The Amazing Scallop Pie

The Australian meat pie is one food item that is deemed to be a truly local culinary meal. It is also an iconic snack that goes hand in hand with Aussie Rules Football. I like the idea of pies, they are such a comforting and traditional food, especially when well anointed in bottled sauce, but as I don’t eat meat, the native version is not for me. I’m also not a fan of football, but as the AFL Grand Final is today, I may watch a short segment of the match, perhaps the last 5 minutes, as I eat my very untraditional Australian scallop pie. Two Victorian teams will be battling it out, they tell me, the Cats and the Tigers: I may keep some earphones handy and listen to music as it’s the sound of football I dislike the most. I don’t mind a few close ups of the lads climbing all over each other in their attempt to get their hands on that leather ball. As the state of Victoria remains under strict lockdown, the finals match will be played in Brisbane, Queensland, a state that has managed to avoid the plague so far.

Heavenly scallop pies

During this extraordinary year of the pandemic and consequent very strict lockdown, I’ve developed my pie making skills, thanks to the discovery of a base recipe by Australian chef Neil Perry. I’ve discovered that the success of a good pie, which in my case is either vegetarian or seafood, comes down to the flavour and texture of the glutinous sauce which binds the ingredients together. I’ve played with Neil Perry’s base sauce recipe many times now and have adapted it to the ingredients and herbs that grow in my garden. So far, I’ve made pumpkin and carrot pot pies, leek, potato and cheese pies, and these wonderful scallop pies. Once you master this sauce, you can add anything really. The pie filling can be placed in a ramekin dish and topped with puff pastry, or you can use pie molds for a complete top and bottom pastry lined traditional pie. It’s worth spending a little extra on very good commercial puff pastry, especially if you’re planning to fill them with expensive, seasonal Bass Straight scallops.

The saucing makes all the difference.

I’m breaking this recipe into a few parts. The first part deals with the binding thick gravy. I’ve adapted the original recipe from Perry and switched to stock for the liquid ( the original used milk). I’ve also added mild curry powder for these scallop pies, but use Dijon mustard for other vegetable versions.

Very adaptable thick pie gravy recipe, enough for 4 pies

  • 80 gr butter
  • 1 1/2 Tb EV olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts, finely sliced
  • 2 Tb wild fennel herb finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • sea salt, freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper, a pinch
  • 1/2 cup plain ( AP) flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups stock, made from stock cubes or powder, warmed
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of mild curry powder such as Keens
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • zest of 1/2 lemon, optional
  • small handful of flat leafed parsley, finely chopped

To make the sauce, heat the butter and olive oil in saucepan over low heat. Add the leek, fennel herb, garlic, a pinch of salt, white pepper, cayenne and cook over low heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the flour and curry powder and cook until the mixture bubbles and becomes grainy, stirring as you go.

Gradually pour in the wine, stirring well, then gradually add the warm stock. Continue stirring until the mixture bubbles. Add in lemon zest and parsley, the taste and check seasoning.

The filling and pastry for scallop pies, enough for 4.

  • 300 grs fresh scallops, remove hard digestive tracts on side, cut large scallops in half
  • 1 potato, around 120 gr or so, peeled, diced and cooked in water for 10 minutes
  • 1 pkt of good quality butter puff pastry sheets. You’ll need four sheets for encased pies or two sheets for ramekin pastry topped pies.
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 Tb milk, whisked together for the pastry glaze

Putting the pies together

After you’ve made the pie gravy, add the raw scallops and cooked diced potato to the mixture. Cool the mixture while defrosting the puff pastry sheets.

Grease some pie tins and line with pastry cut to shape. Fill the pies with cooled scallop mixture. Top with pastry lids cut to shape and crimp well, joining top to lining. Brush the egg glaze over the pastry. Pierce or fork the top of each pie to allow the steam to escape. Place the pies on a baking tray and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200c or 180 c FF. Bake the baking tray in the centre of the oven and bake for round 20 minutes or until pastry is golden.

If you make a version of these pies, using the special thick and flavoursome gravy recipe, let me know. I’m keen to collect more good versions.

Below is a collage of my week in Instagram pics. Instagram is a lot less demanding than blogging, especially now that WordPress has changed its editing programme. Am I the only one struggling to adapt to this new geeky block editor?

Easy Mix Lemon and Almond Syrup Cake

When the young ones ask me which football team I follow, I always reply ‘The Seagulls’. They look bewildered as there is no major AFL (Australian Football League ) team with this bird as their logo. I quickly follow this with an explanation, that I barrack for real seagulls, the birds that land on the grounds during a match and annoy players, lest they think it’s time to send me off to the funny farm. I am not a football fan at all. In fact, it bores me to tears – please feel free to substitute that other very Australian colloquial phrase which refers to ‘a state of being during which one is without feces’.

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After the cake has rested a little, pour on the lemon syrup.

On rare occasions, I allow myself to watch ‘the footy’. It is usually forced upon my consciousness during the grand final season, when all sorts of non footy followers suddenly convert. Not me. I allow myself snippets of the game to waft over me, but would rather be the tea lady – or the beer/wine/cake/biscuit gatherer- during the broadcast.

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Cake ready to slice.

My mother, born and raised in Footscray, the original home of the Bulldogs team, was excited and anxious during the grand final this year. We had joined her to watch the big event, especially given that the last time her team won was in 1954. That’s pre- TV, a very long time to wait for a victory. She mentioned a few names of the players, the much-loved captain of the Bulldogs who retired earlier this year due to injury, my eyes were glazing over, and another one she referred to as ‘The Package’, a player who was bought for a large sum but who wasn’t living up to expectation. I kept calling him ‘The Packet’, at which point, the assembled football devotees suggested I should take a nap. I was happy to grab my smart phone and head to the backroom for a surf and a snooze.

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Lemon almond cake, cut into Middle Eastern shapes.

I woke up for the last 12 minutes, and enjoyed the match thoroughly. I can recommend this approach to my fellow football- loathing friends: just watch the last 12 minutes- that’s when the real action happens. You won’t have missed a thing.

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The lemon zest candies a little when cooking down the syrup, adding to the glazed surface.

I made this lemon cake for the day. As it turned out, it was a celebratory cake – the Bulldogs won. I can recommend this cake for its excellent keeping qualities ( up to one week in the fridge) and for its simplicity. It is now my favourite lemon syrup cake and can easily be adapted to gluten- free. The recipe comes from Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffries. I have made minor adjustments to the method.

Lemon Almond Syrup Cake

  • 50g plain flour ( or GF flour if required)
  • 200g almond meal
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 190g castor sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into large chunks
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp almond essence
  • 1½ large lemons, finely zested

Lemon Syrup

  • 150g of castor sugar
  • 2 lemons zested ( or one large)
  • 125ml of lemon juice
  • 250ml of water

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 160c or lower for Fan Forced. (150c FF worked well for me). Butter a 20cm – 24 cm square cake tin and line the base with paper. Butter the paper and dust the tin lightly with flour.
  • Put the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt into a food processor. Whiz them together for 20 seconds, then tip into a bowl.
  • Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and whiz them together until they are light and creamy. Scrape down as you go, then add in eggs, one at a time, until creamy. Stop the processor, add the vanilla, almond essence and lemon zest and blitz for another 10 seconds or so.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in the food processor and pulse until they are mixed. Do not over pulse. Scrape the sides to make sure all is well mixed.
  • Scoop out the mixture into the prepared tin and flatten surface. Bake for around 50-55 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and if browning too quickly, cover the top with tin foil.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the lemon syrup. Place all ingredients into a pot over a high heat. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and allow it to come to boil. Let it bubble for 10 – 12 minutes or until it looks thicker and like syrup. Then off heat and set aside. Keep warm.
  • When the cake is ready, place the cake in the tin on a wire rack for 10 mins. Invert onto the rack and remove the paper. Now brush with the lemon syrup. I used all the syrup as the cake happily absorbed it but the original recipe advises using half and serving the rest of the syrup alongside the cake. If using all the syrup, the cake will be very moist and very lemony.
  • The cake stores well for about 1 week in the fridge. Warm it slightly before serving if from the fridge. Other lemon and lime cakes from my blog can be found in the links below.
  • Limoni di Mama.
    Limoni di Mama.

    https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/lemon-lime-and-poppy-seed-cake-with-books/

    https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/lemon-ricotta-and-almond-cake/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/easy-lime-syrup-cake/