Sandy Leatham makes an array of delicious pies, condiments, sausages and ready-to-cook meals in her old-fashioned shop in Benalla, Vic, with all meat sourced from her nearby family farm.
Story By Sheridan Rogers
It 8am on a Friday at Hook and Spoon in Benalla, in north-eastern Victoria, and there are six stockpots on the go and an oven full of delicious chunky beef pies. Owner/cook Sandy Leatham has already been here for the past couple of hours preparing for the upcoming Great Aussie Pie Competition, and for the Farmers’ Market, held every second Saturday in Albury-Wodonga.
The pies today are all beef – beef burgundy; beef, stout and mushrooms; beef, fig and lemon – and the stockpots are full of roasted beef bones, which have been painted with tomato paste to add depth of flavour. Sandy also bakes mutton pies – she has an award-winning mutton, caraway and roast-pumpkin pie – and pork pies. The latter are made with a traditional hot water crust, using lard; and the beef and mutton with proper shortcrust.
“I make the shortcrust with butter and flour, then roll it out into foil containers and freeze them overnight,” she says, her brown eyes twinkling. “The filling is made ahead and refrigerated, because I find it doesn’t bubble over the sides if you do it this way. Baking pies is just so satisfying.” The 50-something Sandy opened Hook and Spoon two years ago and has attracted a loyal band of followers. All the meat for the business comes from the family farm “Flat Hill”, a 240-hectare property in the foothills of the Strathbogies where they run cattle and sheep.
“Our farming practices are very clean and green and include light stocking rates so as not to stress the land and enable us to finish the stock on pasture, not grain,” Sandy says. “We run various crosses of Santa Gertrudis, Devon, Angus and Red Angus, all hardy and low maintenance. The sheep are Merino, which produces old-fashioned flavoursome mutton.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #66
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sept 2009