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I'm going to buy a K-Mart pie maker!

"It's easy to use and gives good results, cooking four pies fairly evenly to lightly golden in eight minutes. It takes five minutes to preheat, which is quicker than an oven, and, once the pies are cooked, you can simply pop them out with a spatula." Fiona Mair - Choice

I'm still on the Coles Magazine. One of its sections this month was on recipes for pie makers. I have to say my immediate reaction to such machines is that it's not for me. I'm a bit of a snob really when it comes to food - especially things like pies, and anyway it's just another machine to store somewhere. Now I have a really big kitchen with oodles of storage space, but I'm afraid I'm running out of space. Which probably just means that we fill the space we have, but anyway I might have to think where to put it. If I store it away somewhere out of sight it won't get used, but if I put it on a bench then I lose some bench space. Maybe I should try and hide the cold-pressed citrus squeezer my husband bought ...

Anyway, as I say, I am naturally resistant to such things, but there in the magazine was this very tempting picture of Berry bread and butter puddings which gave me pause. After all it was super easy to make - it used a brioche loaf and frozen berries, and was also very quick. Perfect for those panettone one gets given.

And there was a tempting looking recipe for Zucchini and bacon mini quiches as well. Sufficient to pique my interest enough for a post on the subject.

Which led me to discover that I am hopelessly out of date - these things have been around for at least a couple of years, and the K-Mart version in particular is a commercial sensation. Well it only costs $29.00. So why wouldn't you give it a go? Particularly when the first thing you find on the topic of pie makers is this rather rave statement from the highly regarded Choice website.

"Rated ‘very good’ for general performance and ease of use in our expert tests, we’ve given the thumbs up to the $29 Kmart pie maker. It’s cheap, versatile, and does the job, creating lightly golden snack-sized pies in under 15 minutes. We think it's perfect for no-fuss cooks, busy parents or (self-sufficient) hungry teenagers. " Choice

Probably the reason I have not been sucked in before is that I actually don't really fit into those three categories - well maybe, and probably increasingly, the 'no-fuss cooks' category might apply. As the review goes on to say it's probably no good for a family for meals because it only makes 4 small pies, but for just two (which is us) or for snacks/lunches, what a good idea, and rather more versatile than a sandwich maker. Which I also don't have.

I think the real clincher for me though was the idea that it was perfect for leftovers. I have always got leftovers, sometimes - in fact mostly - of an amount that is too small to just reheat for a meal, but too big for to throw away. Perfect for a mini pie.

As far as pies go - well it is a pie maker after all - Choice also gave it the thumbs up in a comparison with an oven baked pie.

I think probably the oven pie wins but not sufficiently to toss out the idea of buying a pie maker. And I did see one fan say that she cooked her pies a tiny bit longer so that the pastry was rather more golden. And that decorative edge might be pretty but it does look a bit mass produced doesn't it? Choice did say that the oven pie looked more 'rustic' which is a trendy thing is it not. And yes that is correct. The pie maker version does look a bit as if you have bought a packet of frozen pies. But hey - you can make the pastry yourself, and the filling too, which will surely improve things. And if you scrunch the pastry up a bit it might not look quite as perfect. It doesn't just have to be short-crust pastry, you can use puff pastry and filo, and bread - or even potatoes can be used - as in these Potato nests with smoked salmon.

And the bonus is that in a mini pie the ratio of pastry to filling favours the pastry, so if you love pastry then this is for you. Not particularly healthy of course. I should also mention that if you are making things like meat pies the filling will really need to be cooked before you put it in the pastry because it only cooks for a few minutes. But, as I said before, this is perfect for leftovers.

I don't remember seeing a version in Aldi - but I can't believe that they haven't had one. I probably saw it and thought in a snobby way that this was not worth considering. There are two - it seems just two - competitors to the K-Mart model - one from Sunbeam and one from Kogan - and Choice here shows the difference in size - the large one being the Sunbeam version and the Kogan version being the one on the right - similar to the K-Mart version, but a bit deeper and a bit slimmer widthwise. The Sunbeam pie is more of a meal-sized pie I think, so therefore has a rather different purpose. Not so good for snacks.

But t's definitely the K-Mart version that seems to have won the popularity contest. There is even a dedicated Facebook group called Kmart Pie Maker Recipes, Tips and Ideas Australia which today had 199,488 members! You have to join the group to be able to participate or just view, all the tips and ideas that are shared in this forum. How the world has changed, so that almost 200,00 people in Australia (this is purely an Australian group) can spend time swapping tips and tricks on a kitchen appliance. Which is all good though - at least they must be at least partially cooking for themselves. Little steps ...

Having established that there were many, many things you could do with a pie maker other than pies - poached eggs, no less - I started searching for recipes. And there are heaps out there. Taste has 76 recipes listed on its site, and Australia's Best Recipes has 41. Not to mention dozens of bloggers, Woolworths, commercial sites selling equipment related to pie makers and so on. Here are just a few that I found: Cheesy chicken pies, Vanilla slices, (these seem to be a favourite), Smashed pea and haloumi fritters (with that poached egg I talked about), Gozleme bites, Chocolate molten puddings and Blueberry pie-maker friands. They say you can make muffins and doughnuts but these didn't look all that good to me. But fritters, frittata, pizzas, pinwheels looked pretty good.

However, as I trawled through them I started to notice that many of them were recipes for mini-pies and things not using a pie maker, which was a bit confusing. But, then, of course, I find that you can convert such recipes to a pie-maker - mostly pretty simply, but sometimes with a bit of fiddling.

I'm going near K-Mart on Thursday, so perhaps I'll pop in. I've got my eye on some leftover chicken something in my fridge. Although there is always the worry that this will be a flash in the pan idea that leaves me with an unwanted gadget. Useful for snacks when the grandkids are here though.


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