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.

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.

Nacho good times bowl


This bowl can be a little bit of whatever the eff you’ve got lying around really. Except for your old dog – you just leave him lying where he is.

NACHO GOOD TIMES BOWL

Pulled pork doused with your favourite BBQ sauce. Left overs are perfect for this
Black beans cooked in bacon fat (recipe follows)
Tomato, onion and coriander salsa (You don’t need a recipe for this. It is those three ingredients plus a little splash of red wine vinegar and a little salt and pepper. That’s it)
Sliced avocado
Feta
Jalapenos
Hot sauce
Brown rice – cooked is probably best. White rice will also do the job
Lime
Store bought corn chips or tostadas, or make your own if you have the skills

You did save the bacon fat, right?

One of those “so simple, so good” moments

BLACK BEANS IN BACON FAT

(Serves 4 as a side)

Quite simply this is actually black beans in bacon fat – you save your bacon fat, right?

1x 400g tin of black beans, drained
1 -2 tblsp bacon fat
½ small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Sauté onion and garlic in bacon fat until fragrant and softened a little.
Add bay leaf, beans and a splash of water.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer 10 minutes, adding another tablespoon or two of water if it dries out.
Check seasoning.
Do the “nacho good times bowl” thing with them.

Smoky chicken wings with honey rum glaze


These are very easily consumed by themselves with a nice little dipping sauce – might I suggest something mayonnaisy, BBQ or hot sauce, or even a drizzle of smoked honey (So, basically any sauce you like to put on the table). But on this one evening I made a meal out of these little flappy parts with grilled corn and sautéed beans. It made for very nice eating indeed.

This is going to work well in a smoker or kettle BBQ with indirect heat.

Those beans were sautéed with onion, bacon, garlic and a splash of chicken stock
Corn and sauteed beans can join the wings on the grill
The corn gets sexy with some mayo, hot sauce, herbs and pecorino cheese. Also, I found some radishes in the garden so I put them on the plate too

SMOKY CHICKEN WINGS with HONEY RUM GLAZE

(for 1 or 2 peeps, depending on the depth of your love of a good chicken wing)

1kg chicken wings
1 tablespoon of your favourite chicken rub
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 shots spiced rum
Your favourite saucy good times

Season your wings with rub, honey and rum. Mix well and allow to marinate over night if you are a top-notch forward planner, or for at least one hour if you are more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cowboy like me.
Fire up your smoker/grill and get the temp up to 160C-ish (320F). Place a couple of small chunks of smoky flavour wood on the coals to make those wings taste extra sexy.
Place the wings on the grill however you see fit – a nice little around-the-rim pattern seems to be quite vogue right now – reserving remaining marinade.
The lid goes on and the vents are open.
Let the wings have a little smoky loving; 30-ish minutes for full wings and 20-ish minutes for wing segments, or until cooked, reglazing with remaining marinade after 15 minutes. (It is totally legit to cut one open and check that they are done though, so don’t be afraid to do that just to be sure).
Give them another little sprinkle with your BBQ rub of choice to freshen up those flavours.
This is finger-to-face eating at it’s finest.

Maple baked beans


This is a pretty darn easy recipe for some pretty darn good beans.

Surely that’s enough to encourage you to have a go.

If you were smart enough to put your Christmas ham bone in the freezer so it may wait for a good and noble use, now is the time to rip that sucker out.

The beans go into the pot with all of the good bits of smoked pig

MAPLE BAKED BEANS

(serves 8 as a side)

1 ham bone with last skerricks of ham (or 300-400g chopped ham, bacon, smoked pork, smoked sausage or whatever smoky-porky goodness you may be hiding)
1 brown onion, diced
4x 400g tins cooked pinto beans
½ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1lt water
A pinch of salt and pepper to season

Sauté the onion with the ham.
(This can be done in a kettle BBQ or bullet for a little extra smoke if you like it like that. I like it like that).
Add all other ingredients and cook over low-medium coals with the lid on for 45 or so minutes, adding a splash or two of water if it starts to get a little dry (this could also be cooked in a preheated 160C (320F) oven or on the stovetop).
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Remove bone and pick over for any little bits of ham that want to be thrown back into the beans. Throw said ham back into the beans.
Eat beans with a fat slab of ham on the side… or some BBQ…or eggs… you get the picture, right?

All good to go