I say Cottage Pie, You say Shepherds Pie…

Many years ago I realised that cooks & chefs I worked with and the friends & families I ate with seemed to have different interpretations of what is a Cottage Pie and what is a Shepherds Pie.  I investigated this further by looking in my recipe books, exploring menus  and asking questions of people.

Cottage Pie vs Shepherds Pie

What are they?  A meat dish (red meat) with some type of gravy / sauce topped with mashed potato and then baked in the oven until piping hot.

Are they the same or are they different?  Different

If they are different, how?  This is where things got interesting and complicated – the mashed potato on top was standard and may or may not have a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.  The area of conflict was the meat and here are some of the opinions recorded during my research.

Shepherds Pie

Cottage Pie

Start with any leftover Roast Meat Start with any Raw minced or diced  meat
Made with Lamb, Hogget or Mutton either cooked or raw Made with Beef either cooked or raw
Leftover Roast Mutton – Minced or chopped mixed with the leftover gravy Raw Beef Mince – Cooked like a savoury mince in a pan then put into the oven dish

No difference – same recipe using either name

Leftover Roast Beef or mutton– Minced or chopped mixed with the leftover gravy
Diced or minced raw beef, lamb or mutton, carrot, onion & Celery cooked in a pan then put into the oven dish

 Other regular additions in recipes include Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, frozen peas, various herbs, soy sauce, marmite, curry powder, bacon, mushrooms etc

The addition of breadcrumbs to the top renames it as a Cumberland Pie.

There is also a  vegetarian version, “Shepherdess Pie”  made using soya or other meat substitutes like tofu or  legumes such as lentils or chick peas.  This I have not tried…. but I might and see if the family notices a meatless meal.

For a LCHF version (Low Carb-High Fat) just beware of the onions, peas and gravy thickening then swop out the potato topping for a Cauliflower mash, top with a bit of grated cheese.

In the family setting and bistro style restaurant service these are made a one large family size pie that is then served onto individual plates. There is an increasing trend in restaurants and cafes to make “individual” pies in large ramekins which helps control portion size and looks much neater on the plate.  Funny though – I don’t think they taste the same or have the same texture when cooked this way.

There are many other variations on these including rabbit or chicken based recipes  with many countries having their own similar dishes of a meat and mashed potato dish.

My research for this would not have been complete without consulting the modern ‘know it all’ resource – Wikipedia

Cottage pie or shepherd’s pie is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato.

The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (“cottage” meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers).

In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.

The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until 1877, and since then it has sometimes (incorrectly) been used synonymously with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton. The term “shepherd’s pie” should be used when the meat is mutton or lamb, with the origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cattle. This may, however, be an example of folk etymology.

In the final analysis I believe that the influence of your mother and grandmothers is the key determinant in your opinion and preferences regarding Shepherds Pie and Cottage Pie

What says you????  Please leave a comment with your thoughts, memories or opinion.

Image from  http://www.hippyshopper.com/ Great image and its a Shepherdess Pie!!!


3 thoughts on “I say Cottage Pie, You say Shepherds Pie…

  1. Shepard’s pie made with minced left over roast Mutton or Hogget and Gravy, with mashed potato topping baked in meat dish. Usually at the end of the week to use up the remains of the Sunday roast.

    Liked by 1 person

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