The best meat pie I ever had was at Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney. Technically, it's a pork and fennel roll. After a chilly morning walk from the CBD to Barangaroo, I was craving for something warm and savoury, and ordered this fresh from the oven. Encased in a buttery, flaky crust, the filling was moist and fragrant, thanks to the fennel seeds, and tasted nothing like the dry, chalky meat pastries I've had in the past (and the reason why I hesitated to order meat pies...until that serendipitous moment).
I have tried to recreate this taste at home, but it's not easy finding fennel seeds at the grocery. These days, I make do with ordering most provisions online, from local purveyors, and the best replacement I could find are anise seeds, which exude a slight citrus and liquorice-like taste.
All my recipes in the blog are a result of self-taught adventures in the kitchen, so a caveat, if I may: my pastry skills are amateur at best, so the crust I made for the meat filling is a simple pie shape, made from puff pastry. In this version, I experimented with vegetable oil, olive oil to be exact, to make the dough. Substituting butter with oil cuts the preparation time for making the puff pastry by half, compared to the traditional puff pastry made with a block of butter. If you have time in your hands -- at least 4 hours to be exact -- just to make the puff pastry, coupled with a lot of patience, you can refer to my previous post on Apple Pie , where there is a section on creating puff pastry from flour and butter. If you want to cut the prep time altogether and cut straight to seasoning the filling, you can buy store-bought puff pastry from Santi's deli.
The filling is the easiest part. It's best to defrost the ground meat at room temperature at least an hour before seasoning. I've used a combination of salt, black pepper, red chilli pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and anise seeds, and have mixed the measurements according to the flavour peg in my memory. If you have scallions on hand or chives, add a tablespoon as well to season the meat (or if you're vegan, a plant-based meat substitute). I prefer using ground pork because it is closest to the pork roll I had at Bourke Street.
Baking time: 45 minutes Preparation time: 2.5 hours
Yields: 8 slices
2 puff pastry sheets*
250 grams ground pork, chicken, lamb, beef or plant-based e.g. OmniPork
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons anise seeds
1 stalk spring onions, thinly sliced
1 sprig dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch ginger, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
*To make puff pastry using olive oil or vegetable oil:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 cup oil
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons cold tap water
To make butter-based puff pastry, see Apple Pie post.
1. Whisk all-purpose flour and salt together. Pour oil in and using a fork, break dough apart into small lumps that resemble popcorn. Stir in water by the tablespoon, and keep mashing the dough until it becomes a shaggy ball.
Pour half-cup of vegetable oil in the flour and salt mix.
Don't they look like soggy popcorn?
2. Place wax paper on top of a clean surface. Put dough on top of wax paper and fold the paper on top. Or, you can cut two long sheets of wax paper and put the dough in the middle. Roll the dough using a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle, if you don't have a rolling pin!) until it flattens into an oval. Cut the dough in half with a dough cutter. Cover the other half with wax paper.
3. Dust dough with flour. Keep rolling the dough from the centre to the edge, in a circular motion. In between the rolling, peel off the wax paper on top, flip the dough to the bottom part, and repeat the rolling motion, until the dough expands to cover the base of a glass pie plate, with a few centimetres loose. Repeat with the second dough, for the top crust.
4. Wrap both puff pastry in sheets of wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Pre-heat oven to 180 degree Celsius.
5. Combine ground meat with salt, black pepper, red chilli pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and anise seeds. Coat to mix thoroughly. Remove puff pastry sheets from the refrigerator. Gently peel off the wax paper covering and place one sheet on the pie plate. Pat bottom flat.
6. Fill in seasoned meat and evenly distribute. Pour two tablespoons of olive oil in the meat mixture.
7. Cover with second pastry sheet. Seal ends together and crimp in scallop shapes using forefinger and thumb, or use blunt end of fork to seal. Pierce pie centre with fork or knife for ventilation.
8. Break egg in a small bowl and whisk together. Brush egg wash at the center of pie, edges to seal, and the top surface.
9. Bake meat pie in oven for 45 minutes. If you want it more golden brown, bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and slit the center to allow to cool, before slicing into 8 wedges.