It's boldly un-Australian, but in adult memory I don't think I've ever bought a meat pie. But that doesn't mean I haven't eaten my fair share of this iconic morsel. My grandmother, Margaret Fulton, passed on to me her skills with pastry, as well as a love of a well-made Aussie pie. To me, it's the summer holidays in the palm of your hand, a thing for making in great quantities and sharing. A good Aussie stout and a spoonful of Vegemite lifts the flavour to even greater patriotic heights.
1kg beef chuck steak, cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp paprika
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
2 onions, chopped
1 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 cups beef or vegetable stock
2 cups (500ml) Australian stout
2 tsp Vegemite
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 sheets good-quality puff pastry
2 tbsp milk
1 cup plain flour
60g butter, frozen
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp iced water
1. First, make the shortcrust pastry. Sift flour and salt into a food processor bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Process for 15-20 seconds, pulsing, until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water. Process for 20 seconds, or until pastry clings together and forms a ball. Add another teaspoon of cold water if needed to form a dough. Remove, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 190C. Grease two 12-hole muffin tins. Roll out pastry to a three-millimetre thickness, then cut out 16 10-centimetre rounds and use these to line the tins. Press the pastry in so it comes a little higher than the edge (it will shrink). Chill in fridge for 30 minutes. Prick the bottom of each case with a fork a few times. Line each pastry case with tissue paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, then remove paper and weights and bake for another five to 10 minutes, until golden. Remove and allow to cool. Reduce oven to 180C.
3. Meanwhile, dust the beef in flour and paprika to lightly coat. Heat olive oil in a large casserole pan over medium-high heat and sear beef, until golden but still raw in the middle. Sear meat in about three batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more oil to the same pan, if needed. Fry onions, leek and garlic until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until soft, about five minutes, then return beef to pan. Add stock and stout, stir in Vegemite and tomatoes. Place lid on pot and cook over medium-low heat for one hour. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
4. To make pies, fill pastry cases with beef mixture to the top. Cut circles from the puff pastry, about seven centimetres in diameter, to fit pie tops. Crimp the edges with a fork. Combine egg and milk in a small bowl and brush over pies. Bake pies in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until pastry is golden and cooked through.