As a Canadian living abroad, I’m sometimes called upon to provide a meal from the old country. Even though the last city I called home in Canada was Vancouver, and about as far from French Canada as you can get, I still have a special place in my heart for that clove-scented meat pie from my childhood. I did grow up in small village close to the Quebec border, and my mum is from Montreal, so we did have tourtière when I was small.
It’s generally thought to have been made since about 1600, but to be honest, the meat pie is a typical medieval dish – small pieces of meat, together with vegetables in a pastry crust was found all over Europe. Like those medieval pies, tourtières take advantage of whatever meat is fresh and available. For French settlers in Quebec, that would have been pork, veal, beef, or game meat. The pies I had growing up tended to be all pork, and the dominate seasoning was cloves – from my reading I now understand that to be Montreal-specific, which makes sense.
The most recent tourtière I made here in Germany was a pork and beef mixture, with the addition of summer savoury as per the recipe in More Than Poutine, Marie Porter’s book of Canadian recipes for those of looking to recreate some of our favourite things from home. The summer savoury makes sense as Porter is from Winnipeg, and that’s a very Manitoban addition.
If you’re looking to recreate your favourite Canadian chocolate bars or bakery treats (*cough*Jos Louis), this is a handy book to have. However, if you’re from the west coast, like I am (at least partially) a lot of these recipes may not seem familiar. Atlantic Canadians, however, will rejoice I suspect!
Regardless, I am happy to have this easy tourtière recipe. As with most meat pies, tourtière is excellent eaten warm or cold, and makes an excellent addition to any picnic. I personally eat mine with thick slices of sweet and sour German pickles, but it’s great all on its own too.
I added allspice in deference to my Jamaican Canadian heritage, but feel free to leave it out if you don’t have it. Never ever leave out the cloves however! I added half the milk and stock noted below in the recipe and found it almost too moist, so I would suggest add half and see how the filling goes, add more if it looks dry.
Serves about 8
500g /1 lb ground pork
500g /1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
125ml / 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-2 tbsp / 15-30ml dried summer savoury
1/2 tsp ground allspice [my editorial addition]
2-3 tsp / 10-15ml ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp / 5ml salt
1/4 tsp / 1ml ground cloves
2 cups / 500ml milk (see headnotes)
1 1/2 cups / 375ml beef or chicken stock (see headnotes)
2 pre-made pie crusts, or double pie crust recipe of choice, prepared
1 large egg
1 tbsp / 14ml cold water
- Combine meats, vegetables, and seasonings together in a large pan or pot, stirring until everything is relatively uniform. Add the milk and the broth, stirring once again. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer – stirring often – until the liquid has cooked off, and the meat has broken down almost to a paste. This should take about an hour, give or take. Once it’s ready, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF.
- Line a deep dish pie pan with one pie crust, carefully working it into the corners. Fill pie pan with meat filling, spreading it into the corners and mounding it in the center.
- Use the second pie crust to cover the filling. Crimp the edges as desired, poke a couple of slits in it. If desired, roll any extra dough very thin, cut into shapes, and apply to the crust for decoration. Whisk together egg and water, brush over the entire top of the pie.
- Bake for 20 minutes, turn heat down to 190ºC/375ºF and continue to bake for another 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
Serve warm or cold.