The first time I tasted shepherd’s pie was in an old Scottish pub back in the states. I’m not sure how long the restaurant has existed, or if it still does, but the building was an old brown stone common to many older American cities. The place was small, dimly light, rustic yet very cozy and relaxed. Their single malt Scotch and British ale selection was among the best in the city. From the first visit I was hooked both on the excellent British Isles fare and the atmosphere. It became one of my favorite restaurants to go to.
That restaurant is in fact where I tried my first dishes from English, Scottish and Irish cuisine. I fell in love with the simple elements and ingredients of all three cuisines. I loved it all -the pies, root vegetables, salads, soups and fish dishes. After we moved to Europe I missed the restaurant but other local pubs quickly took its place. In Europe there is no shortage of British pubs and then of course the Isles are a short plane hop away.
Let me step back away from my memories and tell you a bit more about Shepherd’s pie. This “pie” is basically minced (ground) meat, usually mixed with a couple of spices and vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes and baked. Traditionally Shepherd’s pie was made with leftover mutton or lamb and vegetables. A different version using minced beef became know as cottage pie. According to some sources the cottage pie also differed in that sliced potatoes were used for the topping in lieu of mashed. The slices then gave the pie a similar look to that of shingles on a cottage and hence the name. Nowadays many people also use mashed potatoes for cottage pie -you could say it’s a matter of personal choice.
The modest ingredients are quite evident of the dish being a humble and stable food for peasant families back in the day. But trust me what this dish lacks in extravagant ingredients it more than makes up for in taste. It is one of my favorite foods to eat and to cook. You may in fact already have all of the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator. The effort is minimal and it is a great dish to experiment with and adjust to your particular cravings. Okay, let me share my simple recipe with you.
- 500 g or 1 lb. minced beef
- 1 large (200 g or 1.75 cups) cubed carrot
- 1 medium (100 g or 3.5 oz) finely chopped yellow onion
- 1.5-2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp. tomato puree
- 1 tsp. worcester/Worcestershire sauce
- 250 ml or 1 cup beef broth (low-sodium & no MSG)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt, adjust to taste
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. flour to thicken
- 500 g or 1 lb starchy potatoes, peeled & evenly cut
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 80 ml or ⅓ cup whole fat milk
- salt to taste
- Boil the potatoes in salted water, once fork tender drain. Add the butter, half the milk and some salt and begin mashing. Continue mashing and adding more milk until you achieve the consistency desired. Set potatoes aside.
- Preaheat 220c or 428f and have a baking dish ready. Heat the oil, saute the onions for 3 minutes then add the carrots. Cook for 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the minced beef and cook for about 8 minutes. Drain all excess fat, and add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Mix in the tomato puree, worchester sauce, beef broth, flour, salt, ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Cook until nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Pour the minced beef mixture into the pan, even out into an even surface and depth. Next spread the mashed potatoes over the meat making sure to achieve an even depth and surface. Bake in center of oven for 20 minutes, then place under the broiler setting for 5 minutes to brown the potatoes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving with green peas on the side.
Shepherd’s and Cottage pies are some of my comfort foods. They remind me of the restaurant and of course always satisfy my belly. It is a great meal that your family will love. I also think it is a dish you’ll want to make over and over again. Enjoy!
Check out these other shepherd’s and cottage pie recipes from foodie friends.
- Shepherd’s Pie, New Mexico Style by MJ’s Kitchen
- Vegan Shepherds Pie by Feasting At Home
- Chicken Cottage Pie with 3-Vegetable Mash by Simply Delicious
- Jameson Shepherd’s Pie with Purple Potatoes by Our Lady of Second Helpings