It was this time last year that we were getting geared up for our trip to New Zealand. The Mr was going home for the first time in two years and I was going further around the world than I'd ever been before. I didn't really know what to expect, family and friends had told me how beautiful New Zealand is and how the climate isn't actually that different to Britain. They were right about all of that. New Zealand is beautiful, if you're thinking about going, do not let the distance put you off. It's so worth it once you get there.
I really wanted to know what to expect food-wise. Obviously, we all know about kiwi fruit. I love kiwi fruit. But what else can you get there? Ever had a feijoa? Yea me neither until I got there. It's about the size of a kiwi fruit but slightly more cylindrical, it has the texture of a banana and the taste of a zesty melon. I know you're thinking it sounds really weird but it's delicious. It's refreshing and really hard to stop eating them.
Another thing they do really well in New Zealand, is pie. Who doesn't love a good pie? But they are so popular. You get them in cafes, chippies, petrol stations, rest stops (of which there are a lot because lots of people drive the length of the country and it's quite expansive) and bakeries. They are everywhere. Not just any pies though. The most popular ones are mince and cheese. "What an odd combination," I hear you mutter. Well, that's what I thought. Then I had one. And I've never looked back.
It was ANZAC Day not long ago and I thought I'd try my hand at something a bit kiwi. I wanted to try something new and I toyed with the idea of pavlova but I really wanted to wait until we had some good strawberries out. I did ANZAC biscuits last year so it didn't seem quite so special (although I am craving ANZAC biscuits now). So I thought I'd have a go at the pies. They were very well received.
Real Mince & Cheese Pies
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp paprika
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked off
1 beef stock pot (that's the jelly-like stock)
2 tbsp mushroom ketchup or Worcestershire sauce
100g mature cheddar, grated
100g red leicester, grated
640g ready rolled puff pastry (2 of the jus-roll sheets)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, garlic and carrots to sweat down and soften. Once they are nice and soft, add the mince and cook it all the way through, stirring frequently to break it down. Add the paprika, stock pot, thyme and mushroom ketchup and stir to combine. Simmer gently with the lid on for half an hour. If you don't have half an hour, 10 minutes will be ok but the longer it simmers, the deeper the flavour will be.
Line 4 individual pie tins with butter (or lightly with oil if you don't have any butter). Cut the bases of your pies from the pastry sheets, making them slightly larger than the pie dishes. Cut the lids to the size of the pie tins by tracing around them with a knife.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C with a baking tray on the shelves. Press the bases into the tins, making sure there are no air bubbles. Spoon the filling into the pastry cases until they are almost full. You will have quite a lot of mince mixture left which will be nice for mince and potatoes or you can freeze it for another pie day. I always like to make extra. Sprinkle the grated cheeses generously on top of the mince.
Brush the edges of the pies with the egg and press the lids on gently. Pinch the pastry together to seal and poke a small hole in the top for steam to come out. Brush the top with the remaining egg and put the pies on the baking tray in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and flaky.
Serve with whatever you like and keep some ketchup and brown sauce on hand for dipping.