Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hot Pies and Grand Finals

My earliest football food memory is of an extremely rare trip to the North Hobart football ground with my late father.

I can't remember who was playing but I do recall sitting on the hard wooden seats of the grandstand and afterwards standing behind the goal posts at the foot of the stand barracking with Dad who was dressed in his weekend clothes with a grey gabardine overcoat and grey fedora.

At half time we went to the back of the grandstand where Dad bought a beer, a lemonade for me and hot meat pies for us both.

No squeeze packet tomato sauce in those days. The sauce was straight from a large bottle of Rosella. I remember this distinctly for at home at Lenah Valley, a Hobart suburb, my dear old Mum would not permit the sauce bottle to be left on the table while we ate. The reason for this was that in the late 50's there had been a murder in Hobart and the scene of the crime was a kitchen which was duly photographed and subsequently adorned the front page of the local newspaper. On the table in the photograph of the kitchen of the deceased's household was a large bottle of tomato sauce. Mum feared we would meet a similar fate unless the sauce was decanted into a small glass jug she kept for that purpose.

I digress. The taste of that half time pie is with me still. Whether it was the cold winter's day or the family occasion, or whether it was just that they made meat pies better in those days I don't know. For whatever reason I have long regarded both the old fashion filling and the pastry as superior.

There is no doubt that a half time pie at the football always tastes better than anywhere else. To this day when I am dragged off to the MCG by my colleagues to watch Melbourne play I always duck down when the siren goes and find the boy or the girl crying "hot pies". I habitually buy two pies on the never fulfilled expectation that I will feel like the second one, if a bit cold, at three quarter time. But the taste is not the same these days. The pastry is soggy and the filling is pale in colour and runny and insipid.

For years on Grand Final day I have set off early to my favorite bakery to buy the half time meat pies for our home viewing of the game but this year I resolved some weeks ago to bake my own and to do my best to re-create the pastry and the filling I remember from the old days.

The recipe I settled on for today's pies (pictured above), is for 6 pies baked in 8 cm base teflon coated pie tins. I buttered the pans and lined the bases with 15 cm circles of short crust pastry with lids made from 15 cm circles of egg washed puff pastry. Cooked at 200 - 220 Celsius fan forced for 20 minutes the pastry was fine. The short crust base was firm but melted in the mouth while the tops were flaky and buttery.

It was however the filling that brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the half times of my childhood.

I used 500g of lean beef mince and 250g of best veal mince. This was cooked off in olive oil with two finely chopped medium onions to which I added a good cup of beef stock, mixing a little of the stock with 1 1/2 tablespoons of corn flour to thicken. The secret mix to give taste, a great consistency and a perfect dark brown colour (and which worked well with no added salt and pepper), was 1 full cup of tomato sauce, 3 level tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons of HP sauce and a heaped teaspoon of Vegemite. This takes about ten minutes to simmer and thicken after first bringing to the boil and when cooled is just perfect to fill the pies without soaking the pastry.
Go on try it!


  1. I cant tell you how much I want one of those pies right now!

  2. Come on mate you are one of the best bakers I know !

  3. Hey Stephen, have you considered substituting your spoonful of vegemite in the pies for the new 'iSnack2.0'?
    I already know the answer!

  4. No but I heard last night that nutmeg is a very useful additive. I imagine I could get the colour with Parisienne essence and add grated nutmeg. Will ponder it now Vegemite have lost my respect!

  5. Just discovered your site via Facebook ... outstanding :) I also love making pies and find the Tasmanian mountain pepper berries make an interesting contibution. Keep up the great work.

  6. Thanks Tony.
    Will give the pepper berries a try!

  7. My partner and I lived in TAS for a little over five years during the early to mid noughties, most of it in North Hobart, and still have fond memories of weekend Aussie rules matches at the NH oval.

    We must have looked completely out of place - two refugees from the north island (and a non-AFL state for that matter) huddled under blankets while t-shirted demon fans, impervious to the cold, painstakingly abused the ump.

    Local friends patiently explained the glory days of the local league were over and wondered why we bothered - but we were looking for a bit of ritual in a new place and the unusual atmosphere hooked us. We never tried the pies (or the after match drinks at the Waggon and Horses) but I would guess, like the ball skills, the quality had fallen away.

    When we re-located to Canberra, we went to Manuka Oval for a couple of Canberra district AFL matches (coincidentally the local side Eastlake are also demons) but it wasn’t the same.

    PS Just realised this comment was very short on food content - will try to make amends next time.

  8. Thanks Our Man
    I am pleased my tale evoked memories for you.
    It sure is a funny old footy ground!


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