Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dinner during a Dora Marathon: NZ Steak and Cheese Pies

I run a very infrequent series of posts called "Dinner during Dora," which are recipes of things I cook on weeknights, when I generally have about 20-30 minutes to go from start to dinner on the table. The name originally referred to the fact that Pumpkin would watch an episode of Dora while I cooked. These days, the consideration limiting the time I want to spend cooking is less related to the amount of time I can secure without a child demanding my attention and more about the fact that we need to keep our evening routine roughly on schedule. Regardless, I still mostly cook very quick and simple things during the week.

But sometimes, I'll make something more involved. This recipe is for those times. I think the entire process, start to finish, takes me two hours. I could probably make it go faster with more practice, but it is never going to be quick.

For those who don't already know, my husband Mr. Snarky is a Kiwi. During my very first visit to New Zealand, back when he and I were just becoming a couple, I fell in love with the traditional Kiwi lunch of "a pie and a slice." The pie part is an individual size pie crust with a savory filling and a puff pastry top. The slice part is similar, but not identical to, what Americans call a bar cookie. My favorite is the caramel slice. Neither portion of this Kiwi lunch nirvana is easily found in San Diego, although I have been told that there is now a food truck serving New Zealand pies.

Mr. Snarky and I both miss pies, so I decided to learn how to make them. This post is the result of many, many iterations on a recipe for a steak and cheese pie.

My recipe for the filling is derived from the recipe for steak and kidney pies in the Edmonds Cookbook. My recipe for pie crust is a slightly modified version of what is on the Crisco can. I use store bought puff pastry. This makes about 6 pies. Most people eat one pie. My husband and one of our Kiwi friends usually eat two each.



1-1.5 lb beef (I use high quality steak, not stew meat. I suspect authentic pies in NZ using stew meat)
1.5 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbs flour
1 cup beef stock
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs ketchup (to be more authentic, you should probably use the tomato sauce they have in NZ, but I use Heinz ketchup because that is what I have)
1 tbs red cooking wine (I usually use Marsala, because that is what I usually have in the way of cooking wine)
1 tsp dried thyme (careful not to get too much: it will make the pies taste nice, but wrong. I don't like the thyme to stand out as a flavor in the finished product, because I've never eaten a steak and cheese pie in New Zealand and tasted any particular herb.)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

You'll also need some good quality cheese to put in the pie. I use New Zealand cheddar, from Trader Joe's. I think any good white cheddar would be fine if you don't have any super purist Kiwis in your eating audience. I have a super purist Kiwi to deal with, so I've never tried anything except the Trader Joe's New Zealand cheddar. Even I, a complete non-purist, non-Kiwi, am aghast at the idea of using orange cheddar in this recipe. That would just be wrong.

Pie Crust:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup Crisco
1/4 cup butter
~5 tbs cold water

Puff Pastry:

A box from the freezer section of the supermarket. My supermarket has Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, so that is what I use.

Don't forget to thaw the puff pastry before you start. If you do forget, you can put the puff pastry in a big Ziploc bag and thaw it quickly in warm water.

Special Utensils:

You'll need some individual pie pans. I had to get these sent over from New Zealand:

Authentic Kiwi pan

Before my mother in law sent me those, I used some individual tart pans from Williams-Sonoma. These work fine, but the resulting pie is the wrong size and shape to be picked up and eaten without utensils.

Non-authentic poncy tart pan


Start by getting the filling cooking.

1. Cut the meat into bite sized chunks and dice the onion.

Meat made bite-sized

2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or stock pot.

3. Brown the meat quickly on all sides.

4. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spatula or spoon, leaving the pan drippings behind.

5. Add the onion and cook until clear.

6. Add the flour and brown (~30 seconds).

7. Gradually add stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon to loosen the browned flour and other good things.

8. Bring to boil, then return the meat to the pan.

9. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, wine, herbs, and spices.

10. Simmer until the meat is done. In practice, I simmer over very low heat until the pie crusts are ready.

Meat made yummy
Next, make the pie crusts. I usually start the oven preheating, too. I bake the pies at the temperature specified in my pie crust recipe, which is 425 degrees F.

BEFORE putting the pie crusts in the pie tins,  make a pattern for the top crust by tracing the top of a pie tin on a piece of waxed paper and cutting it out.

Then make the pie crusts and put them in the tins.

1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.

2. Cut in the Crisco and butter using a pastry blender until the mixture forms pea-sized chunks.

3. Sprinkle the water onto the mixture one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork, until the pie crust clings together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

4. Roll out the crust and form the bottom crusts for the pies.
Now, I grate the cheese. I use a lot of cheese, but I've never written down how much. Probably close to a half pound.

Lots of authentic NZ cheese

I've experimented with using slices, and grating is better.

Put the pie crusts on a baking sheet or two, to make it easier to get them in and out of the oven and to guard against messes from any escaped filling.

Distribute the filling into the crusts, and top with the grated cheese.

Filled pies
Cut out the puff pastry tops and put them on the pies. Pinch the bottom crust up and around the puff pastry tops to seal. Score the tops to allow steam to escape.

Topped pies

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pie crust and puff pastry are golden brown.

Done pies

Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy!

One of my personal goals for this year is to work on a second filling type. I'll let you know how that turns out....


  1. I am definitely trying these. I have a very carnivorous family, and this looks like a great treat!


    1. Maybe we can arrange a cocktail for pie swap at some point....

  3. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Might be easier for work night dinners if you got a pie maker? But your pies look delish. Also, I can't believe you live in a land without caramel slice. That is terrible.

    1. I have never seen a pie maker here, but I wouldn't rule out the existence of one, perhaps in one of the various high end cooking supply shops. I may tackle the caramel slice next. My husband makes a good ginger crunch. There are compensations for the generally lackluster slice selection here- easily available really good Mexican food and proper gooey chocolate chip cookies (my husband disagrees on this one, but he is wrong) come to mind.

      But yes, in my perfect life, I'd split my time between San Diego and Auckland and probably also then weigh a lot more from all the eating!

  4. Zenmoo11:41 PM

    I agree that anything other than NZ cheese would be wrong (but in general orange cheddar seems wrong to me!)

    My favourite pie flavour is Peppered Steak, but recently I've had a pretty good lamb & rosemary pie and a venison & red wine pie. Also last weeks chicken, cranberry and Brie pie was surprisingly good. I'm not usually a huge fan of cheesy chicken

  5. Zenmoo11:50 PM

    ...(due to stupid iPad commenting fail)

    But the cranberry was nicely tart in the pie.

    As for caramel slice - that's probably one for the Edmonds cookbook too. One of my random Christchurch explorations was to the Edmonds factory gardens. The building from the cookbook cover is no longer there, but the garden has been partly retained and is really lovely.

  6. Anonymous3:01 AM

    I'm a kiwi lurker and impressed by your pies. I don't think many of us here ever actually attrmpt to make them ourselves! I don't think Edmonds has a caramel slice recipe but there are lots online if you google Tan slice as we call it. The key is to double the caramel filling but not the base.
    Thanks for your excellent blog btw- im in the kegal field but still fibd it very thought provoking

  7. This sounds lovely, thanks for sharing this recipe.


  8. Anonymous11:09 AM

    They look great! Just like the ones at the local bakery. Nice flax mats under those pie pans btw!

  9. So where did your kiwi counterpart get their pie tins from. Might get my Mum to take a look for me!

    1. I don't know! And it has been so long, I suspect my MIL won't remember, either. They are pretty standard looking small pie tins, though. I suspect most cooking shops would have them.

    2. Can you tell us the brand that is stamped on the inside of the tin? Can't quite make it out in the photo

    3. Baker's Secret

  10. If you love running then you must have maintain a better healthy diet as your body needed to be more fit and you should gather more energy.


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.