By Susanne Merrett
Fall is such a delightful time of year. The intense heat of the summer has subsided, the air is crisp and filled with wondrous smells, and we are witness to some pretty spectacular fall colours as Mother Nature paints the landscape for our viewing pleasure. Another favourite fall happening is the recurrence of comfort foods...those rich and flavourful dishes that just seem too heavy for the heat of summer.
Both my husband and son are carnivores at heart, and so to please the ones I love, I now serve up far more meaty meals than I did in my single life. As far as they are concerned, vegetables are something they do to make me happy, and the more cheese sauce, the better! I have had to find new and creative ways to sneak veggies into dishes, in an effort to feed more balanced meals and to appease their intestinal gods. With this in mind, I agreed to my son's request for a meat pie, a true comfort food in just about any culture.
Meat pies have a long and cherished history. The ancient Egyptians made a sort of free form pie called a "gallette" that was stuffed with honey. The clever Greeks took the Egyptian pies to the next level, making a flour and water pastry and meat filling. Meat tarts (the meat pie's smaller but equally delicious cousin) made for a handy travelling meal for the likes of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, while the Romans used them as gifts to the gods.
Throughout history, meat pies were far more popular than fruit pies, which have only become more common in the last 300 years. In fact, the word pie is said to have come from “magpie,” a popular filling in meat pies in the fourteenth century. For me, the image of magpies in a pie conjures up the nursery rhyme (Sing a Song of Sixpence) about “four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie”, a personal favourite when I was a young lass. (Of course, my younger, naive self never really thought anyone would actually eat a lovely bird, and took great comfort when “the birds began to sing,” since they were obviously still alive!)
Interestingly, for most meat pies throughout history, the crust was simply a cooking vessel for the tasty innards. A sturdy crust (sometimes several inches thick) held the meat filling together while protecting it from the fire. The crust was considered inedible and was often served to the servants while the lords and ladies enjoyed the delicious stuffing. The humble pie crust would have to wait for the French and Italian bakers to perfect the delicate pie crusts that we know today.
For my Deep Dish Meat Pie, I take a page from those venerated French and Italian pastry chefs and make an all-butter pastry. I know many bakers who swear by lard or shortening for a truly flaky pie crust, but I prefer the flavour of an all-butter pastry.
My secret for incorporating veggies into this heavenly meat pie is to bring out my trusty kitchen grater. Grated carrots and potatoes not only magically hide in and amongst the meat mixture nicely, but also cook up faster than the cubed variety. Another bonus to grating the veggies: my boys do not even notice that only half of the filling is meat. Comfort food that loves you back—what could be better?!
Note: For the receipe, go to the Cooperator’s website,