Pies can be traced back to the earliest stages of human history. Many different cultures have a range of sweet and savory dishes encased in pastry on hand for many situations.
The Greeks and Romans had the first recorded meat pies, although it’s likely they go further back too, beyond written records. Flaky pastry meat pies were sold daily in markets, prepared for guests visiting households, or baked in preparation of travel, with the contents and quality of the filling being a signifier of wealth and status.
Fast forward a few thousand years and meat pies remain popular, although maybe not the status symbol they once were. These days the fillings go from the simple and tasty, right through to complex works of food art.
Check out this list of 10 meat pies from around the world, ranging from cultural icons and national dishes to simple kitchen staples and understated comfort foods.
1. Aussie Meat Pie (Australia)
The Aussie meat pie is a serious subject and key component of the laid back knockabout identity we work hard to cultivate.
The classic Australian meat pie comes with gravy and minced meat covered by deliciously flaky pastry , ideally smothered in tomato sauce/ketchup.
There are a million different variations, but as far as most Aussies are concerned, simple is beautiful, as this classic ad from the 1990s shows.
2. Beef and Guinness Pie (Ireland)
Combining pastry with two loves of Ireland – Guinness Beer and beef stew – results in one of the world’s most recognizable pies and the darling of Irish gastropubs everywhere.
The filling is typically a stew of beef cubes, mustard powder, oil, onions, celery, carrots, Guinness, beef stock, herbs, and spices (rosemary and thyme being the most prominent). The Guinness flavor permeates the beef and softens it while it cooks slowly, while the vegetables and herbs create a beautifully rich thick gravy.
Beef and Guinness pie can be full pastry, the best way to serve it if time is not a factor. However, bars and restaurants will often top an individual bowl of stew with a pastry lid and a side-serve of soda bread, which is something you can also do at home.
3. Sfija/Sfeeha (Lebanon)
The traditional open-faced meat pie, known as Sfiha (lahm bil ajĩn or meat on dough) is popular throughout the Middle East but originally comes from Lebanon.
Historically, Sfiha was prepared by stuffing ground lamb and spices into brined grape leaves, but dough became the way to do it.
While a bit of flavor and filling freelancing can occur, the basic ingredients for a quality Sfiha include minced lamb, chopped onions and tomatoes, spices, and olive oil.
The snack-sized, small disc-like pies are most often accompanied by plain yogurt or a tahini garlic sauce, a garnish of fresh cucumber, and fresh herbs such as mint or coriander.
4. Shepherd’s Pie (Great Britain)
The simple Shepherd’s Pie was adopted during the Industrial Revolution, as everyday people spent 12 hour days in front of machines, they had no choice but to eat on the go.
Most households tracing their ancestry back to Great Britain have a family pie recipe passed down from one generation to the next along with ‘which shepherd are we eating?’ jokes.
A couple of hundred years down the track, Shepherd’s Pie is still a very simple dish. Ground beef or lamb, peas, corn, carrots, onion, and celery chopped fine, with a gravy of Worcestershire sauce, herbs, beef stock, and thickener make the base. Add a topping of creamy mashed potato (laid on nice and thick) cheese, and breadcrumbs on top to make it melt golden while it bakes in the oven.
I freelance heavily with my Shepherd’s Pie. I love adding smoky bbq sauce, veggies that my kids can’t track, and some light soy sauce to give it a beautiful rich flavor, and my topping comes with three kinds of cheese (tasty, mozzarella, and grated parmesan).
It doesn’t get more British than Gordon Ramsay making Shepherd’s Pie!
5. Kreatopita (Greece)
The traditional Greek meat pie is called Kreatopita and remains a similar recipe to those made thousands of years ago, although the advent of frozen pastry sheets is a nice contemporary addition for you in the kitchen.
Kreatopita combines flaky phyllo pastry with a flavorful ground meat filling (you can also go for chunkier lamb or beef pies).
There are a variety of regional and style variations of Kreatopita, where you can add items such as rice, leeks or spinach, feta cheese, cream sauces, and a mix of different herb seasonings.
6. Pork Pie (Great Britain)
The Brits just love to whack different meats inside flaky pastry (just make sure you don’t buy from Sweeney Todd). My dad, who was born and raised in London before emigrating to Australia in 1960, can still remember the pork pies that he ate as a young lad, when you could eat for a week with a single coin.
Where the pork pie differs from others of its ilk is that they are traditionally served at room temperature or cold, rather than piping hot from an oven or pie warmer.
The best pork pies combine bacon, chunky sliced pork, and ground meat, with a little bit of salt and pepper and herbs (sage or rosemary work a treat) to give the filling some added flavor. Depending on how long they’ll keep for, some will also have gelatin in there to keep the meat moist.
This lovely clip from Discovery UK takes you right through the pork pie process. I sent it to dad, and he sent a piggy emoji, high-five, thumbs up, tick emoji message back, which I assume is pretty good.
7. Pastilla (Morocco)
I’m a huge fan of Moroccan and North African cuisine because of their iconic tagine cooking and for the beautifully array of aromatic and brightly colored spices contained in almost all of their dishes.
Morocco is home to the Pastilla (the Spanish word for pastry), which dates back to the Moorish influence of the Middle Ages.
Pastilla is stuffed with an unusually sweet-savory mix of pigeon (a delicacy in Morocco and Egypt prepared for special events such as holidays and weddings) or chicken meat, eggs, almonds, and cinnamon.
The spices used in making pastilla are what really sets it apart, saffron, nutmeg, ginger are brought into the dish to give it an amazing flavor and fragrance.
8. Pirog (Russia)
Pirog is the popular Russian pie made from yeast dough or pastry filled with sweet or savory fillings. If we’re figuring out who eats the most meat pies per day, Russia would be comfortably leading.
The most popular savory pirog fillings include meat, fish, mushrooms, cheese, cabbage, or potatoes. The pie can be either closed or open-faced, and are often an accompaniment for borscht and soups In Ukrainian and Russian cuisines.
Kurnik, or wedding pie, is a festive variety of the traditional pirog – it’s a pie that consists of a dome-shaped pastry shell filled with layers of meat along with all sorts of other ingredients including eggs, rice, kasha, and mushrooms.
9. Kubdari (Georgia)
The Republic of Georgia is famed for its beautiful tasting stuffed bread savory dishes, such as Kachapuri Adjaruli (cheese filled) or Lobiani (bean filled) doughs.
Kubdari is a popular Georgian bread native to the Svaneti region in the north of the country. It’s made from flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and eggs, traditionally filled with beef, pork, or a combination of the two meats.
Rather than using ground meat, Kubdari’s meat is usually sliced into small chunks. It’s laden with layers of rich spice such as cumin, dill, coriander, blue fenugreek, red pepper, onions, garlic, and salt. Tarragon is also a popular spice in Georgian cuisine.
It is recommended you glaze kubdari with butter and serve it hot straight out of the oven.
Check out this awesome lesson on Georgia and kubdari from Tatiana!
10. Empanada Gallega (Spain)
This large size traditional Galician pie is typically round or square, with a top decorated by pieces of dough. The bottom and top crusts of the Galician pie are always prepared with leavened dough, which gives them a dark, more unique-looking pastry.
There are numerous regional varieties of the Empanadas Gallegas based on meat, tuna, and other types of fish, seafood, chorizo, or various seasonal vegetables. Onions, peppers, and other spices help give it a beautiful savory flavor, which now also utilizes tomatoes in contemporary versions.
The following Spanish language clip (unfortunately no subtitles) shows how you can make a beautiful Empanada Gallega at home with simple ingredients.
Savory meat filled pies are popular dishes around the world. I’ve been lucky enough to travel and savor many different types, but with the internet’s help, it’s a lot of fun learning to cook up some of the great examples above. What’s your favorite type of meat pie?SKM: below-content placeholder