Previous Outlander post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/outlander-musings-and-preview-of-episode-6/
Tonight’s episode, The Garrison Commander, brings us the evil that lurks within men’s souls and the darkness of Black Jack Randall’s heart and mind. In order to get through this episode, you will most likely need much strong spirits and some soothing comfort food to ease your own heart and soul!
The British feast on fine dining fare while others would have no appetite while wondering what their personal fates might be?
Because I am anxiously awaiting this episode with much trepidation and some fear, I am going with some food that I am sure will comfort me. I have not planned some awesome or elegant feast for this evening but rather have decided on a simple dish of comfort food that gives me a fond memory of home and childhood. I grew up in Minnesota, which some consider the original home of the Hotdish and potluck… Green bean casserole and Tater Tot Hot dish! Well, fortunately for us, the Scots and the Sassenachs did have a form of this comfort food. Sheperd’s Pie or Cottage Pie was it. Of course, during early years, while the Sassenachs may have had potatoes, many of the Highlanders might not have had them. They might have used the usual replacement fare of mashed turnips instead, or put a pastry crust atop of it? For our purposes, we do have access to potatoes so we will use them! The difference between Sheperd’s Pie and Cottage Pie is the meat used for the dish. Sheperd’s pie uses minced lamb while Cottage Pie uses beef for the filling.
I am trying to keep note of what they may or may not have had available during this early time period when researching recipes. I have found a number of recipes for the Sheperd’s or Cottage Pie and need to note here that these recipes all use a few items that probably would not have been used during the 1740’s. They most likely would have had some form of this dish but one ingredient listed in the recipes would not have been used by the majority of common folk.
History of the tomato in Britain
Tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard’s Herbal, published in 1597, and largely plagiarized from continental sources, is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed it was poisonous (in fact, the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous). Gerard’s views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies. By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated the tomato was “in daily use” in soups, broths, and as a garnish. They were not part of the average person’s diet, however, and though by 1820 they were described as “to be seen in great abundance in all our vegetable markets” and to be “used by all our best cooks”, reference was made to their cultivation in gardens still “for the singularity of their appearance”, while their use in cooking was associated with Italian or Jewish cuisine.
With that little fact of the tomato noted, I will still use the bit of tomato paste called for in the recipes. If you wanted to omit the tomato, you could leave it out and go with more of a meat gravy option instead? I am providing you with two versions of the recipe that I’ve found. The first, of course, is the one from Outlanderkitchen.com! Sheperd’s Pie from Echo in the Bone: http://outlanderkitchen.com/2012/04/16/shepherds-pie-from-an-echo-in-the-bone/.
The other recipe is from Traditional Scottish Recipes: http://www.rampantscotland.com/recipes/blrecipe_shepherd.htm
In a land where sheep were a main food supply, it is not surprising that mutton and lamb form the basis of many Scottish dishes. Here is the traditional “Shepherd’s Pie” – the variant based on beef is usually called “Cottage Pie”.
Minced lamb – 450g (1 lb)
Potatoes – 700g (1½ lb)
Mushrooms – 50g (2 oz)
Plain flour – 25g (1 oz)
Tomato puree – 1 tbsp
Butter – 25g (1 oz)
Milk – 4 tbsp
Lamb or beef stock – 300ml (½ pint)
Cheese – 50g (2 oz)
Dry fry the lamb with the chopped onion, bay leaf, sliced mushrooms and diced carrots for 8-10 minutes. Add the flour and stir for a minute. Slowly blend in the stock and tomato puree. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and boils. Cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Remove the bayleaf and place in a 1.7 litre (3 pint) ovenproof serving dish.
At the same time, cook the potatoes in boiling water for 20 minutes until tender. Drain well, mash with the butter and milk and mix well. Spread on top of the mince mixture and sprinkle over with the grated cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200C/400F (Gas Mark 6). Serve hot with green vegetables.
I am going to use the ground beef as lamb is far too expensive for my limited budget! As I already mentioned, I will use the tomato paste, and I am going to use the parmesan cheese potato topping that Theresa suggests, courtesy of Chef Gordon Ramsay… I will just cross my fingers and be glad that he won’t be inspecting my version and evicting me from his kitchen! No, they would not have used parmesan cheese either, but it sounds delicious and I do love Parmesan cheese so we will splurge on this luxury! One slight change to the recipe is that I will add some peas to the filling because that is the way we are used to having our Cottage Pie! Hmmmm is Gordon already cringing at my hotdish?! Acchhh Gordon, just be happy that I’ve not chosen to top it with Tater Tots!
Ahhhh Now, our main meal is set, an all in one easy to accomplish hearty dish that will make us feel warm and full of love in contrast to the cold hatred of Black Jack Randall! One other thing that is a true comfort food for many is the traditional Apple pie. Theresa at Outlanderkitchen.com has an excellent recipe for it here, Governor Tryon’s Humble Crumble Pie: http://outlanderkitchen.com/2012/08/29/governor-tryons-humble-crumble-apple-pie/
I am in agreement with Theresa on preferring crumble topping rather than the two crust pie. I am going to make a slight variation on her recipe though as I am not really fond of the nuts in the topping. So, I will leave those out and replace them with some toasted oatmeal sprinkles instead. I am going to top it with some fresh whipped cream instead of Ice Cream.
Since our dinner for tonight is fairly simple and does not require a great deal of advance preparation, I had time this morning to make a trip to my favorite place to shop. Normally, grocery stores and grocery shopping are pretty low on my list of enjoyable activities… but one exception is a visit to my favorite market, Berkeley Bowl!
This is one market place that I truly find enjoyable, even if I have little cash or don’t really need much! I love just wandering through there and seeing the glorious wide variety of food stuffs that they offer, at fairly reasonable prices too. It’s one of those places that you can find just about anything you might need from any culture or region of the world… the only down side is of course, you always seem to find something that you realize you must have or try once seeing it there! It has a homey, comfortable feel to it and the staff is always helpful and friendly. The majority of their fresh produce, meats and dairy products are all local so it makes you feel good about your purchases too. They offer everything from fresh organic produce, an on site Butcher- though the ground lamb was still a bit too expensive for me to consider it this time, a great dairy section where I can find such things as the fresh cream… or even simpler, a jar of Clotted Cream. For those who are not quite so adventurous in their cooking skills or their time limits, they have a fantastic Deli with wide selections of pre-packaged meals and foods. What I love the most about them is the fact that their selections of food items are wide enough to enable one to do all of their shopping there even on a limited budget. This is in contrast to say, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s where it ends up extremely expensive for a family on any sort tight budget do all of their shopping at that store.
I always find a few extra splurges to try on my trips there and today was no exception to that! Today’s splurges were:
Organic butter with sea salt in a nice ceramic crock for future uses! McClelland’s Dairy is a local dairy here.
Some fresh made scones from a local Bakery, SconeHenge. Yes, I could have baked my own… but sometimes it’s just a treat to get the pre-made ones and these are soooo good! Along with these, I also picked up an Artisan flat load of herb bread which tastes wonderful with the fresh butter and a little spread of herbed goat cheese which I also picked up today!
The scones taste delightful with these two additions! The clotted cream is a British import but the fruit spread is from a local grower!
The last splurge for the day was my daughter’s idea. She and my son enjoyed the Cider I bought a while ago so much that she decided to try another one!
Now, it’s time to go enjoy the afternoon and get ready for the evening’s viewing. We’re all prepared now for what ever depravity and darkness Black Jack Randall throws at us tonight. We will survive and console ourselves with the comfort food! I hope you’ve enjoyed the kitchen today and the shopping excursion!