April 21, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday Recipe: Grandma Jean’s Classic Hamburger Picnic Pie

Like many grandmothers the world over, my paternal grandma is a wonderful home chef. Growing up I ate many meals at her home, each a blend of old school style and modern sensibility. She was fond of serving melon with supper, loved to whip out potato chip coated backed chicken for a special treat, and made, what stands out in my mind, as quite possibly the best berry filled English trifle of all time. Yet she wasn’t opposed to trying pesto, sun dried tomatoes or fragrant far-eastern inspired chutneys either.

My grandma’s cooking style with homey and comforting, yet never boring. I associate her dishes most with the sun-kissed summer months and holidays the whole year round. There are scores of wonderful recipes that my grandma cooked for her family when I was growing up, but (aside from the aforementioned trifle) none of them stand out in my mind with the same adoration, nor provoke such strong cravings, as her summertime hamburger picnic pie.

{Always a classic, a can of tomato soup gives this delightful dish a lovely vintage hit – as well as a mildly tangy dose of vegetable flavour. Vintage Campbell’s Tomato soup ad via Shelf Life Taste Test’s Flickr stream.}

Don’t let the pie crust in this recipe put you off, the entire dish is wonderfully simple to put together, and once in the oven it takes care of itself. As it bakes your kitchen fills with the savoury, enticing scent of tomatoes, beef, and flaky pastry. Even on the hottest dog days of July and August, when venturing into the kitchen for even so much as a popsicle seems makes you feel as though you could melt, I will – and often do – gleefully turn on the oven and whip up this stupendous dish.

Brought to the table it looks like – and is – a work of culinary art. Even when eaten warm, somehow (at least I’ve always found) you don’t feel stifled in the least by the fact that you’re consuming a hot dish on an even hotter day. However, by all means, this succulent meat pie can be nibbled at room temperature or cold from the fridge. There is no possible wrong way to eat this beloved summertime treasure.

Grandma Jean’s Classic Hamburger Picnic Pie


•1 tsp butter (or olive oil)

•2lbs (900g) lean ground beef (or extra lean ground chicken or turkey, which is what I generally use; you could certainly also try this recipe with TVP or another vegetarian/vegan ground meat substitute)

•1/2 cup finally chopped white or yellow onion (about one large, or two small, onions)

•1 (10.75 ounce/315ml – appox.) can condensed tomato soup

•2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

•2 tbsp dried basil

•2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s Natural’s makes a fantastic organic Worcestershire sauce that I just love!)

•1 tsp sea or kosher salt

•1 tbsp garlic powder (grandma’s original called for 1/4 tsp garlic salt, but I find that between the sea salt and condensed soup, this dish is salt enough and so prefer to use garlic powder)

•1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Preheat you oven to 425°F (220°C/gas mark 7).

Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat and melt the butter (or pour in the olive oil and allow it to get a little bit warm), add in the ground beef (or chicken/turkey or ground vegan crumbles) and chopped onion, cook for six minutes or until the meat is fully cooked through and the onions are nicely golden brown.

Remove from the heat and transfer the meat and onions to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the all of the other ingredients (except for the pie crusts, naturally) and blend well (if you want to taste the mixture to adjust the seasoning levels at this point you certainly can, as there are no unsafe rare ingredients in it).

Line two 8 or 9 inch pie plates (I prefer to use glass or ceramic ones for this recipe) with the bottom layers of pastry. Divide the meat mixture evenly between the two pies and place the pie crust lids on top of them, scoring both tops a few times with a sharp knife to create steam vents. Crimp the pies all the way around with your fingers, a fork or a pie crimper, and then slide them side-by-side (but not touching) in the middle of your 425° oven (if you oven isn’t wide enough to cook two pies at once, cook them one after the other).

Bake your hamburger pies for 30 minutes or until the pie crust has reached your desired level of golden beauty. Once baked, remove from the oven, place on cooling racks or folding dish towels and allow the pies to sit for a few minutes (I usually give them ten minutes to cool off ever-so-slightly).

If you’re going to serve the pies warm, bring them to the table at once. If you’re taking them on a picnic let them cool for a few more minutes than cover the pies with aluminum foil, wax paper or plastic wrap (or slip them into appropriately sized reusable plastic containers) and take them with you on your journey. Should you wish to eat the pies cold, let them cool for about thirty minutes (or until the bottom of the pie pans are luke warm or cooler) and then cover them and slide them into the fridge, where they’ll keep for three days.

My very favourite way to eat this hearty, flavourful pie is al fresco in the setting sun of a sizzling hot dusk, with a glass of mind-numbingly cold ice water and a slice of cantaloupe melon on the side – just as grandma used to serve.

Each pie makes 6-8 slices/servings

Bon appétit!


  1. This recipe sounds like something my husband would love! I'm going to try it out ASAP. Hey, how about we do a recipe swap in our next letters??? I've got tons from husband's Grandmother I can share with you! :D

  2. Great recipe! I am honored and blessed to have followed you, this year. Thank you for following All Gods Creatures. I hope you will stop by Arise 2 Write sometime when you get a chance.
    Blessings, hugs, and prayers,

  3. yum - this sounds a lot like my grandma's tourtiere (Quebecois sort of ground-pork pie) except you substitue ground pork for all the beef, omit the tomato soup, substitute a bit of thyme for the basil, add chopped celery and a bay leaf or two, add a handful of leftover cold mashed potato or oatmeal or breadcrumbs to bind it together, a little water, and you DON'T fry the meat: no no, you simmer all ingredients together, then put in a pie crust and bake until scrumptious.
    AMAZING served with tart corn relish, or tiny pretty pickled beets, or other tart accompaniment. It's very rich. good hot or cold...

  4. Great recipe! My grandmothers have some wonderful recipes, too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. i have a grandma jean, too! :)

  6. Do you have a vegetarian alternative?!

    Thank you for being my first follower, and for your kind words. I adore your blog already xxx

  7. Mmmmmh, sounds like perfect comfort food. Love the picture of the vintage tomato can, too.

  8. That sounds fantastic. Will be trying it!

  9. Thank you for sharing your lovely memories of your grandma's wonderful cooking. I'd never thought about making hamburgers in pie form and this is such a yummy and easy recipe to try.
    xo- Jennifer

  10. Joyful Thursday greetings, my dears!

    Thank you each very much for your lovely comments! How I wish we could all get together and share some of these scrumptious hamburger picnic pies togethers (I would be sure to bring along a vegetarian version - made with Yves or a similar ground beef substitute - instead of meat).

    Wishing you each a sun-kissed, fabulous day!!!

    ~ xoxo ♥ Jessica ~

  11. Mmmmm. That sounds delicious!

  12. Very nice, thanks for the information.

  13. Hello Jessica,

    This makes me very, very hungry! Sounds like something I want to make for my family but would be too tempted to eat it as well. I am still working on my diet! I shall save the recipe for a later date.

    Hugs, dear one,

    1. I hope that you adore it when you do give it a spin yourself, dear Hope. The filling, I should add, works a treat for shepherd's pie and sloppy joe style sandwiches, too.

      Big hugs & happy cooking throughout 2016!
      ♥ Jessica