Meat pies have a long and storied past. They can be traced back to the Neolithic period of ancient Egypt. In Medieval times they were made with thick, nearly inedible crusts that were used as the baking vessel. Today we get to indulge in buttery, flaky crusts set in conveniently modern pie plates.
In its simplest form, a savory pie consists of a crust and some type of meat and/or vegetables, usually with some sort of binding agent like a sauce. There doesn’t always have to be a top to the pie and some pies just get folded over in half-moon shapes. The cook’s discretion and creativity can be expressed in this endeavor.
They are a great way to use any cut of meat from the hunt. Likewise, meat and savory pies can serve as a way to repurpose leftovers from a big turkey dinner or family roast. They are also a great way to present and prepare the less expensive and typically tougher cuts from your butcher or grocery store. If you’re feeling adventurous you can make one with offal like heart, kidney, sweetbreads or liver and transform it into a meal that has lots of deep, delicious flavours.
Savory pie variations can be found from all over the world and range from Quebequois tourtière to British steak and kidney pie, spicy beef Jamaican patties, to vegetable samosas of India, and the many versions of empanadas that can be found in parts of the world impacted by Spanish colonialism. Regardless, the practice of placing seasoned meat and vegetables in pastry spans across many cultures historically and globally.
Meat and savory vegetable pies make for incredibly versatile meals and to me are comfort food that warms the soul and sticks to the bones on a cold winter’s night. The pies can be made well in advance and stored in your freezer for families on the go. On a day when you don’t have time to cook, simply place your pie straight in the oven and wait for it to be done. Preparing the dough and filling can be easily turned into a fun activity for the whole family.
The dough for the crust can be made using healthy flour alternatives. For a savory meat pie, I suggest trying finely ground corn flour. It will add a unique flavour that will pair well with any meat. The dough will not be a flaky crust, but will be able to take on whatever filling you put in your pie.
Corn Flour Crusted Meat Pie
Meat of your choice
Any root vegetable
Coarse Ground Black Pepper
Any seasonings of your choosing
Note: The meat pie photographed was made with duck. I seasoned it with nutmeg, cinnamon, sage, chili flakes, salt, coarse ground black pepper and parmesan cheese.
Cut your meat into even-sized pieces. Sear on high heat with vegetable oil until a nice golden brown colour is achieved. Remove from pan. Add your base vegetables to the pan: such as onions, carrot, rutabaga, turnip, parsnip. Cook until a nice colour is achieved as well. Add garlic when vegetables are nearly soft. Deglaze as you go with water or stock as necessary. Add your meat back to the pan. Then add just enough water or stock to cover the meat and vegetable mixture. Cover and cook until meat is tender, simmering on low heat. To thicken the braise, add one teaspoon of slurry at a time and incorporate well.
To make a slurry, put a tablespoon of cornstarch in a bowl. Whisk in two tablespoons of cold water until there are no lumps.
To make your crust, you will need:
1 part water
1.5 parts finely ground corn flour
Pinch of salt
Boil your water. Take finely ground corn flour and put it in a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Pour boiling water in.
Stir in with wooden spoon until incorporated. Once it has cooled slightly, use your hands to knead the dough for 2 minutes. Should be just tacky to the touch and the consistency of play dough.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out thin, being sure to continue dusting as you go so it does not stick. Grease your baking dish with vegetable oil and lay dough in the dish. If you are having trouble rolling it out simply assemble the dough in the dish piece by piece, pressing the pieces together to make the crust.
If you want to make a cover or lid for your pies, be mindful of the thickness. When I do, I make sure it is very thin so it becomes as crisp as possible, more like a corn chip.
Bake pie in a preheated oven at 350F for 25-30 minutes if not frozen. Frozen pies will take longer, roughly 45 minutes to an hour. Check to ensure pies are cooked all the way through and warm in the center before serving.
Be creative, make ahead if need be, and enjoy!