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Earlier this week I cooked my first meat & potato pie. It was quite good, however I felt that it lacked a little depth, and also seemed like a meager portion for the amount of meat that I used.

I was hoping to bulk it out with other various vegetables (I realize this would mean that it is no longer an official meat & potato pie, but I'm OK with that).

My ideas for things to add so far are mushroom, carrot, frozen peas or swede. I would want the larger vegetables to be cut a similar size to how I cut the potato (approx 1cm³), however I would then have no idea how long to cook them for.

So far I cook the beef and onion for 2.5-3 hours, using the leftover liquid as the base for the gravy, and cook the potatoes separately for around 10-15 minutes to soften before adding to the pie before baking it in the oven. The onion is almost nonexistent by the end of cooking, but adds flavor to the gravy.

So when adding any of the ingredients, should I add them to the meat/onion to add to the flavor of the gravy (whether for the full time or part-way through), or cook them separately like with the potato?

And how long should I cook each of the vegetables for considering their respective size?

  • parsnips, sweet potatoes, green beans, and a second batch of onions that is added sauteed (not cooked to bits) before baking would come to mind... I assume that you already have some garlic and hot peppers in the gravy? – rackandboneman Jan 13 '16 at 10:44
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about flavor pairing, and this makes the question subjective – rumtscho Jan 13 '16 at 12:35
  • @rumtscho I've edited it so that it is on topic. – Mike.C.Ford Jan 13 '16 at 13:24
  • @Mike.C.Ford thanks for editing! I also put the new questions in the title, so it's clear what the question is about. Reopened, I hope you'll get some nice answers. – rumtscho Jan 13 '16 at 13:27
  • Ah, and I edited the usage guideline of the ingredient-selection tag to make it clear what it isn't for - the info was already in the longer tag wiki, but not in the tooltip which appears when you use the tag. – rumtscho Jan 13 '16 at 13:32
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There are two approaches you could use on this, which are to either make a stew with all the ingredients and then turn it into a pie, or prepare separately and then put together into a pie. Which to choose depends on your personal preference. Using the stew method blends all the flavors together and is less work and cleanup as you don't have to cook the vegetables separately. Cooking separately keeps the flavors of each vegetable more distinct, but is more work and cleanup. Personally I prefer the stew method as I like the blending of flavors.

Either way the challenge as you have recognized is to get the vegetables to the right cooked consistency, and in either case the answer is to subtract the cooking time imparted by the baking from the pre-cooking time. Baking does not cook the vegetables nearly as quickly, over time I have figured that using a 3 to 4x multiplier works ok, if a vegetable takes 5 minutes in the steamer to cook it will take between 15-20 minutes in the oven roughly. So for carrots you would ordinarily cook for 15 minutes you would pre-cook them for 10 minutes and then bake for 15-20 minutes.

Another option is to use a fork to test doneness, I've found that if I can get a fork to just start to sink into a carrot piece then putting it into the oven for 15 minutes will finish it off. Getting the vegetables to this state at the same time is the challenge, but it can be done.

This is my personal experience with cooking vegetables to be done at the same time, from longest to shortest cooking times:

  1. Beans
  2. Hard root vegetables: carrots are in this class
  3. Other roots: potatoes, parsnips, turnips
  4. Squashes
  5. Hard leafy vegetables: winter greens, collards, cabbages
  6. Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower), string beans
  7. Soft leafy vegetables: spinach, kale
  8. Green peas: these take no time at all, cooking them more than a couple of minutes turns them to mush

There's a lot of variation between these classes, for instance cauliflower takes longer than broccoli, and thick runner beans take twice as long as fine french beans. You need to keep these in mind.

If you are making a pastry topped pie the only thing baking is for is to cook the pastry top. If you cool the filling below a certain point the vegetables will stop cooking, or at least slow down quite a bit. My favorite trick is to wait until the vegetables are just about perfect before dumping a couple of handfuls of frozen peas into my filling, this melts the peas and they cook perfectly in the residual heat while bringing the temperature down quickly. I then fill and bake.

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