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Shepherd's Pie, Cottage Pie


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I order this a lot, but find that it usually sucks. In fact, one of the best I've had was at the cafeteria of my old law firm. On a two week trip to England, I must have tasted at least four sheppard's pies -- all were terrible. Either too salty, too vinegary, too gristly, or just too fucking bad. (Oddly, I thought most of the other food in England was very good. The one time I bought fish & chips from a little take-out place it was heavenly.)

Does anyone have a decent recipe?

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In Nina's absence, can I do the correcting? It's shepherd's pie. Hopefully a moderator (other than Andy Lynes, who spells it five different ways) might correct the thread title.

Traditional shepherd's pie uses minced meat - usually beef, some argue for lamb - browned briefly in a pan, then braised in a casserole in just a little water (it sheds a lot of fat) or beef stock, with finely chopped onions. If you use water, add a beef stock cube. No other vegetables are necessary.

Prepare mashed potatoes separately. When the meat is done - and drain the fat off if necessary - spread the potatoes about an inch thick over the top and slip under a grill until the potatoes are just slightly crisp and golden.

There are many variants, but that's basically it. You can braise the meat in red wine, or you can top the potatoes with a little cheese (too rich for me). Bad versions often rely on extra-cheap caterer's mince, or in the worst cases reconstituted mash. Bleeeuch.

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i agree, shepherds pie can be pretty bad. However made with care at home it is one of my absolute all time best suppers. After much experimenting I now use the recipe in "the prawn cocktail years " by simon hopkinson and lindsey bareham. which is a classic for anyone who likes british cooking.

for the meat use

750 gr of minced lamb, onion, celery, carrots

brown in a heavey dish

add salt and pepper,

sprinkle over a tablespoon of flour

add tomato ketchup, and mushroom ketchup,stir add 150 ml water and cook gently for 45 mins

put into a baking dish and top with dryish, fluffy mashed potatos.

bake at 360/180 degrees, gas 4 for 30 mins until the potatos are golden and crusted.

i always have peas and HPsauce with this.

:biggrin:

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Sure, I know all about shepherd's pie. I was asking about Sheppard's pie. Developed by Barney Sheppard, who used to work at the post office.

But are you all saying that there's no vinegar in shepherd's pie? Then why is it always so vinegary? Bad wine?

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I've never had it in the UK and never eaten with shepherds, but I've never had anything resembling sheherd's pie that was vinegary. I wouldn't use vinegar. I might use wine, and too much cheap wine can, I suppose, also make it a bit acidic--especially too much acidic white wine. I tend to believe chopped or minced carrots, onions and celery add a lot of flavor complexity and enjoy chopped mushrooms as well. I spring of thyme and a small bay leaf in the pot while the meat is braising add flavor as well. We also use leftover roasts that are minced and mixed with minced vegetables and mushrooms and sauce from the roast. On the other hand, we had a fine boudin parmentier that was little more than blood sausage out of its skin covered with mashed potatoes and baked or put under the salamander until a bit brown on top.

Robert Buxbaum

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That last bit made me hungry, Bux.

Ketchup in shepherd's pie? Pfui.

On the vinegary version, it's conceivable that someone stirred some HP-type sauce into the meat itself, thus making it vinegary. I have also known extremely bad restaurants try to freshen up stale meat by chucking some vinegar on. Certainly shouldn't be vinegary.

Eat with peas, of course. Of course. Putting other veggies in the meat may deliver a dish more to your individual liking, but the more you do so (mushrooms, for example), the more I hesitate to call it shepherd's pie. Cottage pie, maybe.

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there's a version I make that's similar to phillaurie, but I use ground lamb instead of minced. I also add ketchup and a tablespoon of A-1 sauce to the meat. I pan-fry the lamb first in a large skillet, drain the fat off, and saute the aromatics separately. Sometimes I'll add peas to the mix, but its usually celery, carrots, onions (or pearl onions).

The topping is usually whipped or mashed sweet potatoes, dotted with butter and nutmeg.

SA

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So there is nothing to the idea that shepherd's pie is made with lamb and cottage pie with beef?  Color me disillusioned, as Tommy would say.

No. Oh, there may be in the minds of some writers, but in practice, in English kitchens, no. I should think shepherd's pie is far more frequently made with beef than with lamb, for a very good reason. Ready-minced beef is easier to buy.

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Well, I think the distinction between cottage (beef) and shepherd's (lamb) survives in English kitchens and I still live here...

But then the best so-called Shepherd's Pie I've made (or eaten) is Fay Maschler's version, which she calls one with Greek influences. Grated carrots, celery and onion are sauted with a little garlic before the lamb is added and browned. Then a whizzed tin of tomatoes is added, some ground cinnamon, dried oregano and fresh mint. The mixture is simmered for a long time. Covered with mashed potatoes and grated cheese and browned in the oven. Yes, this is rich and it is inauthentic but it is also very delicious.

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Paul Prudhomme's Cajun sheperd's pie is pretty good (from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen). It calls for beef and pork, garlic, onions, celery, and bell pepper in the meatloaf and a layer of sauteed onion, carrots, zucchini and yellow squash between the meat and potato layers.

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So there is nothing to the idea that shepherd's pie is made with lamb and cottage pie with beef?  Color me disillusioned, as Tommy would say.

Those are the traditional definitions, but it's in flux just as carpaccio, napoleon, confit, et al. are. In current restaurant usage it's a style not a specific list of ingredients.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Paul Prudhomme's version is delish, however, the amount of pepper to probably too much for the average person (it is for me). I always add green beans to the meat mix in mine. Family likes beans better than peas. Most pies I've eaten have had some sort of green veg mixed in with the meat. Always cheese on top.

Stop Family Violence

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Yes my folk memory is of it made from left over roast beef or lamb.

The meat is minced, definitely onions and carrots and probably any gravy eftover. Then covered in mash. And baked for, oh, centuries.

In fact I had a rather attractive set of 70's recipe cards which featured a wide variety of interpretations of old roast meat.

Shepherd's pie.

Moussaka - a clever alternative to shepherd's pie (same underlying recipe but a courgette cut up and some tomato puree in with the mince, yum).

Lasagne - another clever alternative to shepherd's pie.

(same underlying recipe! but with a white sauce for the meat and cheese in the mash topping).

Wilma squawks no more

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  • 2 years later...

A friend in South Devon writes:

Cottage pie definitely has mashed potatoes and to the best of my knowledge, so does Shepherd's pie but as I dislike lamb cooked that way, I never make it. I've never heard of either having a pastry topping. And, just to confuse everyone, a lot of people call this recipe cooked with beef "Shepherd's Pie" while others call the same thing "Cottage Pie". In our family, it's always Shepherd's Pie and made with minced beef, chopped and gently sauteé-d onions and carrots, a dash of tomato ketchup, salt and black pepper, a teaspoon of Bovril and perhaps just a little tiny bit of a thick gravy. Everyone has to fiddle about to get just what tastes best to them. Cook the carrots and onions first, brown the mincemeat (ground beef) add the flavourings and just let it cook gently. Cover with mashed potatoes and pop under a hot grill to brown the potatoes. When my children were younger and still at boarding school, this was *always* the 'first night home, last night at home' dish. Even now, when they come to visit, they want and get "one of Mum's Shepherd's Pies" on the first evening.
I seek a definitive answer from UK eGulleteers. Here in Philadelphia, Shepherd's Pie can be either beef or lamb, but since most people in these parts aren't fond of lamb, it's usually beef.

So, I ask, what's the difference between Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie?

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Ah but my mum always made her 'shepherd's pie' with beef and I'd never heard of cottage pie until I went to university.

I do agree that it is logical that shepherd's pie is made with lamb though. I believe that they would have been made with minced cooked meat originally, too - a way of eating up the Sunday joint.

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Postcode is right. Shepard's pie is lamb, cottage pie is beef.

Further difference is that shepard's pie has mashed potato on top, molded with a fork to look like thatch, while shepards pie has slices of potato like tiles. That way you know if its beef or lamb inside.

You can always call it Hachis Parmentier

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