Hairy Grandads Shepherds/Cottage Pie

Lets get this out of the way first, in the UK:-

SHEPHERDS pie uses LAMB mince (or diced LAMB) because Shepherds tend sheep!

COTTAGE Pie uses BEEF mince (or diced BEEF) because ?? beats me 🙂

Because I’m a sad person, I’ve spent many an hour trying to find out why a “cottage Pie” is called “cottage pie” and haven’t come up with anything conclusive 🙁 It does seem to have its roots / origins in the North of England but is also found in Ireland and Scotland and the main theme seems to be the provision of a low cost and tasty meal.

Originally, it appears that the “pie” was  (created) to make a tasty meal using left over meat; which would be minced up / diced. Left over vegetables with herbs and garlic etc would have been added but mashed potato (a.k.a. Spuds) would be used instead of a pastry crust and quite often this would be the bulk of the “pie” because spuds are cheap!

It isn’t clear why the use of beef means it has to be called “Cottage Pie”. You can’t really mince up a cottage and the thatch would get stuck in your teeth 🙂 I’m quite sure you could use whatever meat you have to hand, including Wild Boar, Venison or even Pork or maybe even Turkey or Kangaroo; The naming of the pie would be interesting, maybe “Sty Pie” or maybe “Herders Pie” or maybe “Gobbler Pie” or “Skippy Pie” or why not “cottage pie” 🙂

I like to think that the mash spuds are used to represent (or maybe it reminded someone of) a “thatched roof” but this guy takes it a giant step further with his genius Tiled Roof, I’m going to have to come up with a way to have a pitched “thatched” roof using mash 🙂

Over the years “Shepherds pie” became the name where Lamb and quite probably mutton was used. It seems Shepherds had a diet consisting of a lot of lamb/mutton so that’s easy enough to fathom.

The Shepherds pie I made today went very quickly and had some lovely comments, I trawled the web to get a feel of the recipes that different people were using. Here’s mine :-

INGREDIENTS. (if doing a “Cottage Pie use whatever other meat)

Serves 3 or 4 people, depending on how much veg is used to bulk up!

  • 2 or 3 sticks Celery.
  • 1 0r 2 Red Onion.
  • 3 cloves of garlic or more, depending on your taste!
  • Carrots, diced.
  • Olive oil (or Rapeseed or whatever you prefer.)
  • Dried Rosemary, use fresh if you want.
  • Mint – optional but it does go with lamb quite well.
  • Other herbs, instead of mint or also! (Italian herb mix works well, Oregano, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary)
  • 500g LAMB Mince.
  • 400g chopped tomatoes.
  • Tablespoon Sweet corn (to suit)
  • Tablespoon Peas (to suit)
  • stock cube.
  • Optional “Gravy” .
  • 20g butter – or more!
  • 20ml of milk – to suit.
  • Grated Cheese.

You could use other “spices” such as cumin, coriander or “Ras el Hanout”to get a Turkish or Moroccan taste.

Serve with 1 or 2 of other veg e.g. :-

  • Green Beans
  • Brocolli
  • sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Kale
  • etc


Start with a basic slow fried base – Olive/rapeseed oil, Onions, Celery, diced carrot, Garlic (Crushed or finely chopped), it’s amazing how much I use this basic “base”; which appears to be the standard base for most Tuscan recipes and they call it a “suffritto”! I’m not sure what we British call it!

When the “base” ingredients are nice and soft (10/15 mins), add the herbs (the herbs will likely be different, depending on what meat you are using) allow the herbs to combine with the “base” for a few minutes. If you want to “spice it up” add chilli powder or chopped chillis, this a “freestyle” dish!

In a separate frying pan, while the “base” is cooking, brown the meat! (Optional but it does add to the taste, see Maillard Reaction)

Combine the meat and “base” and add the chopped tomatoes, Sweet corn, peas and anything else you want to throw in, stock cube and a 3/4 pint of water. Bring back to boil and simmer for at least 90 mins to allow the meat to soften.

In a separate pan, add the potatoes to boiling water and simmer for 15/20 mins until soft. Then drain and mash with butter and a little milk.

When the meat/veg mix is done, put it in to an oven proof dish and then put the mashed potato on top of it. Sprinkle Olive/veg oil over and put the combined meat/veg/potato into the oven on gas 6 (optional sprinkle with cheese) and cook for maybe 25/30 mins until you get a brown crispy crust.  Cook the other veg while the pie is in the oven.

Note. When you have put the mash on the meat, you can leave it for a while before putting in the oven. You can pop it in the fridge overnight and just pop it in the oven 30 mins or so before you want to eat it. If you’re in a hurry and want to leave out the oven bit, you can “scorch” the mash with a blowlamp 🙂

There is nothing complicated about a Shepherds/Cottage pie. Use whatever (minced/diced) meat you want, add whatever veg and herbs you want, and top it with mashed potato then use a fork to make the mash “rough” (like a ploughed field or maybe like a “thatched” roof ) Stick it in the oven until the mash has browned or until you can’t wait any longer 🙂

* Note

The meat and veg bit can be a “stiff” consistency so you might want to make some separate gravy to pour over the mash, if you use some of the meat/veg mix to add to the gravy; you won’t regret it! You could make the meat and veg bit “loose” so that you don’t need any extra gravy but my preference is to make extra gravy.

Have fun and Enjoy!