The Daily Telegraph
October 17, 2015
THE humble pie and sauce is an Aussie institution but many of the latest prize-winning incarnations of our unofficial national dish are breaking with convention.
Pioneering pastry chefs and a growing number of punters keen to spread their culinary wings are turning to gourmet pies with fillings that wouldn’t look out of place in a silver-service restaurant.
SCROLL DOWN TO FIND YOUR FAVOURITE
Case in point: The $12,000 ultra-indulgence dreamt up earlier this year by Lord Dudley Hotel executive chef Paul Medcalf, made with lobster, black truffle and Penfolds Grange and officially recognised as the world’s most expensive meat pie.
While that is certainly at the extreme end of the luxury pie spectrum, a look at the winners of this year’s various national and state pie competitions, which see hundreds of bakeries vying for golden-pastried glory, reveals a definite move towards the modern.
Pies encasing fresh snapper and prawns, pork and fennel, spinach and ricotta and champagne chicken are just some of the standouts eschewing the traditional foil-lined pastry/mince/gravy combo.
And, far from being a takeaway junk food, new-age pies are catering for a variety of dietary requirements with reduced-fat, low GI and gluten-free options now common.
Whatever the filling, a good pie doesn’t just have to look, smell and taste amazing, according to Dr Richard Haden, chairman of judges at the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW’s Fine Food Show.
“There’s a category that we’ve added recently at the Sydney show called eatability because one of the beauties of a good pie is that it all holds together,” he said.
“Yes, you want a nice crunch in the pastry, but when you get to the filling you’re not only looking for great flavour, aroma and taste.
YOU’LL NEED A NICE BEER TO GO WITH THAT PIE …
“It’s also about the consistency and whether the pie is dripping down your chin on to your clothes.”
Official Great Aussie Pie Competition chief judge Mike French said gourmet pies had exploded in popularity over the past 10 to 15 years.
“When the contest started it would be curry pies and plain pies and that was about it,” Mr French said.
“Now it’s Thai chicken and all these other specific styles.”
Not that the traditional “dog’s eye” is going anywhere fast. Mr French said standard meat versions remained “front and centre” in the industry and at any pie competition.
“This is an icon that is made by just about every baker in Australia,” he said.
“It’s not going to get hijacked or taken anywhere else.”
Belinda Morrison, proprietor of Bels Bakery on the NSW mid-north coast, whose chunky beef pie won top honours at a national pie competition earlier this year, said there was nowhere to hide when it came to traditional pies.
“Good quality meat is always your No.1 ingredient. If you don’t have that, and quality pastry, you don’t have a pie,” she said.
An award-wining pie from Bells Bakery in Port Macquarie.
Bels Bakery at Port Macquarie proved tradition can still trump trendy at this year’s Australia’s Best Pie Comp when it took out overall first place for this $4.50 combination of slow-cooked beef, spices and a hint of BBQ sauce.
The addition of blue cheese to this chicken and leek pie may sound full-on but the type used by Oliver’s Pies in Avalon is mild and melds perfectly with the other local ingredients. Good value for $7.
The Big Breakfast Pie.
Wentworth Falls’ Mountain High Pies offers this 515g whopper for $8. Its combination of sausage, baked beans, chorizo, mashed potato, bacon, poached egg and hollandaise has won at major pie competitions.
The pulled pork and apple pie.
Made by hand at Newtown’s popular Pie Tin bakery and cafe, chefs use their own slow-roasted pork, house-stewed apples and BBQ sauce. For $7.90 it’s a perfect balance of sweet and savoury.
The prawn and snapper pie.
The Queensland prawns, NSW snapper, fennel and mornay sauce in Fish Café Balgowlah’s seafood pie justify the $24.80 price tag. The fresh ingredients landed this pie a gong at the 2015 Official Great Aussie Pie Competition.
The Middle Eastern vegetarian pie available at The Heritage Bakery
Heritage Bakery at Milton on the NSW south coast is a compulsory stop for motorists and this unique blend of Middle Eastern spices, pumpkin, ricotta, feta, spinach and cranberry is a standout for $5.25.
Turkey, brie and cranberry pie.
Taste Gourmet Pies are an institution in Newcastle, and this turkey, brie and cranberry pie ($5.75) is a new take on a trio of traditional festive ingredients. Meat and vegetables are locally sourced.
Harry’s Cafe de Wheels’ famous Tiger pie
Sydney pie king Harry Edwards opened his famous caravan cafe almost 70 years ago and the lean beef, mushy peas, mash and gravy Tiger still served at Café de Wheels at Woolloomooloo for $7.60 is a favourite.
The lemon pepper chicken pie.
Albury Bakery is one of the most decorated pie-makers in NSW. Its $4.80 lemon-pepper chicken pie, made with diced chicken breast and a creamy white sauce won gold recently at the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition.
Sous chef Harry Houbert from the Lord Dudley Hotel in Paddington with a Wagyu Beef and stout pie. Picture: Toby Zerna
Woollahra’s Lord Dudley Hotel executive chef Paul Medcalf calls this traditionally styled, $23.50 pie a “true man’s meal”, with beef brisket cooked for 12 hours combining with the stout to produce “extremely rich” flavours.