An ode to my Ma’s savoury mince pie


This is a meat pie that would make my mother proud.

I have said more than once that my mother was not the flashest of home cooks, and she is OK with that and still sends me birthday cards etc, etc, etc, but she could definitely throw together a damn fine fish fry, great meat with three (veg) and a cracking savoury mince. The latter would oft find it’s way into a cosy little fluffy jacket of golden brown puff pastry (with a few of those slightly-over-done-but-not-even-over-done-because-it’s-puff-pastry bits), much to our childhood delight.

Yup. She could make a pie.

And she would sure be happy with this pie. She would truly be happy with the filling. I mean, she wouldn’t have used beer, but it would certainly look the part. That coupled with the love only a mother can have for a child would be enough to ensure we could happily sit down and enjoy this together.

Aw.

Ahhhh, the savoury mince filling. you could pretty easily stop right here and just eat that on toast… maybe with a fried egg or two…

Make the pie.

Eat the pie.

SAVOURY MINCE PIE

(serves 4)

500 g beef mince
1 onion (brown, red, yellow, whatever), diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
½ zucchini (regular shop sized zucchini, Lucas)
1 cob corn, kernels removed (or ½ cup frozen corn kernels)
½ cup frozen peas
1 ½ tbls plain flour
1 can (375 ml) dark beer
Salt and pepper
2 sheets puff pastry (or enough to line a 25 cm pie dish)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a splash of milk), to glaze
Tomato ketchup, to serve

Heat a splash of oil in a pan / pot on a medium heat.
Sauté onion, carrot and carrot, with a pinch of salt and pepper, until starting to brown.
Add mince and sauté until that is starting to brown too. Break it up with a wooden spoon as you go so it doesn’t get all clumpy and meatball-esque.
Add flour and cook out for a minute, stirring to avoid burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Add remaining vegetables and beer and cook out, stirring constantly, until a nice gravy is holding that meat and vegetable ménage together.
Check seasoning, adjust if necessary and then set aside to cool.
Pre heat oven to 220 C (430 F).
Line (or butter and flour) a 25 cm pie dish and use one sheet of puff pastry to cover, using off cuts to press into any extra gaps.
Fill pie base with cooled savoury mince.
Place the other sheet of puff pastry over the top of the pie dish and trim roughly to shape using a paring knife or something similar.
Pinch pastry together along the edge of the pie dish.
Make a little hole in the middle of the pie so the steam might escape.
Glaze top of pie with egg wash and bake in pre heated oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown (and a little bit darker in places).
Serve with tomato ketchup, chips, salad, peas, mashed potato, extra gravy, etc, etc, etc.

Pie.

PS If you’re the kind of person who gets pretty busy in the week with work and kids and all of the extra-curricular activity you participate in for the united gerbil appreciation association, then it is a really good idea to double or triple the recipe and make two or three (respectively) of these pies and freeze the extra down for easy busy-times dinner.
Just cook them for only 15 minutes or until lightly coloured to allow for the rebake and then wrap and freeze once cooled. Defrost it in the fridge overnight and it should be good to go by the time you get home from work the next day. Whack it in a 180 C (355 F) oven for 15 minutes or until it’s hot. Dinner’s up.

Herby grilled snapper

A good place to start… Heat Beads coconut shell briquettes on the chimney booster.
Also pretty important – A good looking fish.

That fish all locked up and getting all grilly and delicious.

Herby grilled snapper. Just get on it.

HERBY GRILLED SNAPPER

2 kg snapper or similar fish, scaled and gutted
2 cloves garlic
2 cups picked fresh herbs – a mix of parsley, rosemary, oregano and nasturtium
1 tspn dried chilli flakes
1 tbls red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Extra olive oil and lemon juice, to serve

Combine all ingredients except fish in a blender or food processor and blitz into a coarse paste. A stick wizz will also work for this. We shall call this ‘the marinade’.
Now score the fish a few times across the body to ensure even cooking and allow a bit of the marinade to penetrate.
Rub or brush marinade over fish until it is all gone.
Set aside, in the fridge is probably best, and get your fire sorted.
Make a fire or get some coals going in your kettle or other BBQ. Keep most of the fire to one side and only pull a few coals across to go under the fish as to avoid burning it up worse than Anikin’s head in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ before it is cooked through.
Put the fish into the Hannibal Lector cage or something similar if you have one. The fish can also be cooked via the other methods listed down below.
Place fish on grill and cover with lid. Cook fish over coals for 12 minutes on one side, flip and then cook for 12 minutes on the other side or until cooked through to the bone on the thickest part of the fish. Test by gently trying to push the flesh apart with a knife – it should come away from the bone easily and be opaque in colour.
Once it is good to go (or G to G as my children keep telling me), get it onto the table dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice, plus some kind of Mediterranean salad on the side.

• Cook fish directly on grill of BBQ, just be plenty gentle when you flip it. Holding it with tongs at both ends is what I would recommend.
• Wrap with alfoil before cooking on grill to aid turning and also ensure the fish stays moist. This method will not give you any great crispy-grilly skin bits though.
• Bake in a 220 – 240 C (450 – 460 F) oven.

That fish one more time.

BBQ pork nachos loaded with a few things including charred jalapeno hot sauce


Nachos are a pretty commonplace meal around these here parts, especially when it’s dinner for just me and the boys (I am father to 11 and 12-year-old boys just in case you didn’t already know that).

In fact, it would be true to say nachos, burgers and pizza form my children’s’ holy trinity of foods they would be most happy living off of for the remainder of their childhood years.

Also, I feel that nachos of some description are within the realms of most people’s kitchen skill set (just maybe not yours) so I will not give you a recipe for them today. Instead I will tell you what I put with mine and maybe you can do something like that too.

Heads up – my list of ingredients does include a charred jalapeño hot sauce for which I will be providing you with a recipe.

I am a nice guy.

Here’s what it was;
BBQ pork,
Refried beans,
Avocado / guacamole,
Sour cream,
Tomato salsa,
Cheese,
BBQ sauce (to anoint that pork),
Charred jalapeno hot sauce,
Corn chips


CHARRED JALAPENO HOT SAUCE

This is a version of my original hot sauce – the prototype being made with non-charred long red chillis. A version of this stuff is on the table with every, I repeat, every meal we have.

1 kg (2 ¼ lb) jalapeños, grilled over coals until a little charred and blistered just like in the pic
2 cloves garlic, peeled
100 g (3 ½ oz) castor sugar
1 tblsp salt
250ml (8 fl oz) white vinegar
500ml (16 fl oz) water

Blitz or chop the chilli and garlic to a rough consistency.
Transfer to a glass jar and add all other ingredients. Sit on the kitchen bench for 5 days with the lid on but ajar so the sauce can breathe, stirring every day.
Transfer chilli mixture to a pot and heat the sauce until it comes to the simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Allow to cool and then puree to a smooth-ish consistency with a stick wizz or in a blender.
Seal and store in the refrigerator.
Hot sauce will keep for… actually I don’t know how long because it’s always gone within a few weeks around here.

Meatballs in tomato sauce on the Weber


This was one of those times where I wanted to fire up the BBQ but I needed to do something different than the ol’ standards.

Enter the meatballs.

Meatballs are absolutely banging when they’re cooked in any type of BBQ, and also tasty as when cooked in the oven. The choice is yours. But these meatballs? These meatballs were desitined for the Weber kettle today.

NB This recipe for meatballs is not one my own brain created, but in fact it is a recipe given to me by a previous employer who is of Italian descent. When I say recipe, I do believe there was not so much a recipe as a (very) short list of ingredients… two ingredients in fact; “ricotta and pinenuts”. I think maybe she was losing her mind a little and was just muttering some random words to herself as she walked by, never-the-less I took this as a sign from baby Jesus himself that I should be putting ricotta and pinenuts into my meatballs. So into my meatballs the ricotta and pinenuts went.

Also, just remember meatballs are so easy to make even a child could do it… so, well, you know… don’t be afraid to get your kids to help or even force them to take the whole process and make it their own.

All of the good things

Those balls all rolled up and bally looking

Just having a little simmering-over-the-coals party

MEATY BALLS

(serves 4-5)

500 g beef mince
500 g pork mince
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup fresh ricotta, crumbled
¼ cup pinenuts, lightly toasted
¼ cup currants
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 small handful of parsley, chopped
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Zest of half a lemon
2 slices sour dough bread, crusts removed, processed into coarse breadcrumbs
A big pinch of salt and pepper
3 cups of your favourite pasta sauce – Dolmio, tomato pasatta, nona’s home made special tomato sauce, tinned tomatoes or heinz tomato sauce (depending on your own personal preference and presence of taste buds) – tomato pasatta wsa my choice
Grated parmesan, to serve
Soft polenta, to serve

Preheat your BBQ or oven to 200 C-ish (390 F).
Saute onion and garlic until softened and just starting to colour.
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients excpet tomato sauce and mix until amalgamated.
Roll your meatballs*. I rolled mine somewhere in the vicinity of the size of a golf ball.
Pour your sauce of preference into a baking or casserole dish that will fit your balls (heheh).
Place the meatballs into the sauce and then into the BBQ or oven for somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes.
Check to see if they are cooked by whatever method you see fit.
Check seasoning in the sauce and adjust if necessary.
Serve on soft polenta with extra sauce, a splash of oilve oil and grated parmesan.

*there is no ‘wrong way’ when it comes to rolling meatballs.

Really good meatballs

BBQ leftovers moussaka


There is one huge problem for me in the colder weather. No, I do not have rheumatoid arthritis. Neither do I make a living from selling swimwear to people more beautiful than myself. And lastly, it has nothing to do with my carnie troupe needing warm weather to survive.

No. for me it’s more about the lack of ‘slaw in my diet and, as we all know by now, I am a big fan of ‘slaw.

A large portion of ‘slaw is normally the stuff my dreams are made from but, well, it’s just not so enticing in this weather.

On the flip side though, there is the slow cooked deliciousness that is moussaka (and a heap of other things but we’re going to concentrate on the moussaka right now) that will be the proverbial tissue for me to dry my teary eyes.

Although a little less traditional then a traditional moussaka made by a person with Greek ancestry living in the actual countryside of Greece, this is some avant-garde, tasty shit that will use up those delicious smoky leftovers from your weekend BBQ* and have you impressing the crap out of yourself while simultaneously warming the very cockles of your heart.

Get on it.

That meaty goodness just waiting to be tucked in with a bechamel blanket.
Bechamel time.

BBQ LEFTOVERS MOUSSAKA

Serves 6 – 8

MEAT SAUCE

3 – 4 cups chopped BBQ leftovers. I used brisket and pork ribs
1 onion, diced
5 – 6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
400ml water
½ tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 large eggplant

Heat a large splash of olive oil in a medium pot. Add onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until soft.
Add chopped meat and sauté for another 10 minutes until browned a little.
Add all other ingredients except eggplant and stir to combine.
Simmer on low heat for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes so that shit don’t stick!
While that’s going on, char whole eggplant over open flame**, rotating often until almost soft. Peel eggplant as best you can, or it might be easier to cut eggplant in half down the length and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Chop roughly and then stir through sauce.
Set sauce aside.
Now move onto instructions below to assemble your moussaka.

THE REST OF IT

The sauce you made already from the recipe above.
1 kg potatoes, simmered whole until just cooked
1.25 lt béchamel sauce (chef Google will defo help you with this one).

Preheat oven to 180C (360F).
Slice potatoes into 2cm disks and place them side by side in the bottom of a medium baking dish.
Cover potatoes with meat sauce.
Next add the béchamel sauce and smooth over with a spatula or something similar.
Place in the oven for 1 hour or so, until béchamel is browned and bubbly.
Once cooked, give it a minute or two before you start scooping it into your gob because that shit will peel off the roof of your mouth.

*Or after a BBQ competition if that’s your jam (I always save a bit of BBQ after a competition weekend because I know that it will only take a day or two for my BBQ coma to reside and then I will be craving the smoky goodness again).

**This gives the eggplant a nice smoky flavour and makes hem delicious even for people who think they don’t like eggplant.

Braised beef cheeks in drinkable red wine


At one time in the past I was of the opinion that the wine I used for cooking would not be the wine I would consume myself. In fact, the wine I used for cooking would be bottom shelf, cheap as, nasty assed goon*.

My opinions on more than one thing have changed in the last 20 years.

My opinion on the type of wine I should be cooking with was certainly not passed over by the opinion audit.

Now I am of the opinion that the wine you would like to cook with is also a wine that you would like to drink in your face. Maybe not necessarily that bottle you’ve been saving for your 50 year wedding anniversary, and certainly not a bottle you might drink at a teenage wedding or possibly a college art exhibition opening, but more of a “had a couple of drinks already and now I’m gonna pull you out of the cupboard and drink you all up” type bottle.

So that is the wine I have used to braised these beef cheeks for you right here today.

I have had the pleasure of using the fire to cook my dinner, but you can certainly use a pot on the stove top for yours.

The start of something good

Get a bit of colour on those cheeky cheeks
Add some sautéed mushrooms
Get it on a wooden camp table and serve some drinkable red wine in a mug to go with

BRAISED BEEF CHEEKS IN DRINKABLE RED WINE

(Serves 4)

1 kg beef cheeks, each cut into 3 pieces (a nice butcher will do this for you. A mean butcher will spit in your eye and then tell you to piss off)
100 g pancetta, sliced
1 onion, chopped roughly
3 carrots, cut into 5 or 6 pieces each – keep it chunky, keep it real
8 large cloves garlic, left whole and charred slightly on the coals (or raw chopped garlic will do just fine)
1 long red chilli, sliced
1 bottle of red wine
1x 400g tin diced tomatoes
500 ml beef stock or water
500 g button mushrooms, cut in halves or quarters depending on size
Salt and pepper

Heat a splash of oil in a heavy based pot or cast-iron camp oven over a medium-high heat. Add pancetta, onion, carrots, garlic and chilli, and sauté until starting to brown a little.
Add beef cheeks and season with a little salt and pepper. Sauté beef cheeks for 10 or so minutes until they are browned and tasty bits are starting to grip a little on the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the wine, tomatoes and water, and stir to get all of the good bits off of the bottom of the pot and into the gravy.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so.
(While the beef cheek simmering is going on you can sauté your mushroom in a little oil and butter until they are browned. Set aside)
After 3 hours add the mushrooms to the pot and stir through.
Cover and simmer for one more hour.
Check that the beef cheeks are tender – they should be ready to be cut with a spoon by now. If not, simmer for another 15 minutes or until soft, adding a splash of water if the gravy starts to thicken up too much.
Serve with mashed potatoes, jacket potatoes or potato bake and green beans if you have some.
Eat it.

Damn well delicious

*Goon. Aust slang. Cheap arsed boxed wine. A wine one might drink in their teenage / university days.