Oh, the memories! Of summer days spent at our grandparents’ house in the country. Sunset joy rides on the ferry, walks with the dog, a cockatiel that whistled ‘Pop goes the weasel’, a clock ticking in the hall. Biggles books in the lounge room, pigface growing in a disused tractor tyre, metal seats on the lawn. Grandpa’s huge shed, his cheery, scratchy whistle, the dog who loved watermelon. Grandma’s metallic orange mugs, and dinner around the table. Cold meat, hot mashed potato, jelly salad and beetroot on the side. Apple pie for dessert and as many preserved peaches as we could eat.
My father’s mother was of the generation that lived through the Depression, who knew how to grow her own food, and preserve the excess for the lean times. Being a tenant farmer’s wife, she also knew what it took to stretch the resources to feed and clothe five growing children on a meagre wage. This pastie slice is her recipe, one that’s been handed down from her to my aunty, and now to me. It’s not fancy, but it is very, very good. Chock-ful of veggie goodness, it doesn’t need herbs to make it tasty. I was sceptical at first, that something so simple could be so good, but I can tell you now, it’s perfect.
The ready-made pastry we buy comes in 10-inch squares, thereby lining a 9-inch square pan perfectly. If you don’t have a pan that size, this pastie slice works just as well as a free-form pie on a larger baking tray. If you do this, make extra sure you’ve sealed the edges properly, otherwise the juices will run, burning the pan. And although I prefer to chop the vegetables by hand (I enjoy the challenge, and find the repetition soothing), I imagine using a food processor would be much quicker! Just remember to remove the vegetables to a large mixing bowl before adding the meat, peas and seasoning.
Nanna’s Pastie Slice*
Not to be too prescriptive (I think the beauty of this dish is its lack of precision), but as a rough guide, I got 450g (1 lb) of diced root vegetables.
Preheat oven to 220degC (425degF).
Line a greased baking dish (9 x 9 inch/23 x 23cm) with shortcrust or flaky pastry sheets.
Mince up (or dice finely):
1 large potato
1 onion (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Add 250g (8 oz) beef mince and mix well (I use my hands). Stir through ½ cup frozen peas, a little salt and lots of black pepper.
Place mix over pastry and press down, leaving a 1cm border. Brush edges of pastry with a little milk.
Place second pastry sheet over the top and crimp edges to create a seal. Brush the top with more milk.
With a sharp knife, cut a few air holes in the pastry top before cooking.
Bake in oven 220C (425F) for 25 minutes, then turn down to 190C (375F) for 25 minutes. Should be cooked and brown.
Cool 5 minutes before taking out of dish. Serve hot or cold with tomato sauce (of course!).
*Although we called her ‘Grandma’, none of the other cousins did, hence this being named, “Nanna’s Pastie Slice”. 😉