Allow me to introduce you to an unforgettable taste treat in Australia: the Pie Floater. You’d either love it or loathe it. Maybe one day you’ll be able to judge for yourself.
So, what is it? A meat pie, with filling of your choice, inverted into a bowl of hot pea soup, and topped with lashings of tomato sauce (ketchup). I fall into the “I’d rather not, thank you” camp.
The legendary Adelaide “pie floater” – hot meat pie with tomato sauce in a bowl of hot green pea soup!
Some first time diners swear by these local delights; others swear at them!
The Pie Floater:
The South Australian National Trust has traced the history of the pie floater: an impressive history tracing back 130+ years.
Early records in South Australia state that the pie floater was reputedly born in Port Pirie, South Australia, conceived by one Ern “Shorty” Bradley in 1890’s – but, no one really knows how. Did he inadvertently drop a pie into a bowl of soup? Or though pea soup with meat has long been part of English culinary history, with honourable mentions in the 19th Century, including Yorkshire “pea and pie supper”, “pea soup with eel”, “suet dumplings or saveloys”, (Dumplings in soup were known as “Floaters”). Maybe, it developed from those dishes, which are useful when you have a lot of people to feed on a budget: for example at a cricket match, or at harvest time or even at the footy.
The pie floater is a meal available in Australia, which consists of the traditional meat pie sitting, unusually inverted, in a plate of thick green pea soup. It is traditionally served and covered with tomato sauce and, although subject to the taste of the individual consumer, mint sauce and salt and pepper are the also traditionally added to complement the dish. Another popular condiment is vinegar or even worcestershire sauce.
The addition of the pea soup provides extra flavour and dietary fibre, and extends what otherwise may be considered a snack to a full meal. High profile fans of the pie floater are: Anthony Bourdain, Joe Cocker, Billy Connolly, and Nigel Mansell. Also, Adelaide’s high profile fans are: Bob Francis, Peter Goes (I hope to add more names soon).
While the dish has appeared in other Australian locations – 1950s Brisbane and notably in Sydney at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – it has made its biggest mark in South Australia.
In 2003, the pie floater was recognised as a South Australian Heritage Icon by the National Trust of Australia.