I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition quite a bit. I’m almost done with it actually, but I’ve grown fond of the place and I don’t want it to end just yet. Lucky for me there seems to be an endless supply of side quests to occupy me until I’m good and ready to save the world.
One thing I’ve been hunting for, though, has remained elusive: Food. Now, food is everywhere, and you see it in kitchens and taverns, but it’s never mentioned. It’s not consumable, so it doesn’t really exist except as set dressing. Then as I was exploring one of my newly conquered castles I found this:
Be careful of that Antivan Brandy.
A menu from the castle tavern. Quest accepted: make Dragon Age food. The first thing that jumped out at me was Wyvern wings. Wyverns are miniature dragons (only about as big as a car or so), so I’m thinking those would be a bit too spicy for my taste. So what else looks especially appetizing on this menu? Bread and cheese sounds fine to me, but for one extra copper you can get yourself a meal that really will give you the stamina to fell that dragon down the hill. Turnip and mutton pie is, I think we can all agree, shepherd’s pie. Or, since this is a BioWare game, Shepard’s pie. Get it? Commander Shepard? Mass Effect? Huh? Huh? Oh, never mind. But it did make me think. Is that what was on all those kitchen boards in the game?
They do like apples and cheese in Redcliffe, don’t they?
That massive pie six inches tall and standing on its own without even a pie plate to support it? Think that’s it? It’s the only pie mentioned anywhere in the game. That’s gotta be it, right? I pondered over this for a very long time. How do I make a shepherd’s pie that stands up without support? I had a brilliant idea. A mini-springform pan. I’ll put the mashed potato in, bake it for ten minutes, let it cool, put in the filling, top it, and bake it again. Remove the sides to serve and, to make sure it doesn’t crumble immediately I hit the sides briefly with a blowtorch, making a nice brown crunchy crust and giving the potatoes some much needed rigidity. What do you think?
Karen’s reply: “Mark, that is a terrible idea. Just make the shepherd’s pie.”
She has no idea how my blog works, does she? Fine, since she wanted good food to eat I’ll stick to the same boring formula everyone else does. But I’m making individual pies, because I want to, this is my blog, and that’s what I’m doing.
So I know what I’m making, now what? Who do I always call first? Alton Brown, and he never lets me down. (That kinda sings, doesn’t it?) So here’s his recipe:
Alton’s recipe for shepherd’s pie
As usual, I used that as inspiration, changing whatever I wanted for whatever reason. Here’s what I ended up with:
Mark’s Shepherd’s Pie (+10 to dragon slaying)
1 lb. ground lamb
1 onion, diced small
1 cup carrots, diced small
2 turnips, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon red wine
5 russet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
Milk, to taste
Heat some olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, carrots, and turnips for a few minutes. This is where I realized I didn’t have any tomato paste, so I diced up a tomato and threw it in with the garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent and then put in the ground lamb. Use a wooden spoon to break up the lamb as you brown it.
More veg than meat is a good thing, right?
It was here that I realized that one pound of lamb probably wasn’t enough. Oh well, it’s what we’ve got, it’s what we’re having. Add the flour and stir to coat, cooking for a couple minutes. Add the stock and wine and let it reduce down a bit.
Looks a bit gooey, doesn’t it?
This is very gooey. I’m starting to think that a half cup of flour was probably too much. And if you’ve bothered to look you’ve noticed that Alton only calls for two tablespoons. So yes, I put too much flour in. I have no idea how I came to the half cup. Whatever, it’s over now and it worked out well enough.
So at this point I set it aside to cool a bit while I made the mashed potatoes. I didn’t take any pictures of this process because mashed potatoes is something that you kind of have to get a feel for on a case-by-case basis. So peel, dice, and boil the potatoes. When they’re cooked drain them and mash them with butter, salt, and milk to taste. I added some extra milk to make it extra spreadable. I’ve made this before with more dry potatoes and it didn’t turn out well.
So fill the bowls up about two thirds with the filling like this:
I put them in cups. Isn’t that rustic?
Spread the potatoes on top. You can make it look nice and fluted or carve a unicorn in the top or whatever. I smoothed mine out and they looked very boring. What do you expect for three coppers? Put them In the oven and bake for about 20 minutes at 375. They weren’t brown enough for my liking at that point so I put them under the broiler for a few minutes. Let them rest for 10 minutes or so before serving.
All that’s missing is a tankard of ale.
They turned out great. Everyone loved them, all the kids included. Nobody complained about having to eat vegetables; in fact Nate tried them all one by one, knowing full well what each of them were. This was a minor miracle; usually the older two are picking the onions out of the ground meat. And as you can see, the filling retained its shape nicely when cut into, thanks to me using five times the flour the recipe called for.
The Rusted Horn has nothing on me. Come to my tavern; I’ll fix you up good.