My old hand-written cooking book is falling apart, and the ink fading.  It’s still the first place I look for certain recipes, despite its battered appearance.

Many gems lurk between its covers.  Actually, it doesn’t have covers anymore but most of the pages are intact.  Some recipes I prepare all the time, and others are special – I might go a year, two years, or a decade without making something, then, with pleasure, rediscover it all over again.  And such recipes nearly always evoke certain memories.

Such is the case with the following.  The first time I made it, at least 20 years ago, there was a slight mishap.  It was high summer in the Waikato, the cicadas were chirping and the lawn needed mowing and the cows milking, no doubt.

I made the pie and invited friends to share it.  Trouble was, I’d used sweet pastry rather than the usual stuff, and, as modifications go, it wasn’t that good. I recall the chickens got the pastry, and we tucked it into the meat part.

I could sense there was a sensational dish hiding here, I made it again a few weeks later, with outstanding results.  The chickens were a little sulky but we were delighted.  I think the secret to its success is the cider.  Or maybe it's the capers.  Possibly both.

Ten years went by, and I next made it while on holiday in Wellington.  We were staying with friends in Eastbourne and I was missing cooking.  I spent a pleasant afternoon preparing food in their ridiculously tiny kitchen, looking out at a huge magnolia tree.  We ate on the porch, near the tree, as the sun went down.  And then strolled along the beach afterward.  Memories are made of this.

Next time I won’t leave it for 10 years.

Scrummy Pie

  • 1 onion
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 400g silverbeet
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1tbsp fresh oregano
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp tarragon
  • 3 tbsp capers
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 500g mince
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 200g pkt puff pastry
  • salt, black pepper
  • 1 glass cider

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Finely slice the onion and garlic and chop the mushrooms.  Wash and chop silverbeet into small bits. 

Pop onion, mushrooms, and silverbeet into a bowl, and add garlic, herbs, and capers.

Mix the meat thoroughly into this – hands are useful. 

Add the egg, retaining a small amount to glaze the pastry.

Scrape this onto a large chopping board and, using those hands again, shape it into an oval.

Place in a dish and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool.  Retain any juice to make gravy later.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a large oblong.  Place the cooked meat in the centre of the pastry.  Wet the edges and wrap tightly around the meat, trimming any overlap.

Brush with egg, make incisions in the pastry, and bake at 200ºC for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp.

Prior to serving, heat pan juices in a small pot, adding the cider to make gravy.