Cookbook:Shepherd's Pie I

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Shepherd's Pie I
CategoryLamb recipes

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Cottage pie (beef), or shepherd's pie (lamb), is an Irish meat pie with a mashed potato top. It is traditionally made with leftover roast meat, but today it is more often made with fresh minced meat.




  1. Heat oil in a pan and brown the lamb mince. Where lean meat is used, there may be no need to use additional oil.
  2. Finely chop the onion and lightly fry in a little butter with a small amount of salt until clear.
  3. Add the onions to the mince, mixed herbs, and some pepper.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stir, and cook for 3–4 minutes (if using gravy powder, omit this step).
  5. Cover with lamb or beef stock (or add water and beef bouillon/gravy powder) and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Test the savoury mince for seasoning. If gravy is not used, additional salt may be needed.
  7. Meanwhile:
    1. Peel, chop and boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until cooked.
    2. Once the meat is cooked, skim off the excess fat, then reduce the savoury mince until the liquid is level with the mince and onions.
    3. Drain the potatoes until completely dry. Mash until smooth and free of any lumps.
    4. Add butter to the mashed potato, taste and add seasoning as required.
    5. Slowly add milk whilst mashing until the mash is soft and creamy (heavy mash will not float properly on top of the mince).
  8. Put mince mixture in a shallow oven-proof dish.
  9. Layer the mash over the meat and brush the tops of the potatoes with melted butter.
  10. If desired, sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the mash.
  11. If cooking without cheese, rough up the surface of the mash by dragging a fork across it, as if ploughing a field.
  12. Bake in a hot oven for about 30–50 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  13. Serve with peas or beans, or other green vegetables.

Notes, tips, and variations

  • The etymology of the name Shepherd's Pie is related to the shepherding of lambs, whereas Cottage Pie was used to describe the dish made with beef—a cheaper meat that was eaten by the poor who lived in cottages. The terms are often used interchangeably, regardless of meat, though most cookbooks will refer to "shepherd's pie" if made with lamb, and "cottage pie" if made with beef, or highlight the possible variations within a single recipe.
  • Adding the butter and milk to the potatoes before they are properly mashed is the best way to make lumpy mash.
  • Roughing up the surface of the mash makes the top crispier, by increasing the surface area and providing thin sections which dry out and crisp faster; compare roast potatoes.
  • Frying the meat in lard can improve the texture and consistency of the finished product, although this also has the effect of increasing drastically the saturated fat content.
  • As with many dishes based on minced meat, the mince can be cooked for much longer in the stock than specified, up to two hours. Some cooks prefer this as it gives longer for the flavour to develop. People often comment that shepherd's pie tastes better when reheated the day after for this reason! A quicker alternative is to add a splash of Cookbook:Worcestershire Sauce or Cookbook:Soy Sauce, both of which act as flavour enhancers.
  • For cottage pie, peas or small chopped carrots are often integrated into the mince during the reduction step.

See also