Great Aussie Cuisine Part.1 – The Pie Floater is now part of our heritage – 130 years young.


In the first of our series of ‘True Aussie Fare’ the humble South Australian ‘Pie Floater’ takes centre stage – the next entry is the historic Lamington!

So what is a Pie Floater?

Mr Wikipedia says a pie floater is a meal available in Australia, particularly South Australia. It consists of the traditional Australian style meat pie sitting, usually inverted, in a plate of thick green pea soup. This is typically purchased in the street from pie-carts as a late evening meal.

In 2003, the pie floater was recognised as a South Australian Heritage Icon by the National Trust of Australia.

How do you make a traditional Aussie Pie Floater?

  1. Make a bowl of green pea soup (Oh dear)
  2. Purchase or produce a meat pie (if purchased it should be preferably of the beef and a Phatt Duck pie if possible)
  3. Drop the pie into the bowl of green pea soup; try to centre it (most important re the art direction). Alternatively, place the pie in the bowl upside down and pour the soup over it.
  4. Squirt ketchup (‘tommy sauce’ as the Aussie’s call it) all over the pie
  5. Eat it hot, before the pie gets too soggy and ending up the consistency of a wet newspaper, allowing meat gravy to run up your arm!

The rich history of the Aussie Pie Floater.

Definition –

In 2003, 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 maybe what a lot of people are stating today, it could have been because the bottom of the pie is softer and easier to tuck in with a spoon and it maybe because it stops the pie from slipping around the plate. 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 (upside-down), 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.

While the dish has appeared in other Australian locations – 1950s Brisbane and in the 1930s 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. I have been advised by an expert on pie floaters they were always referred to as “Floaters” not pie floaters as we call them today! 


The humble Lamington is Part 2. of our Great Aussie Cuisine hunt!

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