Aussie Meat Pie, Mushy Peas & Pavlova
As the first blizzard of the year approaches, are you thinking with longing of the 4th of July? Do you wish you could transport yourself to the midsummer glories of barbecues, lazy beach days and hot summer nights? We have just the thing: Australia Day, the biggest national celebration down under.
Neither of us has travelled (yet) to Australia, though we did grow up watching “Crocodile Dundee” and those goofy “Throw another shrimp on the barbie” commercials. We were adults before it really sunk in that Christmas in Australia falls in the middle of summertime. We still haven’t really wrapped our heads around that one–Christmas in Orlando is one thing, but imagining Santa and mistletoe in the middle of summer vacation is pretty mind-blowing.
By a similar token, Australia Day is a glorious summer holiday that falls at the end of January. It commemorates the arrival of the first convoy of convicts shipped over from English prisons in 1788, and the establishment of British sovereignty over a land of indigenous peoples. It’s a little like Columbus Day, if the Pinta, Niña and Santa Maria had been loaded down with felons who went on to become the founding fathers.
Despite the unpromising start, Australia Day is now the country’s largest national holiday, celebrated with barbecues, fireworks, and mass citizenship ceremonies. And just like in America, there are some counter-celebrations, or protests: Survival Day and Invasion Day are the day’s alternate monikers.
Since gathering round the barbie in January isn’t such an appealing prospect above the Equator, we’ve chosen three iconic dishes for our Australian commemoration, all easy to execute and requiring no tricky ingredients. And all cooked indoors, which will put you in a sunny mood as you watch the snow come down outside.
Aussie Meat Pie
There are lots of ways to vary this pie: you can add more, fewer or different spices to the meat filling ( the Moroccan spice mixture ras al hanout would be delicious), leave out the extra vegetables, or add some cubed sweet potato. You could also skip the bottom layer of pastry if you prefer, or top with mashed potatoes instead. It’s pretty forgiving.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- 1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped (optional)
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup beef or chicken broth
- 2 tbsp flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb defrosted puff pastry for crust, divided evenly into 2 pieces
- 1 egg, beaten to glaze crust
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms (if using) and garlic and sauté until vegetables have softened, but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add greens if using and cook another few minutes until softened.
Add beef, coriander, nutmeg, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Cook until beef begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Then add flour, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste and broth. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the meat is coated with the sauce. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Let cool.
While beef is cooking, split puff pastry in half if it is in one piece. Roll out each piece with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to roughly 9 x 11 inches. Line an 8- or 9- x 11-inch baking dish, or a shallow 2-quart gratin dish, with 1 piece of pastry, pulling up the dough to cover the sides of baking dish. Pre-bake bottom crust for 8-10 minutes.
Spoon beef mixture over bottom pastry crust. Top with remaining piece of pastry, attaching top and bottom with egg wash, pinching together the sides of both pieces of pastry. Brush remaining egg over pastry. Bake until golden on top, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Mushy Peas with Mint Butter
“Mushy Peas” is a dish Aussies inherited from the dubious British culinary tradition: dried peas, cooked and mashed to an unappetizing brownish glop. These are a brighter, fresher and altogether more delicious take on the same concept, and you even get to use frozen peas.
- 2 (10-oz) packages frozen peas, not thawed
- 1/3 cup water
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Cook peas with water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over moderate heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until heated through and tender, about 8 minutes.
Pulse peas (with cooking water) in 2 batches in a food processor until coarsely puréed, transferring to a large bowl. Stir in butter, herbs, salt and pepper until butter is melted.
adapted from Epicurious
Pavlova with Mixed Berries
The Pavlova has been claimed by both New Zealand and Australia, who each say they invented the dish to honor the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova when she toured their countries. But wherever it came from, it’s stuck as a traditional dish in both places. Winter is actually the best time to make meringues, as the air is drier. The final product in a miracle of airy sweetness, and it looks very impressive despite being deceptively easy to make.
- 1 cup superfine granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, OR 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
- 1 ½ cups mixed berries, washed and dried (we used blueberries and raspberries)
Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle. Trace an approximately 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn parchment over and put on a baking sheet.
If using superfine sugar, mix it with cornstarch in a small bowl.
Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.
Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture (or 1 cup confectioner’s sugar), 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.
Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).
Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center (the “crater” is for curd and fruit). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (inside will still be marshmallow-like).
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.
Assemble pavlova: Whip cream until it holds soft peaks, then beat in 1 tbsp sugar. Pile the whipped cream into the meringue, top with berries and serve immediately.