All around the world, savory pies encased in golden pastry are the ultimate hand-held comfort food. Each culture has its own tradition. In Russia, the piroshki is a ground beef and onion deep fried pie flavored with dill and served with sour cream on the side. In Turkey, the borek’s filling can comprise of spiced ground lamb or beef or a vegetarian filling and the pastry is more of a phyllo-type dough. In England the Cornish pasty, a turnover in a half-moon shape, stufffed with minced or roughly cut beef with turnip, potato and onion has been around since the 14th Century and may be the original street food. Latin America has given us the empanada which varies from country to country: Argentina stuffs theirs with ground beef and olives while Chile showcases seafood in theirs. Their dough can be made from wheat or corn flour or even from plantain or sweet potatoes. The West Indies’ Jamaican patty has attained almost cult status. Its pastry boasts turmeric to give it its golden color and the filling is a spicy beef seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, curry powder and cumin although vegetarian or seafood versions are also popular. In India, the samosa is a triangular pastry stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and sometimes spiced potatoes and veggies. In culturally-rich Canada, many of these hand held pastries from around the world are on menus everywhere. I never, however, encountered the beloved tourtière of French Canadian culinary heritage offered in a hand held size.
Recently, while in a marathon session in the kitchen preparing home-cooked meals to send to one of my sons, I was inspired to create our family’s traditional meat pies in individual portions for ease of travel and in a size to feed a single guy, not a whole family. I substituted the pork for ground turkey and added shredded cabbage and dried cranberries to my maman’s classic tourtière recipe, with all its fragrant spices enveloping a golden, flaky half round pastry crust. And oh my, the result was totally mouth-watering and so adorable in its mini size, a practical adaptation of a family favorite. Then I read an article on hand pies from around the world in the current issue of The Canadian Living Magazine and realized there were NO Canadian savory meat pies featured. Who knows, maybe I’ve just created the Canadian cultural offering to the world of savory hand-pies? From Canada, with love!