The name Shepherd’s Pie confused several friends of mine. As it turns out, it’s just a kind of meat and potato pie that finishes in just a few easy steps. Interestingly, the name does relate to lambs!
Anyways, who came up with pies? Who thought “let’s make dough, bake it on an open fire and eat it”?
It turned out that the people made the crust, or “coffyn” as they called it, not to be eaten but to hold the filling. Later on, it made its way to America, where people… ate the crust. That makes lots of sense, right? I mean, as the saying goes, it’s “as American as apple pie”.
Shepherd’s, Cottage & Cumberland Pie?
Although the 3 are almost identical to one another, their difference in names carry quite significant stories to differentiate:
The name “Shepherd’s” might have originated from the fact that it’s one of shepherds’ favorite meals. In England, the pie is called “Shepherd’s Pie” only when it’s made up of minced mutton rather than minced beef.
The term “Cottage pie”, surprisingly, predates “Shepherd’s pie” by nearly a century. It was because cottage pies were affordable for peasants to eat, many of whom would live in cottages.
In short, the two terms are used interchangeably (except in England) to mean a savory baked pie with mashed potato layer above minced meat and veggies.
Oh, and Cumberland Pie? It’s basically a Cottage Pie (or Shepherd’s Pie) that’s topped with breadcrumbs.
Shepherd’s Pie Filling Options
The recipe called for a simple filling, which includes minced meat and small chunks of veggies: carrots, corns and green peas. There are people suggesting substituting beef with chicken or pork, which I find rather unsuitable to the dish. The smell of beef (or lamb, as in the traditional recipe) should bring out the flavor better than the other two although they are all meat.
Can I add cheese to that? Well guess what, Quinta: you can! As one would think, Cottage Cheese should be perfect with Cottage Pie. Well, everything deserves a try but in my own opinion mozzarella or any kind of cheese that melts and turns gooey when baked works the best.
Can I add tomatoes to that? Well… you could try but I don’t think it would be as delicious. All of the veggies we put in this recipe are either starchy or crunchy, not at all sour. Adding tomatoes in would change its nature, and we all know how experiments go: success or failure.
Aside from that, you could substitute the vegetables with another kind with the same crunchy or starchy property. Do share your alternatives on the veg down below, so we can discover together which combination works the best.
How Do I Keep Shepherd’s Pie? Does It Freeze?
Some might find it too good to have less than twice and too time-consuming to make more than once. So, a common question is, how do we keep the pie?
In fact, there are two ways you could preserve it without damaging the flavor:
Method #1: After finishing baking, leave it in the dish until it has cooled down to room temperature. After this, foil what’s left and freeze it in the fridge, for up to 2 months. When you eat, reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees F for an hour while still covered with foil. One thing to note, however, is that the potato crust won’t be as crispy as when freshly baked.
Method #2: After finishing prepping, do not bake everything. Choose a moderate-sized baking dish and make just enough. Freeze the cooked filling and the mashed potato mixture for later use. When you need a bit of comforting, take them out, defrost both to room temperature in the microwave and bake them in the oven just like in the recipe. It might take longer than method #1, but you won’t lose the crispy crust on top.
How To Make Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd's Pie Recipe
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes about 3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 8 Tablespoons 1 stick butter
- 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1-2 cups vegetables—diced carrots corn, peas
- 1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt pepper, other seasonings of choice
- Put the quartered potatoes in a medium sized pot. Cover with at least 1 inch of cold water. Add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 20 minutes).
- While boiling the potatoes, melt half a stick of butter in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Cook the chopped onions until tender, about 6 to 10 minutes.
- Sauté the vegs with the ground beef and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the beef broth. Bring the broth to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. If the meat dries out, add more broth.
- Remove the cooked potatoes from the pot when done cooking (a fork can easily pierce). Place them in a bowl with the remaining 4 Tbsp of butter and mash with a fork or potato masher. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the beef, onions, and vegetables (if using) in an even layer in a large baking dish (8x13 casserole).
- Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the ground beef. Rough up the surface of the mashed potatoes with a fork to form peaks, which later get browned.
- Place in a 400°F oven and cook until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Broil for the last few minutes to brown the surface of the mashed potatoes if desired.
- Carrots should be cooked with onions because they take the same amount of time to cook.
- Peas and corn, however, should be added near the end of the sauté-ing process as they take very little cooking time.