The Americans have their Pot Pies, the British have Steak Pies. There’s also English and Irish Shepard’s Pie and Cottage Pie. And then there are Australian Meat Pies, to which New Zealand also stakes a popularity claim. For the record, South Africans have traditional pies, too, and variations exist throughout other parts of Africa and the Middle-East.
The concept is similar, regardless of the accent of the eater: A pastry (or even potato) crust and a savory filling. The sizes vary greatly, too. From the U.S., I’m familiar with medium-sized pot pies. In England and Ireland, I’ve usually only seen larger pies. And for whatever reason, the traditional steak pies and meat pies of that continent down under are much smaller. They fit in your hand, can be eaten in a few ambitious bites, and are immensely popular for take-out. Or is it take-away? Aye, mate – Let’s not get lost in semantics before the baking even begins!
Now, I haven’t been to Australia and New Zealand yet, but along with exploring South America, it’s near the top of my list of future travel destinations. I actually only know about steak pies and meat pies from seeing them in other countries, and hearing about them from worldly friends. Asides from no-meat versions, I haven’t eaten anything like them in over 22 years, regardless of the name, origin, or mega-popularity. Because of the ingredients, of course.
Now, I have been to Ireland twice, and England many times. Contrary to stereotypes, my food experiences have been almost entirely positive. I really wanted to represent some traditional U.K. cuisine in my cookbook. A nod to Oz and NZ seemed in order, too.
I’ve always been intrigued by the form factor of the small savory pies I’ve seen in my travels. I decided to come up with my own recipe for mini mock-meat pies. Sort of a cross between French quiche and Irish or English stew. Perhaps a distant cousin of nut and lentil-based vegetarian meatloaf, like my good friends in the Irish countryside make. And the size of those famous little pies from another distant land I hope to see soon.
I set to work with my standard crust recipe and a muffin tray. I cooked up lentils and a thick vegetable stew for the filling. I even busted out my traditional Indian rolling pin to try my hand at some semi-artistic pastry shell work. The results were super-delicious… and even better looking and more amusing than I’d expected!
Vegan Meat Pies – with lentils & vegetables
makes 6-8 small pies / time 60 min
- 1 2/3 cups / 220 g flour
- 1/3 cup / 75 g margarine or oil
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml cold water
- 2 tsp apple vinegar
- 1/3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt in a large bowl.
- Mix vinegar and water in a small bowl.
- Add margarine, vinegar, water to large bowl. Mix well, knead to form smooth dough. Add more flour if needed.
- Cover, set aside for 30-60 min.
Mock-meat lentil and vegetable filling:
- 1/2 cup / 90 g brown lentils
- 2 cups / 480 ml water
- 2 Tbs oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml red or white wine
- 3 medium / 250 g potatoes peeled, diced
- 1 large carrot peeled, diced
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
- 3-4 medium / 35 g mushrooms finely chopped
- 3/4 cup / 180 ml soy milk or almond milk
- 1/2 cup / 30 g bread crumbs or 1/4 cup / 30 g flour
- 3 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes or 2 Tbs veg broth powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsn lemon juice OPTIONAL
- Bring 2 cups water to boil in small pot. Add rinsed lentils, return to boil. Reduce to medium low heat, cover. Cook lentils until soft, about 15 min.
- Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add garlic, onion, pepper. Fry, stirring regularly, 3-5 min.
- Add wine, potatoes, carrot, celery, 1/4 cup water. Return to low boil, reduce to low heat. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 10 min.
- Add mushrooms, cooked lentils to large pot. Increase heat to medium. Cook, partially covered, stirring regularly, 5 min.
- Add soy milk, bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice, plus fresh or dried herbs if desired. Mix well. Cook, stirring constantly, 3-5 min. Turn off heat, cover.
How to make and bake the pies:
- Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C / level 6. Grease a muffin tray.
- Knead and flatten / roll out small ball of dough, 1/4 in / 5 mm thickness on floured surface.
- Evenly pack the crust in muffin form, trim edges, spoon in heaping portion of filling.
- Roll out dough to cut strips or cover for top crust. Make a border, pinch pieces into place. Continue for other pies.
- Bake 18-25 min until crust is light golden brown. Allow to cool 5-10 min before serving.
Greener: Use 1 cup green peas or finely chopped broccoli instead of celery. Add to filling with mushrooms. Herbs: Try chopped rosemary, thyme, and other herbs, fresh or dried. Add to filling with bread crumbs. Large pie: Recipe works for 10 in / 25 cm pie. Thicker filling: Add more bread crumbs. Nutty: Add 1/4 cup / 30 g ground walnuts or sunflower seeds with bread crumbs, or substitute 1/2 cup ground nuts for bread crumbs.