A recipe for delicious Traditional Nigerian meat pie filled with ground beef, potatoes and a curry spice blend covered with a buttery flaky pie crust.
Nigerian Meat Pies are a fusion of British and Nigerian influences with a curry powder and spicy meat filling. The filling is usually a mix of meat, vegetables and potato. I tried to stick with the traditional recipe but skipped the veggies and amped up the spice level a tad. It makes for a delightfully flavorful meat pie which even my toddler enjoys.
Nigerian Meat Pie History
Did you know that meat pies were created as a need for housewives to repurpose leftover meat? Refrigerators weren’t invented yet and having a crusty covering helped keep the meat longer during the course of the day. That’s pretty nifty isn’t it? Modern meat pies have evolved a lot since then, from a thick cornmeal crust to a buttery and flaky version. Irrespective of the region, meat pies have different forms in various cultures like the Indian samosa, Spanish Empanadas, Jamaican Beef Patties and the Australian meat pies.
As a result of British trade, Nigerian meat pies were originally low frills adaptations of the Cornish Pastries popular among local diaspora. Originally an item reserved for the upper echelon of the society, these pies became quite popular in the African region as a street food and party meal.
For a recipe that requires some hard work to be put in, the equipment needed isn’t that hard to find. To make the recipe you would need
- Stand Mixer: The dough can be kneaded by hand but I opted to use a stand mixer to speed up the overall process.
- Frying Pan: A good non stick frying pan actually helps in the meat browning process. I’ve used stainless pans before which require a LOT of oil to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan surface.
- Pie Mold: This little pie mold a.k.a thing-a-majic is a huge timesaver when you’re making meat pies or empanadas. All you need is to cut out the shape, add the filling and it will create a neatly folded meat pie. I also like that it’s plastic and cleans easily.
Apart from these, I would suggest keeping a good mixing bowl set, spatulas and a rolling pin.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions:
There are actually two sets of ingredients required to make this recipe, the first being the outer crust. To make the crust you would need
- All Purpose Flour: The flour sold here in the US is enriched white flour with a 9% to 11% protein content range. In the UK, it is sold as Plain Flour and has a slightly lower protein content. Make sure you look at the protein content to get an optimal end product. Bleached or unbleached flour will not make a difference to the recipe flavor.
- Salted Butter: Salted butter works really well with this pie crust. Unsalted butter with some salt added to it can be used as a substitute.
- Water– Tap water can be used provided it is palatable and safe to use. If your country’s tap water supply needs to be filtered, please do so. Water just needs to be at room temperature and not chilled.
To make the filling for the meat pies, one would need
- Ground Beef – I tend to use meat with 30% fat but this can be substituted with meat having a higher or lower fat percentage, based on your individual dietary needs. Any other protein like chicken, ground turkey or ground pork can be used instead of the beef.
- Cilantro: The cilantro sold in the US is usually trimmed and sold fresh in pre-packaged boxes or in bunches. It is always advisable to wash such herbs because they can serve as vehicles for pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses. Good quality cilantro will have its characteristic aroma especially when taken out of the packaging.
- Potatoes: Use Yukon gold, yellow or Irish potatoes if readily available. Yukon Gold potatoes have lower starch content which makes it ideal to absorb flavors from other ingredients.
- Onions: Any type of onions can be used based on local market availability. Yellow onions are generally popular for such dishes but red onion can be substituted too.
- Thyme: Any store brand ground thyme powder will do. Fresh thyme herbs can also be used as an alternative.
- Curry Powder: The most critical ingredient for this particular recipe which attributes to its Nigerian heritage in my opinion. Curry powder is actually a British invention to compete with the spice mixes used in Indian dishes. It is a combination of coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and some chili powder.
Making the Pie Crust
As mentioned before, using a stand mixer greatly simplifies the pie crust/pastry making process. Just add the ingredients and let the mixer do the grunt work for you. Let’s look at it in a little more detail now.
First, add the butter to the stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, run the mixer at low speed (speed rating 2 or 3) and cream the butter for 30 seconds to a minute. Then add the flour in increments, one cup at a time while running the mixer in low speed. The flour and butter mixture will turn into small loose crumbs. Using a spatula will help dislodge any flour or butter stuck to the walls of the mixing bowl.
Now add water to the flour mixture, a few tablespoons at a time. This will also need to be done in low speed for about 3 to 4 minutes. You will notice the dough becoming more blended.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Making the Pie Filling
Peel and boil the potatoes in a small saucepan. Make sure the potatoes are submerged in water so that they get boiled uniformly.
While the potatoes are boiling, heat some oil on a frying pan for about a minute under low to medium heat. Add the onions and let them simmer for about a minute or so. The onions are ready when they start to turn a little translucent.
Add the ground meat to the pan and cook it until the meat turns brown. This is a good sign that the meat is cooked. Ideally, you should also test it with a thermometer. Meat is considered fully cooked when it reads about 165F.
Stir in the cilantro, curry powder, thyme, ginger powder and garlic powder to the cooked meat. Add the boiled potatoes to the meat mixture and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Meat Pie Folding Instructions
Break the dough into smaller chunks. Roll the chunks flat, about half a centimeter to 1/8th inch thick.
I used my fancy pie mold to cut the dough into desired sizes. This can also be done by setting a round bowl or plate on the rolled dough and running a knife around the circumference. Lightly beat an egg using a fork. Using a baster, apply the egg wash on the cut dough.
Place about a spoonful of the cooked filling in the center and fold using the pie mold. The crimping of the edges can also be done using a fork (as shown in Step 4 of picture above). Bake the pies in the oven for about 30-35 minutes at 350F.
These Nigerian meat pie can be served with ketchup or a chutney of your preference. In most Asian countries, it is served with some kind of a chili sauce or a sweet and spicy sauce.
The Nigerian meat pie will keep well in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. I do not recommend freezing them because the freeze-thaw cycle will draw in moisture to the crust and it may end up crumblier than required.
Frequently Asked Questions
Garam Masala actually has a lesser number of spices added to it that traditional Curry Powder. Garam Masala literally means ‘warming spice’ and is intended to lightly flavor a dish instead of the full blend provided by curry powder.
Yes, you can! You can try this recipe with chicken, ground pork or ground turkey instead of the beef.
Traditional Nigerian Meat Pie
- Stand Mixer (Preferred)
- Mixing Bowls
- Sauce Pan (Medium Size)
- Skillet or Frying Pan, large size
- Cutting Board
- Rolling Pin
- Pie Mold (Preferred)
- Baking Tray
For Pie Crust
- 1 cup Salted Butter ,about two whole sticks
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Cup water
For Pie Filling
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- ¼ cup red onion ,chopped
- 1 lb Ground Beef
- 1 tsp Curry Powder
- 1 tsp Thyme Powder
- ½ tsp Ground Ginger
- ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ tsp Paprika
- 3 Potatoes ,medium size about 300g
- 5-6 sprigs Fresh Cilantro about ¼ cup chopped
- 1 Large Egg , for egg wash
- Salt ,for taste
For Pie Crust
- Add the salted butter to a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Lightly beat the butter by running the stand mixer for about a minute on low speed.
- Add the flour to the butter in increments while continuing to run the mixer at low speed. Once the flour and butter look well blended, add water a few tablespoons at a time.
- Once the flour mixture looks well blended, take out from the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
For Pie Filling
- Peel and boil the potatoes in a small saucepan. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan under medium heat for about a minute. Then add the onions and cook till they turn slightly translucent.
- Increase the heat from medium to medium-high setting. Add the ground beef to the onions and cook till the meat turns brown.
- Stir in the curry powder, thyme, ginger powder, cilantro and garlic powder to the cooked meat. Add the boiled potatoes to the meat mixture and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Making the Pie
- Preheat oven at 350°F.
- Break the chilled dough into smaller chunks. Roll each chunk flat with a rolling pin.
- Cut the dough into circle shape using the Pie Mold. You can also use a round plate or bowl and cut around the circumference.
- Whisk the egg lightly and brush on the cut circle. Spoon in some filling in the center of the cut circle. Fold the circle so that the edges touch each other. The Pie Mold will automatically crimp the edges. You can also do this using a fork.
- Place the folded pies on a baking tray and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes.
- Serve warm with ketchup or a sweet and spicy sauce.
- Dough can be mixed in a large bowl by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer.
- Beef can be substituted with chicken, ground pork or tofu.