The curfew cuisine diaries from Sri Lanka: Bye bye Mr Shepherd's pie
It's pie time
Today is the 83rd day of curfew, for those of us who are counting. The lockdown is over. Social distancing is forgotten. But the curfew goes on and on and on and on and on...
I was trying hard to avoid another Don McClean reference, but it's really hard, given the subject of the day. Pies. These are amazing things in their own right, and also an extraordinary way of answering that perennial question: "What do I do with these left overs?" Bit of grilled chucks left in the fridge? Bake a pie. Some leftover stew? Bake a pie. Devilled Curry left over? Bake a pie. Minced meat in the freezer? Bake a pie. The list of pies one can make is restricted only by your imagination – and how far you're willing to push your family's taste buds.
Yesterday, for example, we had a Shepherd's Pie, with a twist. We took a batch of bacon (thin strips) and fried it until crisp. Then fried diced veg and onion in the bacon fat, before adding the minced meat, a bit of brown sauce, chilli flakes and the crispy bacon. Let it steam in the pan for a bit before ladling it into a baking dish, covering it in mashed potato and baking it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating they say: the dish was pretty much cleaned out.
One thing the lockdown has taught me is to rethink what makes a good recipe. After all, we were restricted to what we could buy from people who came door to door, selling groceries, and what was in our freezer at the start of Lockdown. Freezers play an important part in living in tropical climes. Of course the downside to this is sometimes you forget what exactly is IN the freezer. That's when creativity blossoms.
Now I know there is a whole argument against freezing meats for a period of over two weeks and so on. But when the average room temp is 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees F), and your average fridge can cool to 4 degrees Celsius (39.2degrees F), you can see the importance of having a freezer. (Most fridges have a freezer compartment, but they are to hold things like ice creams and stuff - they are too small to hold substantial amounts of anything).
Shepherds' Pie with crunchy bacon bits was a hit.
Of course, during lockdown, meat was hard to come by; hence the vegan Shepherd's Pie; a vegetable stew with thick gravy, topped with mash and baked. A pie is a wonderful thing, a wonderful thing is a pie.
With all these variations, though, can we still call them Shepherd's Pie? Or do we bid the Shepherd's Pie bye bye?