Friday, March 4, 2011

Australian meat pies

My daughter and son have never forgotten their first day out in Sydney, when they were small kids. I bought three hot meat pies, and we sat down to eat them in a corner of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Since this would be the first time ever that my children were to taste this famous Australian delicacy, I warned them that the gravy inside the pies was quite hot. So, they must not be tempted to bite into their pies as if they were sandwiches, for they would burn their mouths. As a conscientious dad, I made sure that this message got through to my kids. And they attacked their pies expertly. As for me, I failed to heed my own warning. Biting into my own meat pie as if it were a lukewarm hamburger, I promptly yelled in pain as a stream of boiling gravy scalded my lips and splashed my shirt. Needless to say, my kids found the situation funny.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I decided to prepare genuine Aussie meat pies (or almost) at Gamone, using ready-rolled pie pastry. It's remarkably easy. A packet of 400 g of beef mince enabled me to prepare enough mix for the equivalent of four individual pies, which I cooked in two sessions: yesterday, then this evening. My meat pies happened to be square, not round, since I baked them in a rectangular ovenware dish. Incidentally, that meant that I had to buy square pastry rather than the usual circular product.

I didn't worry too much about strict Aussie orthodoxy, in the sense that I did not incorporate Vegemite into the meat mix, and I didn't serve them up smothered in ketchup. My mix included chopped black olives and precooked French mushrooms, and there was no doubt a little more Italian olive oil than in standard Aussie pies. Needless to say, I used ample Worcestershire sauce both in the preparation of the meat mix (to dissolve the maize starch) and to accompany the cooked pies. The combination of olives and Worcestershire sauce gave my pies a distinctive flavor.

Incidentally, I found it necessary to erect a small parchment-paper chimney in the middle of the pastry, to prevent it from rising above the meat during the baking. I don't know how they solve this problem out in Australia when cooking standard-sized meat pies.

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