In honor of Father’s Day and by proxy my own father, today I decided to take another jab at what can only be referred to my as my Meatpie Obsession1. Real briefly: when I was in New Zealand I nurtured a totally unhealthy fascination with the country’s analog to America’s hotdog: the beloved meatpie. Before I started this website, I tried to make meatpies here in the US, and while I came up with a pretty good facsimile, the final recipe required practically an entire day in the kitchen. And the recipe ended up making only four pies. I was pretty pissed.
This time! This time I said screw-you to the pastry part of the meatpie. Admittedly risky (the shortcrust and puffpastry of the meatpie are arguably the best part), I wondered if a Shepherd’s Pie version would satisfy me.
This is… sort of repellant. I swear it’s just an ugly duckling. Except, not literally. Ugly lambling?
I started out by making a lamb version of the meatpie filling I’d previously perfected. I already had 1/3-pound of ground lamb in the freezer, so I started with that. I wanted something a little heartier, so at the store I picked up some bone-in lamb shoulder steaks that were on sale (normally I don’t buy bone-in steaks because I think they’re a waste of money – yes, the bone adds flavor, but not so much that I want 50% of the weight of what I’m paying for to be inedible to humans) and cut the meat off the bone, chopping it into small chunks. And then of course I realized that I was missing out and threw the bone in to bubble down with the meat slurry. Mmm, meat slurry.
When it had cooked down and the barley was soft, I stirred in frozen peas and fresh mint. And discovered again that I’d made too little. I don’t know what it is. Normally I make at least double the amount of food as is needed or even reasonably expected or even edible over the next week, but for some horrible reason I made exactly two adult servings of the minted lamb filling, which would turn out to be sad indeed, as I would later discover.
Now, mashed potatoes. You make them however you make them, but in my family, we spell “love” B-U-T-T-E-R. It’s how we express affection for one another. Also: H-E-A-V-Y C-R-E-A-M. What. What? Anyway, make them however you make them (note to self: maybe I should actually invest in a ricer, since my whole “they’re not lumpy, they’re rustic” excuse is starting to sound lame to my own ears) and then spread a thinnish layer over the top of the lamb.
After a quick pass under the broiler, what came out the other end was shockingly exactly what I imagined: creamy-hot potatoes with a thin crust (just like TV dinner potatoes!) and a straight-from-New-Zealand filling. It was delightful. I wish o wish I had leftovers. And because we’re all used to me being a fickle moron: I also wish I’d just plopped a puff pastry crust on top instead of the mashed potatoes.
Why? Well, it would have been easier. And the potatoes made it more filling than I would have liked. And ultimately, what I really missed was that crunchy/velvety interplay between the meatpie filling and the shell. Even a toasted croissant sliced and ladled with the filling would have been a deeply satisfying meal. And by “deeply satisfying” I think we both understand I mean “3,000 calorie.” Oh wells.
Now, this recipe has a prohibitively long ingredient list, so unless you cook like me (i.e., a lot of stews) then you won’t have most of the ingredients already sitting around, like I do. In that way, this meal is cheap for me to make. It might not be for you. Life is complicated.
Honorary Kiwi Shepherd’s Pie
Original Beef Filling
In New Zealand the most popular meatpie is a simple “mince” pie, or ground beef. It sounds off-putting (and certainly can be off-putting, depending on who made it) but it’s a solid, down-home comfort food if I’ve ever seen one. My filling is not reflective of the most common of the mince pies, because to be completely honest, the most common ones are bland as ass. Mine is better.
1/4 C. very finely diced onion
1+ Lb. ground beef2
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 beef bullion cubes
1 1/2 C. water
2 tsp. Porcini mushroom powder3
1 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet4
1/4 C. ketchup
1 Tbsp. ground pepper
salt to taste
- Saute the onion in just a tiny bit of olive oil and then add the ground beef. Cook down over medium-high heat until there is very little pink left. Drain all but about three spoonfuls of the beef fat off (interestingly: in NZ they save the beef fat and use it in the crust of the pie dough they they make the meatpie with – I tried it and it was very good). Add the flour and saute a few minutes to take the rawness off the flour.
- Add all of the other ingredients, ending with the water.
- Allow to cook down until thick and bubbly, like a nice gravy. This will take at least 30 minutes.
- When thickened, remove from heat and depending on what you’re doing with it, allow it to cool completely. If you’re making meatpies, definitely cool all the way. If you’re just putting into dishes and topping with puff pastry to cook right away, no need to let it cool.
Newfangled Minted Lamb Filling
This version doesn’t have to be as I printed: the mix of ground (mince) and chunked lamb was the result of poor planning, but was tasty and I’d do it again.
1/4 C. finely diced onion
1/3 Lb. ground lamb
1/3 Lb. lamb meat, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
2 T. soy sauce
1 beef bullion cube
1 C. water
1 tsp. Porcini mushroom powder
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
1/4 C. ketchup
1/4 C. pearled barley
1 C. frozen peas
1/4 C. chopped FRESH mint
2 tsp. ground pepper
salt to taste
- Saute the onion in a little spot of oil and then add the lamb. Allow to cook down until no pink is showing, and then drain off most of the fat. Allow a spoonful or two to remain.
- Add the soy sauce, bullion cube, mushroom powder, Kitchen Bouquet and ketchup, stirring well to combine. Add the water, and then the pearled barley. Since the barley is working as the thickening agent in this filling, let it simmer on low for the time it takes to cook the barley, about 45 minutes.
- When the barley is tender and the liquid is nearly gone, add the frozen peas, stirring through just to thaw. Add the salt and pepper and just when you are finished, add the chopped fresh mint. Again, depending on how you are using it, either allow to cool (to make proper meat pies) or allow to stay warm while you top wither either fresh mashed potatoes or puff pastry.
- If you’ve topped with mashed potatoes, place under broiler, WATCHING IT, for a few minutes to crisp the surface.
1 Ha-ha! My dad has been a vegetarian for over 40 years. Love you, dad!
2 You know how there’s no such thing as a package of a pound of ground beef anymore? They are always about a third to a full half-pound over. This recipe was made with a pack of something like 1.34 lbs. ground beef, but small variation will work.
3 This stuff is a miracle. They sell it at the spice shop in Olympia, where I stock up when I am visiting my family. It’s basically super-mushroomy and in fact makes me nearly gag when I smell it straight out of the jar: it’s a sort of fishy, sweaty odor. But added in small doses to food, it’s like adding MSG — in short, it’s like getting punched in the face with umami.
4 Kitchen Bouquet can be found in either the sauce or the spice aisle of the grocery store. It’s an old-fashioned “gravy enhancer” that is basically hyper-concentrated vegetables and caramel coloring. While some people used it just to darken their gravy to a richer brown (which it does well) it also adds a flavor similar to that of the Porcini mushroom powder, a natural MSG-like umami. It is also NOT the same as Maggi “Seasoning” which is sold right next to it. The Maggi “Seasoning” has a distinct flavor of its own and is in fact often used by Chinese food restaurants in America, which means using the “Seasoning” can veer your food dangerously into take-out flavor territory.June 23rd, 2009 | Make It So, Obsessed