Shepherd’s Bake Off

The adventures in dinner pie baking haven’t ceased. Last night a bake off ensued between myself using the recipe in Ken Haedrich’s book (Dinner Pies) and my mother with her own recipe from memory. We had mixed reviews.

Her recipe is probably one of the most simple and straight forward possible. There’s little prep other than chopping vegetables and browning the meat. Just a bit more is involved in Haedrich’s version. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer recipe books that outline 2 important things along with the ingredients: prep time and cook time. While you can read through the instructions and get an idea of how long each portion of baking, parboiling, or browning might take, when also working with crusts and other variables (as someone new to dinner pies from scratch) it would be much easier to have an appropriate expectation. Not just for me, but (haha) for the test subjects. I say this mainly because I’d love to spend my time in the kitchen without hearing “When’s dinner?” “When will it be ready?” “It’s 6, I thought you said 5:30?”

Other than feeling like I can not get a truly good handle on how long the process is actually going to take… the recipes are well laid out. There are probably 3 times more ingredients in this recipe than in my mothers. While hers called for the vegetables, meat, mashed potatoes and seasoning to taste… Haedrich calls for the same along with beef broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and a few others I didn’t see on my moms side of the kitchen. The cooking process is a slightly bigger endeavor, and the result is pointedly more British. This can be either a good or a bad thing depending on your palette.

I went in with extremely high expectations of deliciousness after how absolutely incredible the chicken pot pie turned out – this may have been a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, it was phenomenal. BUT… I actually enjoyed the more straight forward and simplistic style of my moms shepherd’s pie much more. In some ways, I felt the recipe I work with had too many flavors competing and while the addition of crust underneath the filling is fantastic, it isn’t necessary. I LOVE crust, but I actually felt that it was wasted in this pie with so many flavors and I couldn’t enjoy the crust the same way you do on a pot pie. The canned tomatoes and tomato paste? Nixing it next time, as I will with the beef broth.

Ultimately, I’ve only tested these two recipes from Haedrich’s book so far. The chicken pot pie, while time consuming in some ways, was a joy and relaxing to make. The shepherd’s pie was a little more stressful and I didn’t enjoy my results as much, making the process I think that much more tiresome. To be fair, the rest of the table absolutely LOVED my creation! It is extremely rich and full of body and flavor. They’d love it again. My feeling is simply that shepherd’s pie is likely meant to be simple and homely and this recipe, while delicious, aims in a slightly more beefed up direction.

Rest assured we’ll be trying some more bake offs soon.

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