Getting the best apple pie off pat

Win one of Cathy O’Shea’s Irish Apple Pies for St Patrick’s Day. Send your best Irish story to

It’s that time of year well known Waikato real estate agent and Irish historian Cathy O’Shea starts fielding phone calls and emails asking for her Irish apple pie recipe.

Irish author Cathy O’Shea picking pears from her own orchard.

O’Shea, who recently set up Property Brokers in Cambridge after more than 20 years with Lodge Real Estate, is from County Waterford in Ireland. Her published works include The History of the Irish in New Zealand and the establishment of the 4th Waikato Militia in Hamilton.

With St Patrick’s Day next week, the recipe her mother Marie O’Shea and grandmother Babs Keohan handed down to her becomes popular with friends and clients.

When she appeared on RNZ’s National programme recently and gave the recipe out, the radio station was overwhelmed with the response and told O’Shea they had never had so many emails asking for a recipe.

Ballarat apples, which O’Shea sources from Kaipaki Orchards, are essential for the recipe because they are sour.

The trick to making great Irish apple pie is cold, cold butter, cold water, and a cold knife, says O’Shea.


  • 8 Ballarat Apples, peeled and cored and roughly chopped (not too small)
  • 250gm Flour
  • 125gm (cold) butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • Cup of cold water
  • ½ cup milk

Have handy a rolling pin
First the pastry:

  • Cut the butter into squares and drop into flour. Rub between your fingers (the same movement as if you were warming your hands by rubbing them together) until it becomes like breadcrumbs.
  • Slowly pour in cold water and ‘cut’ it in with a cold knife until it becomes a thick consistency.
  • This is tipped out and kneaded until we have a pastry that’s not too sticky.
  • The pastry is divided into two and the first part rolled out to the diameter of a pie dish and laid in it, leave the extra pastry fall over the edge of the dish.
  • At this stage the trick is to sprinkle a good quality of cornflour, a fistful, onto the pastry base.
  • The apples are piled in, and covered with 1 ½ cups of sugar. The apples should be piled up a bit higher in the centre.
  • Roll the other half of the pastry out, keep sprinkling flour on the surface and coat the roller too so it doesn’t get sticky.
  • Roll out the diameter of the pie again, and this time fold it into four so it looks likes a slice of pizza. Moving lightly and quickly, brush cold water where the cover and bottom of the pie will meet around the edges of the plate.
  • Place the pastry on top of the apples and fold out quickly to cover the apples. Again, leave any extra to fall over the sides.
  • Gently press the pie all around the outside, and then using a fork with tines upward, press around the edges to create a nice radiating pattern.
  • Turn the fork around as if you were going to spear food, and liberally and lightly ‘bounce’ the fork all over the surface of the pie so you have lots of holes.
  • Lift the dish into the air with one hand, and with the other slice the extra pastry off by flicking the knife forward and through the pastry using the edge of the plate as a guide.
  • Now brush the top of the pie with milk, and dust with the remaining sugar.
  • The pie should look lumpy. Put in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees. The pie is done when some sticky syrup bubbles through the top and the top is nicely browned.

Well done and Cead Mile Failte Romhat ‘A hundred thousand welcomes’!


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