This is the quintessential Australian beef pie, flavoured with beer and Vegemite. You’ll notice I’ve given two options for the meat filling. If you like your pies a little chunky and more rustic, use chuck steak; if you prefer them more like the ones you get at the footy, use minced beef.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tbsp butter
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) chuck steak, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) dice, or 650 g (1 lb 7 oz) minced (ground) beef
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) beer
- 375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) beef stock
- 1 small carrot, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
- 1½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ tsp Vegemite (or Promite or Marmite, if unavailable)
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 quantity savoury shortcrust pastry, or 3 sheets ready-rolled frozen pastry, thawed
- ½ quantity puff pastry, or 3 sheets ready-rolled frozen pastry, thawed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) ripe tomatoes (see Note)
- 1 tbsp safflower oil
- 1 small brown onion, very finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 100 g (3½ oz/½ cup) brown sugar
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) apple cider vinegar
- small pinch of ground celery seeds
- pinch of ground cloves or star anise
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Filling chilling time 4 hours or overnight
Pastry chilling time 2½ hours
To make the filling, put half the olive oil and half the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the onion for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
If using chuck steak, season the flour well with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then toss together with the beef cubes until they are lightly coated. Add the remaining oil and butter to the pan, then sauté the beef over high heat in several batches until lightly golden, adding a little more oil if needed. Set aside with the onion.
If using minced beef, brown it in batches in the remaining oil, but reserve the remaining butter. Add the butter to the pan once the mince has been browned and removed, then stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so.
Add the beer and stock to the pan, scraping up any cooked-on bits. Return the beef and onion to the pan, along with the carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, Vegemite and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1¼ hours, or until the beef is very tender and the sauce is thick and rich. Discard the bay leaf, then season to taste.
Cool the mixture slightly, then cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until completely cold; if you can leave it overnight, the flavours will develop even more.
To make the tomato sauce, using the tip of a small sharp knife, cut a small cross in the bottom of each tomato. Place them in a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Leave for about 1 minute, then drain and transfer to a bowl of iced water. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins back from the crosses and discard.
Working over a bowl to catch the drips, carefully cut the tomatoes in half, then scoop the seeds out and discard. Dice the flesh and place in a clean bowl. Strain the reserved tomato juices into the chopped tomato and set aside.
Heat the safflower oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 6–8 minutes, or until lightly golden. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Increase the heat to high, add the tomatoes, 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water and the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
Bring just to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to ensure the mixture isn’t sticking, for 3½ hours, or until the mixture is thick, rich and pulpy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Discard the bay leaf. Purée the mixture as smooth as possible, using a food processor or hand-held stick blender. Strain, return to a clean pan and bring back to the boil.
Strain through a sterilised funnel, straight into a sterilised 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cup) jar or bottle. Screw the lid on tightly, then turn upside down until cool. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months; discard if you see any sign of mould, or if the flavour suddenly changes. Serve as a condiment to meat pies, burgers, eggs or chips.
To assemble and bake the pies, remove the shortcrust pastry from the fridge 15 minutes (a little less or more on a hot or cold day) to soften slightly before you roll it out; it should still be cold.
Using a fine sieve, very lightly flour your work surface and a rolling pin. Starting at the middle of the shortcrust pastry disc, gently roll the pastry away from you, then turn it 45 degrees and roll away from you again. Repeat this process until the pastry is a uniform 2 mm thickness. Use a 15 cm (6 inch) round pastry cutter to cut six shortcrust pastry discs for the pie bases.
Lightly grease six individual, non-stick pie tins, measuring about 12 cm (4½ inches) across the top, 8 cm (3¼ inches) across the base and 3.5 cm (1½ inches) deep.
Line each pie tin with a shortcrust pastry round, gently pressing the dough into the tins, starting in the centre and working out towards the top rim of the tins; stop when the pastry is about 1 cm (¾ inch) above the line of the tin. Gently fold this bit of pastry down over to line the pie tin rims – this is where the pie pastry lids will adhere. Place the pie tins on a baking tray, lightly cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to resume making the pies, take the puff pastry out of the fridge to soften slightly, making sure it is still cold.
Divide the cold filling among the pie bases. Roll the puff pastry out to a 5 mm (½ inch) thickness and cut out six 12.5 cm (5 inch) rounds. Lightly brush the rims of the shortcrust pastry with the beaten egg. Top each pie with a puff pastry round, pressing down around the edges to help the two different pastries adhere to each other; you can pinch the edges together if you really want to be sure, or use the back of a fork to seal around the edge. Pierce the top of each pie with a small sharp knife or skewer to form an air vent, then brush the top of the pies with more beaten egg, avoiding the vent. Place the pies back in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking – this will give the lids of the pies more puff and crispness.
Put two baking trays in the oven and preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Place the pie tins directly onto the hot baking trays and bake for 10 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and lightly golden. Turn the oven temperature down to 180°C (350°F) and bake the pies for a further 10–15 minutes to ensure the filling is hot – your pastry should have a pretty good tan by now!
Remove the pies from the oven and the tins. Serve hot, with tomato sauce.
Recipe and image from Milkbar Memories by Jane Lawson (Murdoch Books, $39.99, pbk).