Magnificent meat pie!

I’ve been craving pie. Here in Australia, a special place is reserved for the meat pie, a classic concoction of pastry, mince and gravy sold at milk bars, bakeries and convenience stores, and most especially, at the footy. But the pie I’ve been craving is more than that. Melt in your mouth meat, thick rich tasty gravy, tender flaky pastry. I’m drooling just thinking about it!

I found some gravy beef on sale last week, a cheap cut of meat even cheaper. So I scoured my recipe collection for a worthy recipe. And I think I found it in Jamie Oliver’s tribute to last year’s Royal Wedding between Kate and Will, a delicious casserole of beef, beer, barley and herbs. He used beef shin, but I substituted the gravy beef I had, which worked fine. I think it would work with any slow-cooking friendly cut of beef—chuck steak, gravy beef, blade steak or shin.

I also substituted a different pastry to the suet pastry he used, replacing it with Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry. It’s quick to make and results in the most beautiful light flaky pastry.

And the end result? Just as magnificent as I envisioned!

Magnificent meat pie

Adapted from Jamie’s Great Britain, by Jamie Oliver

Serves 8-10

2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs unsalted butter
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
3 bay leaves
3 red onions, chopped
1 kg gravy beef
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs tomato paste
440ml can of guinness
1.5 L homemade or good quality beef stock
2 Tbs plain flour
140g pearl barley
1 Tbs dijon mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
100g cheddar cheese, grated 
Sour cream pastry (see recipe below)
1 egg yolk
2 tsp milk

Put olive oil, butter and herbs in large casserole pot over high heat. When butter has melted, add onions, meat and a large pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tomato paste, Guinness, stock and flour, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the pearl barley, replace cover and cook for another hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove lid and turn up heat to medium low, and cook for a further 30 minutes, stirring frequently until meat is falling apart and gravy has thickened.

Preheat oven to 220C.

Stir in mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cheese. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Pour into large pie dish, approximately 25cm by 30 cm and 5 cm deep. Brush edges of dish with an egg wash made from egg yolk and milk whisked together with a pinch of salt.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is about 5 mm thick and big enough to just fit over dish. Carefully place on top of pie. Pinch edges down and brush with egg wash.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 220C until pastry is golden. Serve with green veges and homemade chips.

Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry

From Maggie’s Harvest, by Maggie Beer

200g cold unsalted butter, roughly chopped
250g plain flour
120g/125 ml sour cream

Put butter and flour into bowl of food processor and pulse briefly until mixture has texture of breadcrumbs.

Add sour cream and pulse again until mixture just comes together. Turn out onto board and press into a ball.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until ready to use.


1. You can replace the pastry with store bought shortcrust or puff pastry if you don’t want to make your own.


Comfort for a cold day

It’s rapidly sliding into winter here, even though we have most of a month left of autumn. I should be used to this, but after growing up in the sunny shores of Perth, where autumn slowly drifts into winter in early June, it can be hard.

Naturally, my thoughts turn to winter foods—thick hearty soups, tasty stews and slow-roasted dinners. I’ve even dragged out the slow cooker! But this particular meal, shepherd’s pie, was a bit of a winner with my young family. Both girls declared it DELICIOUS and polished off a large bowlful.

Traditionally, shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, quite often with leftover lamb from a roast, but equally as tasty from lamb mince. If you use beef, it’s cottage pie. It’s a complete meal in a bowl, with plenty of vegetables and of course the generous topper of mashed potatoes. It works equally well as a big family sized pie or prepared in individual pie plates. It’s not a particularly photogenic dish, but it certainly warms the soul.

And next time I make it, I think I’ll play a bit more with the recipe—maybe add some rosemary, and definitely some garlic. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Shepherd’s pie

Adapted from Modern Classics Volume 1, by Donna Hay

Serves 4-6

1 Tbs olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
600g lamb mince
2 Tbs tomato paste
400g can peeled italian tomatoes
1 c beef stock
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 c frozen peas
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1kg potatoes, peeled and quartered
75g butter
1/4 c milk
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 190C.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Cook the onion and carrot for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the mince and cook for 3 minutes until browned. Stir through the tomato paste and tomatoes, the stock, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a simmer.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the peas and simmer uncovered for a further 15 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

While the meat mixture is cooking, add the potatoes to cold water and bring to a boil. Gently boil until the potatoes are soft.

Drain and mash with the butter and milk, then stir through the parmesan.

Spoon the meat mixture into a 4-cup capacity ovenproof dish and top with mashed potato. Bake for 35 minutes until potato is golden brown.


1. It’s a good idea to use a tray underneath the dish while it’s in the oven, as it can bubble over from underneath the mashed potatoes.

2. This can also be be made in individual servings using small dishes.