Generally in Calgary we gear up for Canada Day and Stampede, energy-wise – this year the city was tired, still collectively recovering from the floods and the muck when July 1st snuck up on us. (Or on me, anyway.) It was good timing, actually – everyone was in need of a little reprieve and celebration, and our mayor suggested we all take a day off and enjoy each others’ company. (Amid all this, one day upon seeing a photo of Nenshi on the cover of Avenue, W said to his cousin: “see that guy? He’s the principal of Calgary.)
Emceeing the festivities at Fort Calgary I got to talking with the chairman of the (Fort Calgary) board, who told me one of her family’s favourite meals is something they call Nenshi pie – made with the filling from his mother’s samosa recipe baked in a pie crust and served with salsa or chutney.
Brilliant, don’t you think? It’s sort of a dry (in a good way), flavourful east Indian-inspired meat pie. I tried it – made as a free-form galette – and ate most of it by the sliver with my fingers, standing at the counter. Much of it with spoonfuls of green tomato chutney from the market.
A galette is easy, especially if you start with that puff pastry you just thaw and unroll; it can be a circle or a square or an oval, and so long as the edges fold over the filling somewhat, creating a pastry berm to enclose the filling, you’re good. The more haphazard it is the more endearingly rustic it is.
A Nenshi pie, unlike most samosas, is delicious hot, cold or somewhere in between – perfect for picnicking now that the water has receded and the sun has come out. (Mostly.)
Cecilia’s Nenshi Pie
Begin with traditional or puff pastry for a single or double crust pie; use a proper pie plate and cover the filling with a top crust, or make it free-form. (The filling isn’t exactly the same as the family’s traditional recipe, but more a streamlined version – feel free to take liberties according to what you have in your kitchen or what you’re willing to go to the market for.)
1 lb. lean ground beef (or substitute ground lamb)
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. lime or lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. each coriander and cumin, or 1 tsp. dhana – jeera mix
1/4 tsp. salt
Pastry for a single or double crust pie
chutney or salsa, for serving
In a large, heavy skillet, cook the ground beef, breaking up any lumps of meat with a spoon. As it cooks, add the onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic and ginger. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and the onion is soft. Stir in the green onions, cilantro, lime juice, garam masala, coriander, cumin and salt and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 425F. On a lightly floured surface, roll regular or puff pastry into a 10-inch circle. Fit it into a pie plate or place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Fill the shell or mound the filling in the middle of the pastry, leaving an inch or so around the edge. Top with a second piece of rolled-out pastry, trim and crimp the edges, or if you’re making a galette, fold the pastry over the filling around the edge – it won’t cover it completely. Fold it over wherever it wants to – there is no need for neatness.
If you like, brush the top or edge of pastry with a little beaten egg. Bake until golden, 20-30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with chutney or salsa, if you like. Serves 6.