Â It’s funny to think that not so long ago when it came to describing the best of Australian cuisine the first thing that tended to spring to mind was the humble meat pie with tomato sauce or ‘dead horse’ (that’s Oz for ketchup). And while nowdays we have the amazing melting pot that makes up modern Australian cusine with the emphasis on fresh produce treated simply, it’s still hard to beat a good pie.
Â For many an Aussie the mere mention of a pie conjurers up nostalgic thoughts of crisp winter days watching the footy with a toasty warm pie in hand, doing the delicate dance of nibbling around the pie edges balancing the need to scoff it all down before you spill piping hot meat and gravy on your trackies. Yeah there sure is an art to being able to down a pie without a plate or heaven forbid…cutlery.
Â Â But the humble pie needn’t be limited to a footy snack. With a tasty filling and some home made flaky pastry, little individual pies can be the perfect thing for a casual lunch. So when I was planning the menu for a lazy Sunday lunch to celebrate that my dear Swedish mate, Bluey is knocked up and expecting in July, a pie seemed the perfect choice. Knowing that Bluey loves her seafood and is struggling a bit with the shellfish free diet imposed by her obstetrition, fish pie was an easy decision. Spiced up with fennel seeds, saffron, and Baharat and thickened with couscous our not-so-Aussie pie was a real winner accompanied by a crispy fresh shaved fennel salad….all good things….
Â an early autumn boozy balcony lunch
dukkah olio & sourdough
spiced fish & couscous pot pies
shaved fennel, dill & baby spinach salad
orange & almond cake with chocolate sorbet*
* For recipe click HERE.
spiced fish & couscous pot pies
Â When making individual pies I tend to prefer your more traditional version with pastry bases like the lambshank pies HERE. But pot pies make for a quicker and more waist-line friendly meal. They also remove the risk of soggy pastry bases so if you’re a newcomer to pie baking, a pot pie is an excellent place to start.
Â They are a great thing to serve when you’re enteraining as they’re generally best if prepared ahead and left in the fridge before giving a quick glaze with some egg and popping in the oven while you enjoy the company of your guests over a glass of sparkling or two and some easy nibbles. Just be sure that if you do outsource the timekeeping that you choose someone reliable..
Â 250g rough puff pastryÂ – recipe HERE.5T extra virgin olive oil
5 white onions, haled & finely sliced
2t fennel seeds
2 pinches saffron
1kg flathead fillets, chopped into bight sized chunks
1C white wine
1 1/2C chicken or fish stock
juice & zest 1 lemon
1 egg lightly beaten with 1T water
8 lemon cheeks
Â For the filling, heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and cook onions covered over a medium low heat for approx 20 mins or until onion is very soft but not browned. Add spices and cook stirring for a couple of minutes. Add wine and allow to simmmer a little. Add stock and return to the boil. Stir through couscous and cover and remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temp and then fluff with a fork. Stir through fish and lemon juice and zest and season. Refrigerate until chilled.
Preheat oven to 220C. Divide fish mixture between 8 ramekins or other oven proof dishes. Roll out pastry into squares large enough to generously cover the top of the ramekins. Drape a square over each ramekin ans cut a small cross as a steam hole in the top. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins..
Â When you’re ready to cook, brush the top of each pie with a little beaten egg and pop in the oven.Â Bake 20-25mins or until dark golden brown and bubbling hot, remembering that with puff pastry it’s better to err on the side of over cooking rather than risking a disappointing soggy mess. Serve immmediately with lemon cheeks on the side and a salad passed separately.
Â shaved fennel, dill & baby spinach salad
serves 6 – 8
Â As I’ve shared previously on stonesoup, I’m a massive fan of shaved vegetable salads in general and shaved fennel in particular. If you have time this salad is even better if you let the fennel marinate in the dressing for a while before you toss with the leaves.
Â 2 baby fennel
small bunch dill, torn into little sprigs
8 handfuls baby spinach
2T lemon juice
2T white wine vinegar
6T extra virgin olive oil
Â Trim fennel then halve lengthwise and finely shave or slice lengthwise. Combine oil juice and vinegar in a large bowl and season well. Toss through fennel and allow to stand for 10 mins or up to an hour. When ready to serve toss through dill and spinach.