Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Shepherd's Pie Experiment


Somehow I got it into my head last night that I wanted Shepherd’s Pie, but I didn’t particularly want to go all the way to the big supermarket in my neighborhood where I knew I could get ground lamb. For those unfamiliar, apparently Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. If you use ground beef, you’ve actually made Cottage Pie because shepherd’s herd sheep and cows apparently live in cottages.

After arriving back in my neighborhood after work, I went straight to the small local grocery. This was, perhaps, a tactical error as I did not know by heart a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. Rather I knew years ago I had made it once from a recipe I’d printed out off the internet. I also knew that print-out was still tucked in one of my cook books.

I went to the small meat section in the back and contemplated the three ground meats from which I had to choose: Beef, Pork, and Turkey. I of course chose pork. I have no idea why. It looked the freshest I guess. I also have no idea what you call a Shepherd’s Pie made from pork. Perhaps it’s a Swineherd’s Pie. Or a Swinebarn Pie. It depends on whether you’re going by the “animal tender” or “building nearby” naming standard.

I also bought instant mashed potatoes. I’ve always been suspicious of instant mashed potatoes, but as I was not about to make my own, I really had no choice. The ingredients seemed mostly natural. How bad can they be?

Without any real knowledge of what else I needed, I trudged down to the local fruit and vegetable market to get… well… to get whatever else I thought would be good in Swineherd’s Pie. I grabbed some carrots, broccoli, and a jar of tomato paste because something in the back of my mind thought I would need some.

At home, I quickly found the old recipe, tucked into my Frugal Gourmet cookbook right where I’d left it many years before, and read the ingredients. Celery, we’ll use broccoli instead and some celery salt. Worcestershire sauce… hmm… we’ll use soy sauce. A cup of lamb stock. I assume since I’m using pork I should use pork stock. I DON’T HAVE PORK STOCK. I do however have almost exactly a cup of old red wine sitting on my counter. I wouldn’t drink it, but it’s probably still good to cook with. Tomato paste, a ha! I’ve got that.

If you hadn’t noticed, I like to improvise when I cook and consider recipe’s to be more of a guideline or starting-off point. I had printed this recipe from a British website so all the measurements were in metric. Fortunately I had written down all the conversions on the paper the first time I made it. Except, I had converted the amount of mashed potatoes from 650 grams to “about 6”. I assumed I meant 6 potatoes. I had to guess what that meant in terms of instant potatoes, and I guessed wrong, necessitating a hastily made second batch.

That little hiccup aside, my strange Swineherd’s Pie concoction came off quite well. Definitely something I would eat again. Here’s the recipe for what I made last night, for you to use as your own starting off point: Swineherd’s Pie

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.