March 2, 2010
I've been an Australian expat for eight years now - with some much-needed months-long intervals at home - but this is the first year it's ever occurred to me to throw an Australia Day party. I think there must be something about Texas that inspired me. Also, this is the first time I've been the only international among a group of friends - my closest friends here are all American, and I love them very dearly, and I thought they needed to eat things like meat pies, sausage rolls, pavlova and lamingtons. I was also hugely impressed by their collective ability to produce decorative Australiana, which far outstripped my own. My favourite was the gorgeous map of my country, hand-drawn and beautifully painted, by a wonderful 6 year old friend.
So, back in January: the most kitsch Australia Day ever, but very delicious. I also served tiny hamburgers complete with beetroot (beets - an essential component of the Aussie burger), fairy bread (white bread with butter and sprinkles, which I cut into the shape of Australia, and which the abovementioned 6 year old was a big fan of), a green and gold salad, and a lime and coconut cheesecake with a macadamia crust (macadamias are native to Australia). And yes, there were prawns (shrimp) on the barby.
This is Australian Gourmet Traveller's recipe for mini meat pies - or party pies, as we call them - so they're all steak, shallots, garlic and red wine. The result is probably more French than Australian, but they're unbearably delicious, and you definitely don't need to wait for imperialist national holidays to serve them. The recipe suggests topping them with puff pastry, but I chose to make a double batch of shortcrust. Serve them with tomato sauce (ketchup) - AGT says "homemade or good quality", and I say Heinz or Fountain.
The filling takes some time to cook and cool, and is best made the day before you assemble the pies.
PS I know it's disgraceful of me to use props with Union Jack on them for an Australia Day post, but this gorgeous Emma Bridgewater plate was the closest thing I could find to an Australian flag.
Mini Meat Pies
from Australian Gourmet Traveller
2 tbsp olive oil
600g chuck steak, chopped into 2cm pieces
for dusting: seasoned plain flour
4 shallots, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
200ml dry red wine
200ml beef stock
1/4 cup (firmly packed) thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
for shortcrust pastry:
240g plain flour, sieved
180g cold unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
1 tsp salt
Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Dust steak in flour, shake off excess, and cook in batches until golden, stirring occasionally (3-5 minutes). Remove from saucepan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add shallots and garlic to pan, saute until golden (3-5 minutes). Add red wine, reduce by half (3-4 minutes), then add stock and thyme. Reduce heat to low, add steak, cover and simmer until tender (2-2 1/2 hours). Uncover and cook until sauce is thick (30-40 minutes). Season to taste, set aside to cool, then refrigerate until cooled completely.
To make the pastry, process flour, butter and 1 tsp salt in a food processor until just combined. Add 80ml iced water, a little at a time, and pulse just until a dough forms. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (1 hour).
Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F. Roll pastry to 5mm thick and cut twelve 9cm-diameter rounds. Line a 12 x 60ml capacity muffin tray with pastry and refrigerate to rest (30 minutes). Meanwhile, cut twelve 7cm-diameter rounds of puff pastry and refrigerate until required. (Note that I made two batches of shortcrust and didn't top the pies with puff; this meant I could make 18 pies from the amount of filling I had.)
Divide pie mixture among pastry cases, fold in pastry edges, then brush with eggwash and top with pastry circles. Press edges together and refrigerate to rest (30 minutes). Brush with eggwash and then cook until golden and cooked through (15-20 minutes). (As you can see, I made a small hole in the top of each pie. The hole allows steam to escape, and I like the way it looks.)
* The AGT recipe says it makes 12; mine stretched to 18.