I WAS in Sydney last month and had the opportunity to sample one of my favorite dishes - an Australian meat pie.
Described by former New South Wales premier Bob Carr in 2003 as Australia's national dish, an Aussie meat pie is a hand-sized pie containing largely diced or ground meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese and these days, curry. They are often consumed as a take-out snack.
Many food snobs look down on the humble meat pie, but millions of pie lovers can't be wrong - they are simply delicious.
Supreme among Australian pie-makers is talented Sydney pastry chef Christopher Thé, owner of the Black Star Pastry Company.
Chris has won many prestigious awards for his pies and pastries including the Best Meat Pie in Australia in 2013. Apart from his renowned meat pies, there's a strong demand for his many other yummy creations - the latest being his strawberry and watermelon cake.
Chris was born in Sydney in 1974 to Indonesian parents. He opened Black Star in 2008 after several years of working as a chef in various top fine-dining Sydney restaurants.
He now has two outlets as well as the concession in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. He has some 80 employees.
During my visit, Chris invited me to his popular café in Rosebery, near the center of Sydney, to sample his acclaimed pies. We were immediately treated to his signature braised lamb shank with red wine and veggie pie and his outstanding beef and beer pie, both in a feather-light pastry casing.
Given the scarcity and expense of lamb in the Philippines, I suggested to Chris that he demonstrated the beef and beer pie - those ingredients are readily available in Negros!*
Christopher Thé Beef and Beer Pie
(makes 5 pies)
1kg beef brisket
3 brown onion (1cm dice)
1 good pinch thyme
2 garlic cloves
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
60g Vegemite (optional)
1 bottle San Mig Pilsen
400ml beef stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 ground black pepper
pinch ground cumin
10g corn flour
20g all-purpose flour
1 bottle San Mig Pilsen
Pre-heat oven to 300°F. Put all ingredients into a large dish and cover with a piece of baking paper and a lid. Place in the oven for 4 hours. Let cool. Strain off the cooking liquid and place into a saucepan and reduce down to 350ml. Pick through the beef and strip down in to bite-sized pieces, discarding any sinew or fatty pieces. Once the stock has reduced down, mix the cornflour, flour and beer in a bowl until smooth. Add into the stock while stirring. Bring to the boil to cook out the flour. You will see it thicken and get a sheen look to it. Mix the thickened stock through the beef. Season. Refrigerate to let set.
4 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, beaten, to glaze crust
Roll 2 sheets of pastry to 1/2-inch thickness. Line 8-inch tart molds with the rolled pastry. Line the pastry with tin foil and pre-bake for about 8 minutes. Let cool.
Roll out the remaining pastry sheets and cut lids for the pies. Fill baked shells with the meat mixture and cover with the cut pastry lids. Attach lids with egg wash. Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper.
Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve and enjoy!