Shepherd’s Pie: Two variations for the trail

HungryhikerThe all-time best cookbook for backpackers, sez me, is a long out of print paperback called The Hungry Hiker's Book of Good Cooking, by Gretchen McHugh. Though it dates from l982, it's really from the l970's, complete with vaguely "Joy of Sex" illustrations, on brown paper. But my copy is dog-eared, written up, torn — these recipes cannot be beat.

Here's one of Grechen's best, w/a variation for our times, for Shepherd's Pie:

First,make her basic ground beef, which takes one lb lean ground beef; two cloves garlic, 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, some bouillon. Cook the beef w/garlic and onions until its browned. Pour or skim off the fat. Add 2 tablespoons flour, salt to taste, and a small amount of fresh rosemary. When it's cooked, dehydrate, which can be managed by spreading it out on a baking sheet and leaving it in an oven set at low, for about six hours, with the door ajar. Leave a little moisture.

On the trail cover with water, bring to a boil, simmer fora few minutes. Don't rush. In a second pot, boil water and make instant potatoes. Put the potatoes atop the shepherd's pie, then add grated parmesan on top. No one will be hungry after, guaranteed.

All this to reveal that yes, I'm back on the PCT, on a stretch from the desert (Anza-Borrego) to the mountains (the San Jacinto, high over Palm Springs) and back to the desert. 100 miles.

Must add my variation. For a friend who after all too many antibiotics can't handle onion, garlic, or other strong flavors, began by cooking three sweet peppers in a light oil until softened. Brown the beef, add a couple of tablespoons tomato paste, then some Italian herbs — parsley, basil, thyme. Then as before. 

Came out better than Heather's! Flavorful, delicate, charming. Live and learn. 

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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