Tasty pies to warm your bones
Come winter, it’s natural that we start to hanker for richer, more hearty comfort foods. And if there’s one food that can deliver on all those cravings, it has to be the pie. A good pie offers everything your hungry heart might desire, with rich, saucy fillings all wrapped up in one delicious package of golden brown, flaky, buttery pastry. We take a look at some of the best and most popular savoury pies in Australia and share a tasty recipe for a pie that contains the ultimate savoury combo: chicken and mushroom.
The Great Aussie Pie Competition was created to raise the quality of pies in Australia and to build pride among pie-makers. Winning bakeries also enjoy greater publicity and increased sales. While the competition was at first solely dedicated to meat pies, the competition has now expanded to include vegetarian and meat alternative entries. Last year’s winners include WA’s Pinjarra Bakery, which won best plain meat pie; and Queensland’s Paradise Bakehouse, which won best overall gourmet pie for its Dancing Scallop Pie.
At Australia’s Best Pie Competition, conducted by the Baking Association of Australia, Victoria’s Rolling Pin Pies & Cakes took out the top gong in 2021 for its surf and turf pie. The family business also won countless gold and silver medals. Also in Victoria, Country Cob Bakery won best pie for three years running, from 2018 to 2020.
WA’s Miami Bakehouse, which has locations in the Mandurah, Perth, Peel and South-West regions, is one of the country’s most awarded pie-makers. At last year’s Perth Royal Food Awards, the bakery won gold for its classic steak pie and caramelised ginger chilli pork pie, silver for its “not-beef fajita” pie and bronze for its Texan chilli beef pie. Miami Bakehouse also won 18 gold and silver medals at last year’s Great Aussie Pie Competition and was the national winner in the gourmet red meat pie category.
Pies you have to try
While the classics are always guaranteed to please, some Aussie bakeries have created the kind of pies that pastry-lovers would dream about, if they’d been clever enough to think them up. Aussie chain Banjo’s Bakery Cafe has taken two time-honoured pub grub favourites and rolled them into one with a chicken parmigiana pie. It contains chicken schnitzel, cheese, traditional parmigiana sauce, Virginian ham and hollandaise mayo.
In WA, you can find Bindoon Bakehaus & Cafe’s “moo and blue” pie: steak with a blue cheese centre. Also in WA, the Croc Cafe and Bakery in Wyndham has crocodile and barramundi pies. In the ACT, Elaine’s Gourmet Pie Cafe has a macaroni, bacon and shallot pie on the menu. In the Northern Territory, The Bakery Alice Springs has an ever-changing selection of pies featuring more sustainable meat sources such as camel and kangaroo.
And if you’re in Sydney, make sure you head to Carriageworks Farmers’ Market or Northside Produce Market. Here, Broomfields Pies sells its seasonal pies, which can vary from a pho pie floater or a feta, beetroot and blood orange pie to a three cheese and mushroom pie with roast mushrooms, pomme purée, Roquefort, truffle brie, goat’s cheese, parsley, tarragon, smoked salt and Manu Feildel mushroom sauce.
Finally, no trip to Tassie is complete unless you’ve tried the Apple Isle’s famous Tasmanian scallop pie. While you can find scallop pies all over the island, you might want to pop into Scottsdale’s Cottage Bakery. It won best scallop pie at the 2021 Tassie Scallop Fiesta. In 2020, the award went to Olivers Bakery and Cafe in Ulverstone. Or if you’re heading to the famous Salamanca Market, grab a top-notch scallop pie from Smith’s Specialty Pies van.
Pies aren’t just for meat-eaters. Vegetarian pies can be just as satisfying – think cheese and onion, mushroom and spinach or curried potato. And vegans no longer have to miss out either. With the quality of plant-based meats continuing to improve, so too are vegan meat pies. According to the vegans at PETA, these are the best vegan pies money can buy.
One of Australia’s most iconic pastry brands has joined the plant-based party with its plant-based meat-free pie. It’s available in supermarkets as well as Caltex Star Marts.
This planet-focused pastry paradise serves up its meat-free pastry delights with mushy peas and gravy at its Bondi cafe. It also offers online ordering.
Australia-wide chain Pie Face recently added vegan offerings to meet growing demand. Choose from its vegan Mexi pie, vegan spag bol pie or vegan cheeseburger pie.
Family-owned Melbourne bakery chain Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse offers a vegan-friendly plant-based Aussie pie made with wheat, garlic, onion, chickpeas, gravy, herbs and spices.
Creamy chicken and mushroom pie
Some foods are made for each other. Like chicken and mushroom. We bring this tasty twosome together in a super-simple pie that will make any winter evening worthwhile.
Recipe courtesy of Australian Mushrooms
Prep time 10 minutes
Cooking time 50 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil
500g free-range chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, cut into 3cm cubes
2 punnets Swiss brown mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, thickly sliced
¼ cup plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
2 cups milk
1 cup frozen peas
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed in the fridge
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper, to season
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In batches, cook the chicken for 5 minutes, turning, until browned, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms, cook for 4 minutes or until golden, tossing the pan frequently, then remove and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Melt the butter in the pan, then stir in the flour and mixed spice. Cook for 1 minute before gradually whisking in the milk until thickened slightly. Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for a further 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Remove the pastry sheets from the fridge, cut each sheet in half and place one on top of the other. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to a 4mm-thick rectangle that fits the size of a rectangular 1.5-2L baking dish.
4. Stir the frozen peas through the pie filling to combine, then transfer to the baking dish. Place the pastry over the top to cover, pressing down on the edges with a fork to seal in the filling. Make a small cross-incision in the centre of the pie to allow the steam to escape. Brush the egg yolk over the surface of the pie, then bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Serve immediately.
For more satisfying pies that you can make at home, try this gluten-free beer and beef brisket pie or this salmon and rice egg pie.