heat canola oil over medium heat. Place one piece of meat in oil to test. When the meat sizzles, carefully place the rest of the meat in the pan. Do not crowd the meat in the pan or it will steam.

When the meat has browned, add the onions and garlic and cook until soft about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and pepper. Mix the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, water, and beer. Deglaze the pan and reduce until gravy has thickened about 1 hour or more, adding water if needed. When the meat is tender, transfer to a container to cool. (See recipe for pastry crust dough)

To bake pies:

Preheat oven to 350F

When the mixture is cool, fill the baked shells and cover with the cut pastry lids. Attach lids with egg wash and wash the outside of the shell for a deeper glaze when baked. Bake for 10-15 minutes for small pies and 30-40 minutes for family pies at 350F or until golden brown.

Chef’s Secret: Professional pie makers always make their filling the day before assembly for best results. If you can't wait, cool down the filling in the freezer, stirring often to speed the chilling time

Pastry Crust Dough for Meat Pies

Yield: for 1 double 9-inch pie or 3 double-crusted 5-inch pies in a 4 ½ inch foil round pie pan or 6 single-crust pies for a 4 1/2 inch foil round pie pan.


2 cups self-rising flour*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)

5-6 Tablespoons ice water

1 teaspoon lemon juice


In a food processor with a dough blade, combine flour and salt. Add the cubed butter, and pulse until mixed. Add slowly ice water and lemon juice until the mixture is crumbly. Take the lid off of the processor and feel the dough. If it stays together, it is finished mixing. Form dough in a ball, place in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

For 9 inch pies:

Roll out pastry on a floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Prick the bottom and sides of pastry with a fork. Line pastry with a double thickness of aluminum foil (or line the pastry with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.) Bake in a preheated 450F oven 8 minutes. Remove foil (and weights).

For 5 inch double pies:

When chilled, roll out on the floured surface and cut into 5 inch round circles about 1/8 inch thick. If making double-crusted pie, place dough in a 4 1/2 inch pie tin and cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Let cool before using it. If making a single crust roll out and cut into 5 inch circles about 1/8 inch thick, and place on top of cooled meat pie mixture crimping the sides with a fork to seal the dough to the pan. Bake as directed in meat pie recipe.

Chef’s Secret: *substitution for self-rising flour- 1 cup of all-purpose flour plus 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt.

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