Trading Shepherds for Miners

We're back with another traditional recipe from Heroes' Feast attributed to dwarves: Shepherd's Pie.

We're back with another traditional recipe from Heroes' Feast attributed to dwarves: Shepherd's Pie.


Shepherd or Miner?​

In deference to the fact that Heroes' Feast gives dwarves credit for the creation for Shepherd's Pie, the meal has been renamed Miner's Pie:
The Miner's Pipe, sometimes referred to as a "shepherd's pie" by humans and halflings, is a truly hearty one-stop meal for the tireless dwarf in all of us. Ground beef (or lamb or venison), sweet corn, peas, onions, and leeks are crusted by a potato mash topped with cheese. This is one of the few dwarven dishes readily served at inns across Faeron, particularly those of the North and Heartlands, likely because the human variant borrows much from this dwarven classic.
We decided to make Miner's Pie sooner than later; with Spring arriving, it will be too warm in our kitchen to crank the oven up to 450 degrees. This is one of those meals that's relatively easy to make but becomes much more complicated in the execution. Heroes' Feast expects you to hover over the meal as it cooks, measured in literal minutes of time. For example:
  • Add the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Adjust the heat to medium, add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the flour is completely blended in.
  • Adjust the heat to high and bring to a simmer, using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen and dissolve any browned bits stuck to the pan, about 1 minute.
This is a lot of work for a recipe that was originally sourced from the leftovers of other meals.

My daughter is not a fan of mixing food together so she wasn't as enthusiastic about this meal. I loved it though; it's very tasty and I ate the leftovers for an entire week.


The Origins of Shepherd's Pie​

Be it shepherd or miner, the pie has the same basic ingredients: ground meat cooked in gravy, onions, carrots, celery, and a mashed potato crust. These were often leftovers from other meals:
Sometime in the 18th century, a dish called “cottage pie” came about somewhere in the vast expanse of the United Kingdom and Ireland. It seems to have originated as a way for folks to make use of leftovers, in order to avoid waste, both of the food and money varieties. Simply put, after making a weekend roast, unused meat was repurposed into a pie using affordable potatoes as a crust. This frugal, albeit clever, meal suggests the name “cottage pie” referred to the consumers of the dish...
But where did shepherd's pie come from? time went on, a distinction was made: shepherd’s pie referred to a dish made with lamb (because sheep are tended to by shepherds!), and cottage pie referred to a dish made with beef.
Heroes' Feast uses beef instead of lamb, perhaps quantifying this pie as more "cottage" than "shepherd."


Dwarven Sheep and Other Critters​

We've previously discussed what happens when you tweak real world animals for a fantasy setting, but the cottage/shepherd quandary brings up a specific question as to what dwarves eat. The original inspiration for D&D dwarves in Tolkien's work say little about the topic, but D&D elaborates in The Complete Book of Dwarves on page 26:
Dwarves enjoy a wide variety of food, with a preference for meat. Hill, mountain, and sundered dwarves keep cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and fowl. These animals are grazed above ground on upland meadows or plateaus. Sundered dwarves keep their livestock close to home, hill and mountain dwarves allow their stock to roam. Although meat is a staple of their diet, large quantities of grains are also consumed. When possible wheat, rye and barley are grown close to the stronghold. They are harvested and kept in underground granaries. Many who live close to humans buy large quantities of grain to supplement their own production.
Heroes' Feast is curiously silent on where all this meat comes from. There's a passing reference to sheep, beef, pork, and pheasant, with the occasional reptile, fungus, and insects added in for underground-dwelling dwarves. Two themes become apparent in both The Complete Book of Dwarves and Heroes' Feast: dwarves like a lot of meat and a lot of alcohol. Despite having a section dedicated to alcoholic drinks, only one drink unique to dwarves is included, so enterprising DMs are on their own. One possible alternative is Stephanie Drummonds and Daniel Myers' Dwaren Cookbook: Recipes from the Kingdom of Kathaldum.

Be it shepherd, cottage, or mine, these types of recipes are an opportunity to tell a culture's heritage. Just be mindful of which heritage you choose.

Your Turn: How do your dwarven dishes differ from their human counterparts?

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


Cottage/shepherd's pie is meat, mashed potatoes and corn. What's with all this other stuff being thrown into it? KISS for the win! (Ok, maybe some milk with the mashed spuds, and some butter wouldn't go amiss.)

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
This feels like a recipe that could have been tweaked to make it more dwarvish. Mushrooms, as @Charlaquin, suggested, for one. If I were making a D&D cookbook, my dwarven recipes would often have alcohol as one of the ingredients as well.


Community Supporter
So, those are some absolute basics of gravy making. And you are talking about, "hovering over", and, "a lot of work"? It is a span of a whopping three or four minutes!

I am not sure where the expectation that four minutes is a lot comes from.
It wasn't so much the time as the intensity.

I consider adjusting the heat a few times over the span of a few minutes to be something of a pain, and I'm not sure that it makes the dish that much tastier for the effort. I think the value of these meals for fast prep is to set it up, then leave it to cook/bake so that you can concentrate on other things (like prep for the game). A meal that expects you to cater to it frequently unnecessarily complicates the recipe, in my opinion.

And of course, in real life, we're doing other stuff anyway like making the table, prepping other side dishes, etc.
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A classic shepherd's pie is a tasty thing (though I make mine vegetarian or with fish)!

One wonders what Lord of the Rings would have been like had Tolkien been into Gastronomy instead of Philology.

The original inspiration for D&D dwarves in Tolkien's work say little about the topic,

I know I've talked about this book before, but it really does do a great job at putting together a dwarven cuisine that feels consistent and is informed by medieval era cooking.
One possible alternative is Stephanie Drummonds and Daniel Myers' Dwaren Cookbook: Recipes from the Kingdom of Kathaldum.

At this point I'm not sure why people get so worked up over the question of where dwarves get their ingredients. Save for the deep dwarves (which aren't currently a thing) and duergar, they all have access to the surface, to grazing fields and farmland. And if not, there's always trade. No one wonders where elven wine comes from when they live in forests.

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