There are some foods that are inextricably linked to national identity, considered representative or symbolic of a nation. As Australia post-1788 doesn’t have a long culinary history, we only have a few foods that are really seen as (almost) uniquely Australian; vegemite, the lamington, the pavlova, damper, fairy bread and the Aussie BBQ. But there is one food in particular that expats all over crave, never realising how great their love of it before they leave home- the meat pie.

Of course it’s by no means clear-cut. Food icons are not divided by national boundaries anymore than any other cultural phenomena. For example, almost all the foods that I mentioned above as ‘(almost) uniquely Australian’ are claimed by New Zealand as well. And of course food nostalgia can hit you for any tasty treat or even for foods you don’t like. They don’t even have to be linked to your history or your country. But there is definitely a strong link between national identity and food.

Although making pie from meat is by no means unique to Australia, other than New Zealand there is no other country I’ve come across where virtually everywhere you go, you can grab a pie. This isn’t to say we eat them often; I might have two pies in a whole year, but when you go overseas and you can’t just grab a pie it’s a culture shock. And that to me is the measure of an iconic food. That feeling, a kind of a mix of longing, disbelief and of course hunger when you can’t find that food you’re so used to being able to grab wherever you go. In fact, that may be why I’ll only get around to eating two meat pies in a year: I know they’ll always be there and thus take them for granted.

The pies you get at every local bakery, servo and supermarket in Australia are, like any mass-produced food, incredibly different from the kind you’d make at home. In fact, a home-made pie makes no attempt to imitate a mass-produced one, and vice versa. But they are delicious in their own way; flaky, hot and with tender beef chunks, slathered in or (god forbid) without tomato sauce. There is no wrong way to eat it and no wrong time – the Aussie beef pie suits all occasions. You could even serve one up this Australia day…

Aussie Beef Pie
500g chuck steak, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon ground paprika
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 glass of wine (any kind)
1 glass of water
375ml liquid beef stock
2 bay leaves
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup cold water mixed with 1 Tablespoon cornflour
2 sheets frozen butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
Tomato sauce, to serve, if desired.

In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil and cook the steak until sealed and browned. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the vegetables and fry until translucent, about 5 minutes. Return the beef to the pan and add the paprika and tomato paste. Stir through.

Add all the remaining ingredients except for the cornflour mixture, pastry and beaten egg. Simmer mix for 45 minutes. Stir through cornflour mixture and simmer until thick.  Allow to cool and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 220 ◦c. Lightly grease a round pie dish and line with a sheet of puff pastry. Fill with the beef filling and top with a second pastry sheet. Crimp the two sheets together with a fork and cut away the excess pastry. Finally, prick some holes in the top of the pie to allow air to escape and brush the top with beaten egg.

Bake for 45 minutes or until top and bottom of pie are golden (it helps to use a Pyrex dish so you can see this happening). If the pie browns too quickly on top, cover with foil.

Allow the pie to cool  for 10 minutes or so before cutting and serving with tomato sauce and any veg you prefer. For me, it steamed green beans and mashed potato. Enjoy!

What foods represent your national identity?

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7 Responses to Aussie Beef Pie

  1. Gaby says:

    Why refrigerate overnight? To allow for the flavours to develop? Looks like a good recipe, I’ll give it a try, although I must admit I’ve never eaten beef pie with tomato sauce.

    • Lau says:

      The filling needs to be refridgerated overnight to ensure the pie isn’t soggy. I had always wondered why my pie came out uniformly soft on the bottom until I came across this tip! That way, the mixture thickens and sets and then you cook the entire pie from cold rather than a cold pie/hot filling combo. The recipe is quite liquid-heavy. And I’m imagining a side effect would be the flavours developing more.

  2. Natalie says:

    I think a pie is a very English thing too. Nothing worse than a soggy bottom! I blind bake mine and brush with egg white before putting the filling in. Pie & Mash is classic comfort food, there’s nothing better! Yours looks very pretty, well done… PS I cooked the pan -for- day today- that combining is hard work, so is the washing up, but it’s worth it. I put crystalised ginger in mine instead of your pineapple. will be blogging it in the next few days and will give you a link back, thanks!!

    • Lau says:

      Blind baking is a grand idea.

      Let me know how the paneforte goes! I would love to know how it turns out with the ginger, which I have never been a huge fan of but can work so well in the right dish…

  3. Ted says:

    I was wondering about the smaller aussie pies and how most places (retail counters) wrap these for eating? One of the pies attributes is the ability to eat with 1 hand but surely this requires a wax paper wrapper, or something? What do they do down-under?
    Thanks… Ted

    • Lau says:

      Hi Ted, thanks for stopping by.
      Generally meat pies in bakeries will be served in a paper bag. This makes it much easier to eat with one had, although eating a pie with one hand is by no means mandatory.

  4. mmm this beef pie sounds delicious, I absolutely want to try one!!! :) I need an original home made one!

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