Spicy lamb & eggplant pies

Photographer: Emma
Makes 10 small pies

Yesterday was a special day, it was the day we celebrated our first Father’s Day as a new family.  It was filled with sunshine and sea air and a walk under a cool green canopy of cabbage and punga trees in the hills out west of our fair city.  And if this wasn’t enough, it was jam-packed with more than our fair share of cuddles and kisses given freely from our gorgeous 9 month-old boy – who could wish for more?!

In preparation for this special Sunday I endeavored to surreptitiously extract from Nick his favourite dish.  Lamb featured highly (there was even mention that he would eat it for breakfast!) as did pies.  So lamb pies it was! I carefully slow cooked the lamb overnight in a full-bodied porter, to which I then added sumac, cinnamon, coriander and roasted eggplant.  Toasted pinenuts and a bunch of coriander freshly picked from a tall terracotta pot in Mum’s garden finished the filling off before it was encased in undeniably the best pastry I have ever made…..if I do say so myself!

I served Nick these pies a day early and he graciously agreed to share them.  Squeezed around our dining room table surrounded by friends and happy chatter he declared that they were the best pies he had ever laid his hands on.  Happy Father’s Day to the world’s best Daddy!


Cinnamon roasted eggplant
2 eggplants
Olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon, ground (toast and grind cinnamon quills, the taste is far superior!)
1 tsp brown sugar

Pie filling
1kg lamb leg steaks, any fat trimmed
Olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sumac
3 tsp coriander seeds, toasted & ground
2 cinnamon quills, toasted & ground
10 cloves garlic, sliced
10 shallots, quartered
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
500ml porter
500ml beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp flour
15g coriander, chopped (or a small bunch)
55g pinenuts, toasted
Cinnamon roasted eggplant, chopped into small pieces

Quick flakey pastry
210g butter, frozen
350g flour
pinch salt
150ml chilled water

To assemble
Pie filling
Quick flakey pastry
1 egg, beaten


Cinnamon roasted eggplant
1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C on bake. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways and score on the diagonal to create a diamond pattern. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon, sugar and salt to taste.
2. Place on a baking tray and roast for an hour or until the eggplant is soft and browned. Cool, then cut up into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Pie filling
1. Pre-heat oven to 100°C on bake. Cut the lamb into 2cm cubes and place in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the thyme, sumac, 2 tsp ground coriander and 2 tsp cinnamon. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan and fry the lamb in batches until browned. Set aside.
2. In the same pan, add a little more olive oil and gently fry the garlic, shallots and chilli until soft. Give them a good 15 – 20 minutes so that they start to develop a sweetness to them.
3. Return the meat to the pan and then add the porter and stock, deglazing the pan. Cook for a minute or two before adding the tomato paste and stir to combine.
4. Place the lid on the frying pan and place in the oven. Cook for 8 hours or overnight until the meat is tender and falling apart. You could also do this in a slow cooker.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and place on an element over a medium-low heat. Sift in the flour and stir to combine, avoiding lumps. Cook for about an hour, reducing the liquid so that you end up with a thick gravy.
6. Lastly add the coriander, pinenuts and roasted eggplant.

Quick flakey pastry
1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and stir. Grate in the butter, dipping it into the flour from time-to-time to make it easier. As you go, use a butter knife to stir the butter into the flour.
2. Once the butter is all grated, give the mixture another good mix with the butter knife, continuing to mix while you gradually add the water.
3. Finally, using your hands, bring the dough together, wrap with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

To assemble
1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C on bake. Roll out the pastry and cut out 10 rounds to line the pie tins, and 10 rounds which will become the tops. I used 90mm pie tins.
2. Line the pie tins and fill with pie filling up to the top edge of the tins. You want the pastry to drape over the edges so that you have something to crimp the tops onto to seal the pies.
3. Place the tops on the pies and either use a fork, or your finger to crimp the tops to the bottoms. Using a sharp knife, slit the tops of each pie then brush with the egg. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pies puff up and turn a golden brown.