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December 20, 2015

Australian Meat Pie

Whenever I go home, even if it's just for a few days over Thanksgiving, I never want to eat cafeteria food when I come back to Wisconsin. Remembering that there is food that actually tastes good makes me never want to eat an overcooked burger smothered in cheap american cheese ever again, even if it is better than most of the other food available. To help cope, I bring back tons of food from home. No, the fact that home is a few hundred miles away and I therefore have to cram everything into a suitcase does not stop me. One of my favorite things to do is stop at the Australian Bakery and bring back a few frozen Australian meat pies. However, I can only fit so many in my suitcase, leaving me pie-less for the rest of the year. Luckily, I figured out how to make a pretty good copycat, which freezes equally well and gives me access to pie whenever I want.


If you've never heard of an Australian meat pie, don't be alarmed, just very, very sad that you've wasted years of your life without them. It's basically a handheld pocket of flaky pie crust filled with savory beef and a gravy-like sauce. The Australian Bakery also has varieties with onions, cheese, bacon, different types of meat, and vegetables. My favorite is the original with just the beef and gravy. I haven't quite figured what gives the Australian Bakery's pies that deliciously savory flavor, but I'm not quite sure if I'm willing to buy a jar of Marmite to see if that's it.


Pretty much any dough would be delicious here. Puff pastry's beautiful buttery layers would make this dish even richer, and pizza dough would make it sturdy and hardy. I however, want the best of both, so I use a savory pie dough. It's buttery and flaky but can still stand up to the filling. If you make these into hand pies (the traditional size), you'll definitely want a dough that will hold together while you pick it up and eat it. A full size pie won't be as delicate, but regular pie dough is still my go-to choice.


As much as I love the dough (I am a crust lover... no shame), the filling for this pie is absolutely fantastic. It starts by browning ground beef, which must have around 85% fat (give or take 5% to balance substance and juiciness). I dice up an onion and throw it in, too. Once the beef is almost cooked and the onions are tender and fragrant, I add some tomato paste. I give that a few minutes to cook together because if you let tomato paste brown it adds this wonderfully rich, complex flavor to the dish that isn't easily replaced. Next, I stir in some flour to begin to thicken the mixture. You're going to want a thick gravy, not a liquidy mess that oozes out of your pie as soon as you cut/bite into it. Lastly, I add beef broth and herbs and let it all cook together for a few minutes so the flavor can combine.


One of the keys to a perfect pie is making sure everything is cold. Cold dough bakes up nice and flaky, and the filling has to be cold when you pour it into the crust so that it doesn't mess that up. I like to roll out half my dough, press it into the pan, and chill it for 15 minutes before I spoon in the cold filling and top it with another round of dough. That all gets chilled for a while until everything is cold before I pop it into the oven. After about an hour (for a whole pie), the whole thing will be hot and steamy and golden brown, though you may have to cover the sides with foil to avoid overbrowning.


Like most meats and poultry, you'll want to let this set for a bit before you cut it. Everything needs to settle into place or you risk the meat and the sauce falling out of the crust and making a huge, unappealing mess. It will retain heat for a while, but it also reheats wonderfully if you happen to forget about it (which I doubt will happen). It's a great stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal, which is perfect for winter and perfect for when I want actual food.


1 Recipe Double Crust Savory Pie Dough (see below or use pre-made dough)
1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef
1 Onion, Diced
2 T Tomato Paste
1/3 Cup Flour
1 Cup Beef Broth
2 T Worcestershire
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/4 tsp Oregano
1 Egg
2 T Milk

Grease a 9" pie plate.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the beef and onions and cook until browned and almost cooked through, 6-8 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 minutes or until thickened slightly. Add the beef broth, worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes and set aside to cool.

Split the pie dough in half and roll each into a 10-12" circle, big enough to fit the pie plate with some hanging over the edge. Press one round into the pie crust and set the other aside.

Spread the cooled filling into the crust. Top with the other round of dough and pinch the sides together to seal. Cut a vent in the top of the crust and chill until cold.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 350F.

Whisk the egg and milk together and brush onto the crust. Bake the pie until golden and cooked through, about 1 hour, covering the crust to prevent burning as necessary.

Pie Crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add 1 stick of chilled and cubed butter and pulse until small lumps remain, then drizzle in cold water until it clumps together.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from www.food.com

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