Monday, October 15, 2007

Cottage Pie

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Meat pies in England date back to the Middle Ages. The pies consisted of meat, either lamb or beef, but also game was used. Cooked for hours over a slow fire, the pies were seasoned with spices and served in pastry. The Elizabethans favored pies made of mince meat, spices, raisins and prunes, hence "mincemeat".

Shepherd's pie made with cold lamb or mutton and topped with mashed potatoes didn't appear in England until the acceptance of potatoes in that country. Potatoes were introduced to Europe in the early 1500's by the Spanish, but didn't appeal to the English palate until the 18th century. A frugal dish designed to use up leftover meat, Shepherd's Pie originated in the north of England and Scotland where there were large numbers of sheep.

Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie are synonymously used to describe a dish made with minced meat and mashed potato topping, but to clarify the difference, Cottage Pie, the much older term for the pie, is made with minced beef and Shepherd's Pie with minced lamb. Today, it doesn't matter whether you call the pie Shepherd's or Cottage. The most important thing is the pie tastes wonderful and is a hearty and satisfying dish for winter meals. A veritable blank canvas, what goes into the meat mixture for Cottage or Shepherd's is up to the imagination and fancy of the cook.

For further reading on Cottage and Shepherd's Pie's, click here.

Cottage Pie


1 tablespoon oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup tomato sauce-(I substituted a seasoned pasta sauce for the tomato sauce)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas

For the Mashed Potato Topping

2 pounds (about 3 large potatoes), cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Saute ground beef, chopped onion, and chopped carrot in oil over medium heat until meat loses it pink color. Add minced garlic and cook one minute more. Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and broth and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Add frozen peas and cook 5 more minutes.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to boil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and potato chunks. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander, transfer back to pot and mash adding milk and butter. Taste for seasoning.

Pour meat mixture in a casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are lightly browned.

Serves 4-6


The Cooking Ninja said...

yum yum ...I love sheperd pie ... my sis made one that uses a mix of pork and chicken. Very delicious too. :)

scotbrit said...

Thanks for the cottage pie...looks great!!

Mommy Chef said...

This looks so good! I am going to work it into my menu.Comfort food!

Julia said...

Oh my, that looks so wonderful and it's made me so hungry, that's what I want for dinner now!

Kelly Mahoney said...

Looks delicious. My mom called if shepherd pie, of course, but it looks so tasty and is a great, complete meal.

Susan said...

I make my husband a turkey pot pie with potato topping every year with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Yours looks so wonderfully rustic and delicious in your photos.

Kate said...

i love the write up ...its always nice to know the history behind what you cook. I love the individual servings. this look very comforting and i just might make some for dinner :))

Lynnylu said...

the cooking ninja-thanks, I will have to try the pork and chicken mix-sounds good!

scotbrit-thanks-it's the comfort food that we all gravitate to when Fall is in the air.

mommy chef-thanks-the pie is great comfort food and I never have leftovers!

Julia-thanks-one good thing about the cottage pie is we nearly always have the ingredients.

Kelly-I always called it Shepherd's Pie, too until I read the difference, but basically they are the same. Thanks for commenting.

Susan-I'll have to try it with the turkey after Thanksgiving-always looking for ways to eat up the bird.

Kate-thanks-I love the history of food, too. Also, I love a quick, one dish meal which requires little effort, but it tasty.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for history but from an Englishman, please understand that there is an important difference b/w Cottage and Shepherd's Pie. Ask yourself what kind of animals a shepherd looks after - sheep. That should tell you what the pie filling should be made of - lamb. Cottage pie is always beef.

Sorry for being persnickety, but I've lived in the US for awhile and have yet to find anyone who gets this right! Even Alton Brown got it wrong!! I even commented on his website! Thanks again for the history. Jonny @

Lynnylu said...

Jonathan - thanks for your comments. I actually did mention the difference in the post, but maybe not clear enough.

"Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie are synonymously used to describe a dish made with minced meat and mashed potato topping, but to clarify the difference, Cottage Pie, the much older term for the pie, is made with minced beef and Shepherd's Pie with minced lamb."

scotbrit said...

You will have to forgive us silly Americans. We aren't very educated on things English. I will certainly forgive you for not reading Lynnylu's entire post.

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