Meat Pie with Olives. History of this dish.
The beginnings of the meat pie can be traced back to the Neolithic Period, around 9500 BC. The ancient Egyptians’ diet featured basic pies made from oat, wheat, rye, and barley, and filled with honey and baked over hot coals.
These pies were eventually adopted by the Greeks, and it is there that a flour-water paste substance closely resembling pie pastry was created and was first filled with meat. In Greece, these pies were usually fried or cooked under coals. The Romans, tasting the delicacy from the Greeks, incorporated it into their own diet with little changes. According to the records kept by the wealthy, Romans used a variety of meats, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and fish as filling and a mixture of flour, oil, and water to keep it in. This ‘pastry’ cover was not meant to be eaten and was thrown away.
In combination with the spread of Roman roads, the invading crusaders encounter the dish and brought the recipes to Medieval Europe. In Northern Europe, cooks created the pastry using fats like lard and butter to make stiff dough to hold an upright pie.
These medieval pastry dishes were called “coffins/coffyns”, which means a basket or box. According to Janet Clarkson in Pie: A Global History, the “coffins” were:
savory meat pies with the crusts or pastry being tall, straight-sided with sealed-on floors and lids. Open-crust pastry (not tops or lids) were known as “traps.” These pies held assorted meats and sauce components and were baked more like a modern casserole with no pan (the crust itself was the pan, its pastry tough and inedible). These crust were often made several inches thick to withstand many hours of baking.
This pastry became a staple dish in medieval times, and was eventually called “pyes” or “pies”. The origin of this name comes from the type of meat commonly used as filling. Beef, lamb, and duck were employed, but a majority of the time it was the magpie that was the main ingredient.
The English Pilgrims of the North American colonies brought the recipes across the ocean with them. The crust of the pie was useful to preserve food during the long winter months in America (just as the pies were used in antiquity). But the pie was not considered popular there until the 1800s, and today meat pies have lost their popularity to be replaced with sweet pies.
Today, there are different types and variations of meat-pies enjoyed all across the world.
Meat Pie with Olives
Serves 4 – 6 people
Active Time 25 min.
Total Time 45 min.
1 pie crust, standard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup olives divided
½ tsp Italian seasoning
¼ cup milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dijon mustard
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Line a 9″ pie pan with the crust and prick all over with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil and pastry weights and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, then bake for about 5 to 10 more minutes, until browned.
While the crust is baking you can prepare the filling.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet, then cook the onion and pepper until they begin to soften–about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, then add the ground beef and cook until browned, breaking it up often.
Stir in the tomato sauce, the oregano, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs, half olives and remove from heat.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg and milk then whisk in the salt, mustard, and cheese, and set aside.
Spoon the beef evenly into the pie crust, then spread the cheese mixture over the top, all the way to the edges. Sprinkle half of the olives and Italian seasoning (or one you like)
Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the cheese topping is golden brown. (Keep an eye on the edges of the crust–if they begin to get too browned, make a foil ring and cover them up for the last 10 minutes of baking.)