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East African Venison Meat Pies with Basbaas Sauce

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These spicy venison meat pies were inspired by Somalian/Ethiopian Sambusas and Nigerian meat pies. You could say these pies are where East Africa meats West Africa… whomp whomp. Anyways, I spiced the venison using Ethiopian Berbere seasoning (available in gourmet or African grocery stores, or online) and served them with a Somali basbaas sauce made from coconut milk, chilies, and cilantro. I used turmeric powder in the dough to turn it a beautiful golden color, a trick I learned when making Jamaican patties – not necessary, but fun. I made six big hand pies out of the ingredients, but you could use the same recipe to make smaller, empanada-sized pies, or one big round pie; you may just need to adjust the cooking time. The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight, or you could just cheat and use puff pastry instead; I won’t tell anyone! 

Serving Size: 6 large meat pies

Time to make: 2 hours

Also works with: Any ground meat

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East African Venison Meat Pies with Basbaas Sauce

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Recipe by Adam Berkelmans Course: Dinner, Lunch, Snacks


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These spicy venison meat pies were inspired by Somalian/Ethiopian Sambusas and Nigerian meat pies. You could say these pies are where East Africa meats West Africa… whomp whomp.

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  • For the Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons oil or duck/bear fat

  • 12 oz ground venison

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tomato, finely chopped

  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, finely chopped 

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon Berbere seasoning (more if you like it spicier, I used 2.5)

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • ¼ cup water

  • For the Dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

  • 3 tablespoons duck or bear fat (or use 6 tbsp butter total)

  • 1 egg

  • ¼ cup cold water

  • 1 egg yolk (for egg wash)

  • For the Basbaas Sauce:
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons white sugar

  • 1 teaspoon oil

  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk


  • Add the oil or fat to a skillet over medium high heat. Add the venison and onions and cook for 10 minutes, or until browned, breaking it up into a fine crumble.  
  • Add the tomato, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, cilantro, salt, pepper, and Berbere seasoning. Cook for 5 more minutes. 
  • Mix the cornstarch and water together into a slurry and add it to the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the mixture thickens up. Take off the heat and let cool. 
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and turmeric powder. 
  • Use a cheese grater to grate in the cold butter, and add small dollops of the duck or bear fat to the flour if using. 
  • Mix well with two forks, a pastry cutter, or with your hands, until the fat is well incorporated. Form a well in the center. 
  • Whisk the egg and cold water together in a small bowl, then add it to the well in the flour. Gently stir everything together with a wooden spoon until a cohesive dough forms. Try not to overwork it. Add tiny amounts of cold water if necessary to bring the dough together. 
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  • Divide the dough into 6 balls. Drape the used plastic wrap over the balls so they don’t dry out. 
  • Flatten and roll a ball into an approximately 6” circle on a lightly floured surface. Spoon 1/6 of the cooled venison mixture onto one side of the circle. Fold the other side over the filling and pinch the edges well to seal. 
  • Repeat with the rest of the balls. 
  • Whisk the egg yolk in a bowl, then brush it onto the meat pies. Pierce each pie several times with a fork. 
  • Bake the pies for 20 minutes, spinning the tray around half way through. 
  • Add all of the sauce ingredients to a blender and blend well until smooth. 
  • Serve the meat pies hot or cold with the basbaas sauce. Enjoy! 

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Adam Berkelmans

Adam Berkelmans, also known as The Intrepid Eater, is a passionate ambassador for real food and a proponent of nose to tail eating. He spends his time between Ottawa and a cozy lake house north of Kingston, Ontario. When not cooking, he can be found hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, reading, traveling, and discovering new ways to find and eat food.

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