Shepherd’s Pie

Mar 25th, 2008 | By | Category: Baking, English, Main, Meat, Vegetables


I’ve been emotionally scarred. My father worked all his adult life in the restaurant biz. My father also rarely dines out.

My dad has witnessed many kitchen nightmares and on occasion, he’d share his experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat out but I know a few things to look for in a clean restaurant and some foods one should avoid.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one but if you’re dining at a new place, have a quick look into the bathroom and see what the condition is like. The bathroom and kitchen are cleaned by the same staff. You do the math about how the state of the kitchen will be where you’re about to eat.

Shepherd’s Pie. My father told me to never order it if it was the “special” on a Monday. You see, the leftovers would get ground-up and used to make a Shepherd’s Pie special, usually on a Monday.

If you see it on special on an other day, chances are you’re getting a decent meal but then again…did you check the bathroom?

Here’s my take on Shepherd’s Pie. This time I was under close scrutiny from restaurant Nick (my dad) and in his senior years, he’s become quite fussy. Without a doubt, restaurant Nick has to be my toughest customer but he grudgingly approved of the meal.

Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with ground lamb but I’ve grown up eating it with ground beef. This dish is also known as Cottage Pie and after reading numerous recipes on both sides of the recipe ledger, I can only conclude that the same dish is called Cottage Pie in the UK and Shepherd’s Pie, ‘oer here in the Colonies.

Shepherd’s Pie is a layered, all-in-one meal. You get meat, veggies and starch (potato) – all in one serving. I found the dish quite easy to make, with the toughest part being the piping of the mash potato with the icing bag.

You can surely use a spatula but I find that this action can make your pie layers uneven. My only last note is to use at least 6 medium to large potatoes. The last thing you want is to find out you’re piping out the topping and you’ve run of of mashed potato.

Beyond that, grab some ground beef, thaw some frozen veggies and boil some potatoes…it’s Shepherd’s Pie tonight!

Shepherd’s Pie

Potato Topping
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup half/half cream
1 Tbsp. butter

pinch of nutmeg
sweet paprika for topping

Vegetable Filling
2 1/2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)

Meat filling
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1kg. lean ground beef

1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely diced

1 stalk of celery, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

2 tsp. dry thyme
1 heaping Tbsp. of flour
1 cup of beef stock

1/2 cup mushroom stock (from a bouillon cube)

1 Tbsp. of Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

14″ X 12″ baking dish

  1. Get a pot of water boiling. Add salt to the water when it boils and add your potatoes. Cool until done. Make them into mashed potatoes, keep warm and reserve.
  2. Get a large skillet on medium heat and add your oil, onions, celery, carrots and bay leaves, some salt and saute for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add your garlic and ground beef and turn the heat to high and brown your meat while stirring. When your meat has browned, add your thyme, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and stir for a couple of minutes.
  4. Now add your flour and stir it in to incorporate. Add your beef and mushroom stock and allow the beef mixture to simmer on medium heat until you get a thick, almost gravy-like sauce. Take off the heat, remove bay leaves and reserve.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  6. Assemble your Shepherd’s Pie by spreading out the meat mixture on the bottom, then layout your mixed vegetables in the middle and finally using a piping bag, top your Shepherd’s Pie with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the top with sweet paprika, which will give your topping a beautiful brown colour.
  7. Place in the oven on the middle-top rack and bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Let your pie rest for 20 minutes before serving.

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© 2008, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved.

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42 Comments to “Shepherd’s Pie”

  1. We Are Never Full says:

    Phew… I didn’t have to smack ya upside the head for calling this Shepherds pie. Ok, you did, but you did back it up by saying that it really should be made w/ lamb. My British husband goes bananas with Americans (and you, you Canadian!) calling the beef version shepherd’s pie. Until I met him I was guilty of the same thing – must’ve been immigration.

    Anywho’s, the rule of thumb is to ask yourself, what does a shepherd herd? SHEEP. Sheep = Lamb, Minced Lamb – Shepherds Pie.

    Don’t ask me where the cottage pie term came from!

    This does look delish. And my brit husband approves. We just made one the other night – now bring on summer so i can stop making these winter meals!

    amy @ http://www.weareneverfull.com

  2. Peter G says:

    Wonderful pie Pete! Looks delicious as usual. Just in regards to the pie name debate, my understanding was that cottage pie was the vegetarian version of shepherd’s pie..but who knows?

  3. Emiline says:

    You have great piping skills, my friend.
    That pie looks great.
    I’ve never had shepherd’s pie before.

    I guess we should all not eat out on Monday nights.
    We have French dip as our special, which is Saturday’s left over prime rib. Sometimes it’s Tuesday’s special, too. ;)

  4. Proud Italian Cook says:

    I love how you took the time to pipe the potatoes! I’m impressed!

  5. Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) says:

    Here in SA we call it “Herderspastei” which is Afrikaans for “shepherds pie”, but the English speaking people call it a “cottage pie”. That’s confusion for you, nevertheless it is great comfort food and I agree: Make the potato topping thick enough…

    ps. I think there are many horror stories to be told about restaurant food.

  6. Pixie says:

    Thanks for the tip on the bathroom when choosing a good restaurant. lol

    I’ve always known it as a shepherd’s pie here but think they refer it to both at times. Anyhow, your pie looks good and am glad the ‘boss’ approved.

  7. David Hall says:

    Peter, you are a man after my own heart, shepherd’s pie is one of my favourites! A true British classic, so lovely to see somebody over the waters getting passionate about it. Fairly strict over here mind – Shepherds Pie is definately lamb, Cottage Pie definately beef. Not worth having a war over though. Scrap the piping, life is too short, a spread and a fluff up with a fork does.

    All the best
    David

  8. Laurie Constantino says:

    The only time I ever had this was when I lived with a family in London while going to school. Yours sounds so much better than theirs, which put me off Shepherd’s Pie for the rest of my life. Maybe I should reconsider.

  9. sher says:

    That’s my idea of the perfect comfort food! Lovely post Peter. :)

  10. Cris says:

    I love this type of pie! I always make it for my kids and they call it “hidden pie” as the meat and vegetables are hidden under the mashed potatoes. Thanks for the hints on restaurants.

  11. Bellini Valli says:

    I grew up with a vegetarian father Peter who now in his 80’s is as fussy an eater as a 5 year old. He says he lost 10 lbs when he was visiting me last:D where most people say they gained…oh well…I love your version of what I call shepherd’s pie…real comfort food:D

  12. Peter M says:

    Amy, would I make a dish so blindly? Ole Toronto used to be very WASP and Shepherd’s Pie was a standard at eateries. I just cooked up the version I was most familiar with. Be it lamb or beef, you’d be surprised how often people screw this one up.

    Pete, I don’t care much either about the name…my emphasis is mainly on taste.

    Emi, Oh stop it. All I did was a vertical squiggle and it was my 1st time. See Emi, there’s some wisdome in what I said about Monday’s specials…leftovers!

    Marie, it wasn’t that hard and I didn’t want to ruin my layers with a spatula.

    David, I’ll try the spatula and spoon and I forgot about making a gravy for this too.

    Laurie, I hear you. I have one of the worst Prime Rib’s at a family’s home in London. Give Shepherd’s Pie another shot.

    Sher, it’s comforting and doesn’t require a knife.

    Cris, you’re right…dishes like these are a great way to get children to eat their veggies.

  13. Judy @ No Fear Entertaining says:

    My Mom was born in England and we grew up eating the Cottage Pie version! She still makes it for herself on occasion!

  14. Ben says:

    That’s the problem with us, people who have been part of the restaurant biz, we are always scrutinizing and criticizing every single restaurant we go out for dinner. Hehe.

    That pie looks so good, I like the fact that is made with lamb and a ton of vegetables. Delicious.

  15. Sylvie says:

    Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favourite comfort foods. I never bother with a piping bag though, just spoon it on, spread it out and rough it up with a fork, so that you get crispy bits when it it goes in the oven. Yummo!

  16. ChichaJo says:

    My mom used to use any leftover to turn into cottage pie :) So I guess we had our own version of those “specials” at our house :)

    So glad to stumble on your blog (from White on Rice)…love Greek food and if you don’t mind I’ll be sniffing around for recipes here :)

  17. michelle @ TNS says:

    i love shepherds/cottage pie (i’m a yank, and i’m not wading into this language debate) but have never made it myself; i’m not sure why not, because i love the idea of piping mashing potatoes through a star tip.

  18. Fearless Kitchen says:

    The pie (shepherd’s or cottage) looks good. That’s some good advice on the restaurants too! I hadn’t much thought about it, but it makes sense.

  19. Georgia says:

    I love shepherd’s pie! My mom made it with beef growing up and I say why not? Shepherds could probably herd cows if they wanted. Anyway, thanks for the recipe, I’ve been looking for a good one :)

  20. JennDZ - The Leftover Queen says:

    This is good stuff and a very very good use of leftovers! I approve! ;)

  21. Sam Sotiropoulos says:

    Peter, a very appetizing Shepherd’s pie! Piping the potato, sheesh! Somebody has a bit of time on their hands, huh?! Excellent job!!!

    I am glad you pointed out the restaurant leftover Monday special AND the bathrooms… For those of us who have worked in/run eating establishments, these are fundamental considerations.

  22. Loulou says:

    Mmmmm….one of my favorite dishes! I prefer it with ground lamb, but the beef version can be equally delicious if spiced up a bit.
    This looks like a great recipe!

  23. glamah16 says:

    I can tell you stories about the places I have worked in restaurants and catering. Maybe thats why Im a homebody when it comes to food. This is a classic favorite.

  24. Peter M says:

    Judy, either name…when made right it’s very comforting.

    Ben, I’ve heard many restaurant nightmares and I guess what I don’t know won’t hurt me.

    Sylvie, I made it on a Sunday…I was in a piping mood.

    Chicajo, welcome and sniff around…lots of good food to sample.

    Michelle, it’s really not a hard to dish to put out, give it a go.

    Fearless, just have some common sense about dining and remember there’s a lot of places to choose from.

    Georgia, my pleasure…you’ll enjoy it muchly!

    Jenn, the Queen approves? lol

    Sam, despite being Greek, our family’s enjoyed this Brit classic for years.

    Loulou, your mince choice is your perogative and I did mention both types meats appear in recipes.

    Glam, you can tell me but not here…I don’t have any virtual barf bags! lol

  25. Ivy says:

    During Christmas I made something similar with leftover turkey and it was really good. What do I call it then? However, I must try a real cottage pie, so I shall try the beef version

  26. Mike of Mike's Table says:

    Very nicely presented! I never knew that this calls for lamb–I always thought it was a beef dish. *shrugs* Fine by me either way–it sounds like just my growling stomach wants right about now! Looks delicious

  27. giz says:

    You start by saying you’ve been emotionally scarred – my first thought was “who hasn’t”.. then we move to the bathroom inspection detail – now I’m emotionally scarred or more scarred as the case likely is.

    Seriously – love the Sheppard’s Pie – piping the potatoes .. huh??? you actually did that? I think I have to marry you.

  28. Kevin says:

    I can’t believe that I have not tried making a Shepherd’s Pie yet! Yours looks really good, especially the golden brown potatoes on the top.

  29. Chef Erik says:

    Love the color on the potatoes :)

  30. Nick says:

    This looks outstanding. I’m going to make this but use sweet potatoes instead! I love shepherd’s pie but I’ve never made it before, time to do it. Thanks for sharing!

    - The Peanut Butter Boy

  31. Heather says:

    But but but you made shepherd’s pie? It is my favorite of the pies, it is.

  32. Peter M says:

    Ivy, I think it was turkey pot pie?

    Mike, I too grew up with the beef version, so that’s what I’m stickin’ with.

    Giz, add into the fold the guilt-trip I’ve endured from a overbearing Greek mom…now that calls for an OY-vey!

    Kevin, it’s easy-peasy.

    Erik, that’s the sprinkle of paprika.

    Nick, you sure can use sweet potatoes here and welcome!

    H-h-h-h-Heather, yes I did…th-th-th-th-th-that’s all folks!

  33. kittie says:

    Hmmm… haven’t made either shepherds pie or cottage pie for waaaay too long!

    Cottage pie is always beef to me, shep(sheep!?)herds pie in lamb…

    When making the beef version, I always add a good dollop of English mustard and a handful of grated mature cheddar cheese to the mash, then sprinkle another handful of cheese over the top… comfort food at its absolute best!!

  34. Pam says:

    Looks wonderful! I have always wanted to try to make it!

  35. Annemarie says:

    I do love a good shepherd’s pie. And cottage pie. As some have already pointed out, the shepherd’s version contains lamb (cause they herd the sheep) and some carrots and things, whereas cottage is beef-based (I guess because dairy/beef farmers live in a cottage). It’s good hearty warming stuff whatever you call it, though. Next stop: fisherman’s pie?

  36. Annemarie says:

    Heh – seems everyone wants to be making pies…
    http://www.mostlyeating.com/2008/03/a_spring_chicken_cottage_pie.html

  37. ruthEbabes says:

    I looooove cottage pie! i make it quite often. I’ve bookmarked your recipe to give it a go sometime soon. Can’t wait, it looks delicious!

  38. Cooking and the City says:

    I love shepherds pie/cottage pie. this looks delicious :-)

  39. Núria says:

    I worked for a Cardio-thorax Surgeon many years ago and he said that he would be reluctant to have surgery… he also had seen all kinds of things in the surgery room!!!!

    Same thing with restaurants, I’m also a good observer!

    Your Shepperds pie looks so easy to do and so apetitoso♥

  40. Vicarious Foodie says:

    I love shepherd’s pie, and yours looks delicious. I’m going to miss dishes like this as the weather gets warmer.

  41. Lulu says:

    Beautiful! And I especially enjoyed your personal mini-version of “Kitchen Confidential.” Got any more stories?

  42. Peter M says:

    Kittie, I saw the mustard addition in some recipes, I opted to omit it (executive decision).

    Pam, it’s quite easy ya know.

    Annmarie, yes! Fisherman’s Pie…I’ve bookmarked a few that your Brits have made.

    Ruth, this one’s a crowd pleaser.

    Nuria, what we don’t know can’t gurt us, right?

    Vicarious, I welcome the warm weather nad BBQ’s…goodbye oven.

    lulu, I’ll have to ask my dad for some more resto horrors and we’ll have a fireside story telling! lol

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