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Meat Pies

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Pies are a critical part of many cultures; whether made with meat or fruit, they are sure to be included in the weekly menu at least once. Pies can be made either with shortcrust pastry or flaky pastry, and are the staple of pub-grub cuisine. Two of the more common varieties follow:

Australian Meat Pies

Australian meat pies are a cultural icon - they are a cheap, effective way for the Australian meat industry to be rid of the offal that's left over after making other edible meat products. The best-selling place for meat pies is undoubtedly at the 'footy', where they are bought religiously by men and women alike - for no particular reason other than the fact that 'they're there'.

The traditional brand of meat pie, 'Four 'n' Twenty'1 is ten-ish centimetres in diameter, filled with bits of chunky meat by-products swimming in a gravy sauce that makes your eyes water. The quality of the pastry is determined by the method of preparation. If the pie has been microwaved, the pastry will be soggy; if the pie has been warmed in an oven, the pastry will be slightly less soggy.

It's recommended that great lashings of tomato ketchup be served with the pie, for the maximum deadening of all sense of taste.

British Pork Pies

A cylindrical lump of pork shoulder 10-15cm in diameter, seasoned with black pepper and salt and encased in lovely crumbly pastry. In between the meat and the pastry is a layer of stock that melts, seeps out over your plate as you cut into the pastry, serves as a counterpoint to the dryness of the pastry, damages your arteries and makes the washing-up difficult. Some say that pork pies are at their best when served piping hot.

They are also a common, cold picnic item, bought in plastic wrapping, 5-6cm in diameter. The meat is reconstituted, the stock is solid jelly and the pastry is a bit soggy. But even then they are quite gorgeous.

1This is a reference to the nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Six Pence' where 'four-and-twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie'.

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