Shepherd’s pie has always been a family favorite recipe, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. During the long frosty winters, hearty comfort food is always on heavy rotation in our home. This filling dish of seasoned meat and root vegetables topped with creamy mashed potatoes is always a crowd pleaser.
A few nights ago while serving my trusty shepherd’s pie, my daughter asked me why it was called “shepherd’s pie.” I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I wasn’t entirely sure. Then, I made a lighthearted guess and said, “Perhaps a shepherd created the recipe after a long day of shepherding.”
My children were not appeased by my “ridiculous” answer, so this led them to start asking many more questions.
Why is a shepherd called a shepherd?
If he herds sheep, shouldn’t he be called a “sheepard?”
If our shepherd’s pie was made with beef instead of sheep, shouldn’t it be called Rancher’s Pie since ranchers round up cows?
Their questions were endless.
Even though I was quite impressed by their reasoning skills, I was really thrown by the lamb versus beef issue. In all my years of making this recipe, I have never once thought to question the name, composition or even the origin of shepherd’s pie.
Not wanting to fill their heads with wrong information, I suggested we search online after dinner to see if we could find the answers. What we found was both enlightening and educational. Apparently, what I had always called Shepherd’s Pie was really Cottage Pie. The kids and I found out that a shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb, whereas a cottage pie is made with beef!
If it hadn’t been for my children’s curiosity, we never would have learned this interesting bit of food education. Conversations like these always have a way of making me reflect on the importance of eating together as a family. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Cottage Pie with Stout
Modified over the years from this recipe here.
Ingredients for the meat filling:
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup sweet onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (93% lean)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beef broth
- ½ cup stout beer
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Ingredients for the potatoes:
- 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
- 1/4 cup half-and-half
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a stock pot with water. Bring to a boil, then add potatoes. Boil for 13-15 minutes, uncovered, until potatoes are soft.
- While potatoes are boiling, heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots. Stir often and cook until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and stir for another minute.
- Add ground beef, salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste to the pan. Break up the beef into small pieces and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat the meat.
- Pour in beef broth and beer. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow sauce to thicken for about 10 minutes. Stir in peas and corn, set aside.
- While sauce is thickening, drain potatoes. Place them in a large mixing bowl with half-and-half, butter, salt, and pepper. Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Set aside.
- Pour the meat filling in a medium-size baking dish (approximately 11 by 7-inch). Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, then serve.