Who doesn’t love stuffed pastry? Pierogi, dumplings, samosas, pasties, empañadas; people all around the world have created delicious ways to turn humble ingredients into little packets of sunshine. And besides being delicious, these dishes can be very easy meals when they’re prepared in advance. Which brings me to the reason we’re talking about them here on a blog about babies. Of course cooking dinner from scratch is difficult with a new baby. Especially if a family has a preemie and parents are back and forth to the NICU every day, having something already made that can be thrown in the oven on a moment’s notice is the best. So whether you know a family with a newborn, or are pregnant and looking for recipes to fill your freezer before the baby is born, I hope these pies make their way to someone who could use a home-cooked meal. This is my recipe for individual meat pies, a product of my Midwestern upbringing, love of pastry dough, and marriage to a Pennsylvanian (they love pasties where he's from).

You’ll want to start by preparing the filling so that it can cool a little before you’re ready to assemble the pies. Chop one onion and cook it in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil over low-medium heat until it’s nice and soft, about 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, set a medium pot of water to boil and peel and chop 2-3 medium potatoes and 2 carrots into small cubes. When the water’s boiling, add the potatoes and carrots and simmer for about 15 minutes until they’re tender, but not falling apart. When the onions are soft and translucent, increase the heat to medium-high and add about 12 ounces of ground beef. Season it with a pinch of salt and pepper, break the meat apart, mixing it with the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned. When the vegetables are soft, drain the water and add them to the meat mixture. Add a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper. At this point, you can taste it to see if it’s seasoned satisfactorily. Set it aside to cool.

To make the pastry, measure out 3 cups of flour and stir in 1½ teaspoon of salt. Cut in 1 cup of cold lard (or shortening) with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Slowly add up to ½ a cup of cold water, mixing with a fork, just until the dough comes together in a clump that’s not too crumbly to work with. (You may not need all of the water.) Divide the dough into 3 portions, working with one at a time and keeping the rest covered and in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t dry out. Gently form a rope about 1½ inch wide, without overworking the dough. Cut the rope into 6 equal pieces, about 2 inches long. Gently form each piece into a ball and, on a well-floured surface, roll them into circles about 5 inches in diameter. Place about 2 tablespoons of the cooled filling on the bottom half of the circle, wet the bottom half of the circle’s edge with a little water, and fold the top over the filling. You can crimp the edge with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Carefully cut a couple of small slits in the top of the pies and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cook or freeze. This recipe makes about 18 pies.

Brushing them with a little egg wash before putting them in the oven makes them look extra lovely. If you want to cook them right away, they’ll take about 35 minutes in a 375 degree oven. If you prefer to freeze them, place the whole baking sheet in the freezer until the pies are solid, then transfer them to an airtight container. Straight from the freezer, they’ll take about 45-50 minutes in a 375 degree oven. The pies are done when they’re a nice golden brown.

I hope you enjoy them; let us know how they turn out! Here's a compact form of the recipe to share:

 

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