Thousands of camels were imported into Australia between 1840 and 1907 to be used as transport in this country’s vast arid inland regions. In the 1920’s there were estimated to be 20,000 domesticated animals here, but by 1930, improved rail and motor transport made them redundant and they were released into the bush, where they bred prolifically. The estimated population of one million feral camels in 2009 (and increasing by 10% each year) has a major impact on outback Australia’s native vegetation. Australia has the only wild population of one humped camels in the world.
So, what’s my point? This is a food blog after all. My point is, with all these camels roaming the country, eating native vegetation, damaging waterways, knocking down fences, colliding with cars etc. why is it so hard to buy camel meat? Well, finally, after a year-long quest, a local butcher got in some camel mince and sausages. I missed out on the sausages this time, but there was one pack of mince left.
I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about a kangaroo and emu pie (Coat of Arms) and for the camel pie I used the same recipe, although I only cooked the camel in a pot for about 20 minutes before thickening it a bit with cornflower and filling the pie. A pie looks like a pie, so I didn’t bother with photos, it looked just like the other pie but without the coat of arms. I even resisted the temptation to bake humps into it or make it toe-shaped………….
Camel pie is good. I like strong flavoured pies and the camel meat has a gamey flavour without being overpowering. It is meant to be low in fat, but it had a fatty taste to it (not a bad thing). Was it worth the wait? Yes, although it wasn’t as good as the kangaroo and emu pie. I would certainly like to try the sausages, or some other cut of camel if it becomes available. And it might make an interesting burger.
I have heard it said (by people opposed to killing and eating kangaroos) that Australians are the only people who eat their country’s coat of arms. So when I bought emu meat, which is rarely available, what better way to eat it than in a pie with kangaroo. Kangaroo meat (I used mince) is 98% fat free, high in protein and very rich in flavour. Emu meat is also claimed to be 97% fat free and high in protein. So the pie should at least be healthy! The emu meat came diced and frozen.
I browned the kangaroo mince, an onion and the emu meat in olive oil in a pan. At this stage the emu meat broke up into smaller pieces, not much bigger than the mince. I then put it all in a slow cooker with water, and cooked it for 3 hours on high, at which stage it was all beautifully tender and tasty.
Then it was time to make pastry (my first time). I decided on shortcrust pastry which I prefer to flaky pastry. My pastry recipe was 3 cups flour, salt to taste, 200g butter, 2 egg yolks and 75ml water. After mixing the flour with salt and butter and working until there were no lumps of butter, I added the egg yolks and water to make a dough that wasn’t sticky. I rolled out the base and blind baked it. Then it was time to thicken the emu/roo mix with a little gravox and cornflour and put it into the base and then roll out more pastry for the top. A little decoration in flaky pastry courtesy of my son was added , and into the oven for about 30 minutes to cook and brown the top.
It looked almost too good to cut and eat!
Served with a dollop of Outback Spirit Kakadu Plum Sweet Chilli Sauce, this was possibly the nicest, tastiest pie I have ever eaten. The pastry was delicious and the filling had so much flavour, a real meat lovers pie. I’m not sure how much of the flavour was from emu, I think the strong kangaroo meat overpowered the emu. When I tried a little bit of emu before combining the meats, I thought it was quite mild and maybe even had a slight fishy flavour. I’ll just have to try it again on its own. And I will certainly make kangaroo pie again.
At Pacific Paradise on the Sunshine Coast I came across a bakery called Dough Fusion. They had quite a good selection of pies, so I tried their chunky steak which apparently was one of the best in Australia in 2008.
It was a very good pie, but a steak pie is a steak pie, there is only so far you can take it.
They also had a hamburger pie, called a Dough Fusion Royale, on the menu. I was intrigued, so I tried one.
The pie filling was basically a hamburger pattie with sauce and maybe some pickles in a pie. An interesting concept, but I think it could be done better. The pattie itself wasn’t fantastic, more like sausage roll filling than hamburger meat, and probably as a result of being cooked in pastry, it was a bit soggy. Overall, not a bad pie. I might try another one sometime.
I have been a big fan of meat pies for as long as I can remember, but as the years go on I find there is a certain sameness to them where ever they come from. Even buying ‘gold medal winning’ or ‘voted Australias best meat pie’ doesn’t really guarantee anything special. So I was thrilled a couple of years ago, while passing through a small town called Lumsden, in New Zealand’s South Island, to find a bakery selling Bluff Oyster pies, which were sensational. A year later, and another visit, and unfortunately no oyster pies. Settled for pork and watercress, which turned out to be just as delicious. So this years trip definately included a visit to Lumsden with the intention of buying one each of everything unusual they had. Of course, as so often happens with my plans, on the only day we could make it to the bakery, it was closed! We pressed on, disappointed and hungry until Gore, where a stop at the Oven Fresh Bakery yielded a very pleasant surprise, a lambs fry and bacon pie. The pie was smaller than the average meat pie, but this was more than made for by the quality. The pastry was light, crispy and delicious, and what can I say about the filling, if you like lambs fry and bacon, this was as good as it gets.
Certainly made up for the disappointment at Lumsden, which I now look forward to visiting next trip.