Inspired by Medieval European recipes, these Savory Minced Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies are a uniquely delicious addition to your picnic or potluck. Well-seasoned beef, salty bacon, tart dried cherries, fresh thyme & tarragon, & sharp cheddar cheese are wrapped up in individual servings of buttery pastry for a rich meal that tastes out of this world.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Torakand Adventures LLC and is part of a series of recipes developed for the fictional fantasy setting of Lost Colonies, an immersive live-action roleplaying community in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.Jump to Recipe
The Fictional Food of Holthar
Goronwy Glen Cutters’ Pies: Savory hand pies are popular throughout the cities and hamlets of Holthar. Originally developed as a humble lunch for traveling day workers, today these portable pastries have become a regional staple, found everywhere from roadside vendors to the tables of high society. Each village has its own favored recipe, but the most well-known version is the Goronwy Glen Cutters’ Pie. With minced beef, sharp cheese, and dried sour cherries, these particular hand pies are the perfect traveling lunch for the wood cutters working in the Great Woods that surround the Capital. Please note: These are similar to (but should not be confused with) a more rustic version found in the region called a Trappers’ Pie. Carried by local hunters and trappers, these typically do not contain cheese and often substitute various game meats for the traditional minced beef filling. While the Cutters’ Pie has something of a standard recipe that has been refined over time, the Trappers’ Pie is a bit more of a mystery, and should be eaten at your own risk.
– Excerpt from A Traveler’s Guide to Sobukand by Donla Pheinkuk
This post is the first in a series of recipes inspired by the fictional cultures and traditions of Lost Colonies, a new live action roleplaying experience based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. Participants play the roles of colonists traveling from their homeland of Sobukand to a newly discovered continent, Torakand. Each recipe in this series is developed in collaboration with the creative team of Lost Colonies to add further depth to their already detailed and nuanced fantasy setting. That being said, each creation can easily stand-alone, making them a perfect fit for various fantasy and alternate history settings.
As described above, Minced Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies are a delicacy of the region known as Holthar. Located in the northwestern corner of Sobukand, it is mostly covered by a Great Forest and is relatively civilized, valuing knowledge and engineering as well as agriculture. Culturally, it resembles early Colonial America and late Medieval Europe, and so it was from these historical periods that I drew my inspiration.
Savory Minced Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies
Savory hand pies – also known as pasties – have been a popular food for travel throughout Western cultures as far back as the middle ages. The hearty, thick pastry crust acts as an edible storage container for a fully balanced meal of meat, vegetables, and other seasonings and ingredients, allowing them to be easily packed up and carried wherever one may go.
To create the recipe for these Savory Minced Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies, I looked to traditional recipes from Colonial America and Medieval Europe. Meat dishes in the middle ages were often much sweeter than they are today, with the addition of dried fruits and honey. Inspired by the combination of flavors on a gourmet charcuterie board, I paired more familiar hand pie ingredients like beef and bacon with sweet and tart dried cherries and old-world herbs like thyme and tarragon. The combination of flavors is rich and unique, while still feeling familiar and comforting to the Western palette.
Perfect for Travel
While modern food safety concerns would be against the pre-Industrial idea of simply packing a ready-made meat & cheese hand pie in your backpack without an ice pack, hand pies are still the perfect addition to picnics and potlucks due to their portability and single-serving size.
Completed Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies can be completely cooked up ahead of time, frozen, and stored until needed for up to 3 months. After a quick trip to the oven, they’ll taste like they were freshly baked. I’ve also found that savory hand pies do not have to be scalding hot to be enjoyable. Feel free to serve a platter a little over room temperature (using your best judgement of course).
Strapped on time or need to work in small intervals? Spread the work over a few days! Dough can be made ahead (or bought pre-made). The beef and vegetable filling can even be cooked up and stored overnight to break up the prep time. Just make sure you keep unused pies in the freezer for the longest “shelf life”, or in the fridge if you plan on eating them within a couple days.
No matter how you split up the time to make these Minced Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies, you’ll be certain to impress everyone with such adorably petite, deliciously rich savory morsels.
Looking to make a variety of hand pies for your next party? I’ve got you covered with these past recipes:
- Mini Apricot Rosemary Chicken Pies
- Rustic Ratatouille Hand Pies (Vegetarian)
- Mixed Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies (Vegetarian)
- Rum Plum Cherry Picnic Pies (Vegetarian)
Savory Minced Beef, Bacon & Cheese Hand Pies
Beef, Bacon & Cheese Filling
- 6 ounces bacon, thick cut (about 5 strips)
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat (reserved)
- 1 cup carrots, diced small (about 2 large carrots)
- 1 cup celery, diced small (about 2 stalks)
- ¼ cup shallots, diced small
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 cup fresh tarragon and thyme, chopped
- 1 cup dried sour cherries
- ½ cup beef broth
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- Your favorite pie dough (enough for 3 double-crusted pies)
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ cup black sesame seeds
- ¼ cup flakey sea salt
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Flour, for dusting
- 2 regular muffin pans
Prepare the Beef Filling:
- Panfry the bacon in a large saute pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Once the fat is rendered and the bacon just crispy but not overcooked, remove from the pan and let drain on paper towels. Remove all but one tablespoon bacon fat from the pan.
- Sauté the diced carrots, shallots, and celery in the bacon fat. Let cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender, and then toss in the minced beef and cook until just browned, another 3-5 minutes. Carefully drain the excess fat from the pan and return to the stove over medium heat.
- Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping up any burnt bits on the bottom of the pan, and let cook for 2 minutes more. Add the fresh herbs, dried cherries, and beef broth to the mixture and stir to combine. Cook until the liquids have reduced significantly, 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, chop up the bacon you set aside earlier.
- Remove the pan from heat, stir in the chopped bacon, and allow the mixture to come to room temperature. If making ahead, transfer the beef mixture to a sealed container and chill for 10 minutes up to overnight until needed.
Make the Bottom Pie Crusts:
- Heat the oven to 400°F and prepare your muffin tins. Spritz the inside of each cavity with non-stick cooking spray and dust with flour. Set the muffin tins aside, away from the preheating oven so that they stay room temperature.
- On a clean, lightly floured surface, work with the pie dough in batches, keeping unused portions in the fridge to keep cold. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Using a cookie cutter or stencil, cut out 6-inch circles from the dough and press them gently into each muffin cup – You should use about two-thirds of the dough for the bottom crusts. The circles don’t have to be perfect, but you should have at least a quarter inch of dough overlapping the tops (a little more if you do not plan to make separate top crusts for the pies).
- Sprinkle the bottom of each crust with a pinch of cheddar cheese, followed by about 1/4 cup filling so that it comes nearly to the top of the pastry. Top with another sprinkling of shredded cheese. Repeat until you run out of filling.
Assemble the Hand Pies in one two ways:
- For simple pleated pies: Gently fold the dough of the bottom crust up and over the filling, “pleating” the dough into little folds at the top. The dough should nearly cover the entire top of the pie, allowing a little “vent” in the very center for steam to escape while cooking.
- For tiny double crusted pies: Roll out the remaining third of the pie dough to the same thickness as the bottom crusts. Cut out 3-inch circles with a cookie cutter (or stencil). Set the pastry lids out on a tray or baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and cut hashmarks in the centers to allow for steam to vent while cooking. Working one at a time, place each circle of dough over the filling of each pie. Crimp the edges of the pie over the lid, sealing them tightly.
- Once fully assembled, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Brush this over the tops of each hand pie. Sprinkle with a pinch of black sesame seeds and flaky sea salt.
Bake and Store:
- Bake the hand pies for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden and the dough appears cooked through. Remove from the oven, and let them sit for 8-10 minutes before gently removing them from the muffin tins. Serve warm, or follow instructions below for cooling and storage.