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Shepards pie

My mum used to cook shepards pie for us as kids and I dont think Ive had it since. Its been on my mind recently (that crispy mashed potato on top) and was hoping someone might help me out with a tried and true recipe. Thanks!

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  1. Can you describe your mother's recipe a bit? There are so many variations of this dish, I've found. I use cubes of leftover cooked lamb; some cooks make it only with ground beef. Someone here will likely have a recipe close to what your mom used to make.

    1. If it's made with lamb, it's Shepherd's Pie...if it's made with beef, it's Cottage Pie. :) Here's a link to the recipe for Shepherd's Pie that's the best I've ever had:

      3 Replies
      1. re: wyf4lyf

        The link above is pretty much the way I recently made shepherd's pie w/ venison (!) -- after sauteeing the meat and removing to drain, I cooked onions (no carrots) in butter, added meat, and cooked the wine down, then added tomato paste and flour, then simmered in stock for 30 mins or so. Thyme, no rosemary (though would work w/ lamb I suppose)

        Taters w/ warmed cream & milk, and two egg yolks. I added a layer of thawed corn sandwiched between, which was recommended by a chowhound (thanks!) I had trepidations due to . . . bambi . . . but it was mighty tasty.

        Leftover stewed meat should also work fine, whatever the resulting name of the dish!

        1. re: wyf4lyf

          My Mum always makes shepard's pie with beef, and she was born in and lived in Nottingham until she was 27.

          Grandma made it with beef, Great Grandmum, Grand Auntie, Aunti Val, Great Aunt Rose....

          Nary a one mentioned cottages. I can see the whole sheep/shepard connection..but that's a new one on me!

          Mum always browned the freshly ground beef with onione and parsnips and carrots. Then she added a little beef broth or water, or someitmes beer. The put that in a cassarole (she had a great pyrex one Great Grandmum used a round crock thin, I'm told), and covered the top with mashed taties that had been boiled and mashed beforehand. She used a fork and ran it over the taties to make little ridges that got extra crispy. Then she baked the whole thing till golden.

        2. I like to make it as leftover braised lamb stew, with a potato topping, which I think is probably its original manifestation. This would be made from a braised, or pot-roasted, lamb shoulder, which is not often done in the US. It would incorporate diced cooked lamb, the cut-up vegetables from the braise (carrots, peas, perhaps turnips) and gravy, mixed to a loose hash consistency, then topped with freshly mashed potatoes and baked until nicely browned on top and hot through.

          The best of these I've made was the aftermath of trying a very old and only somewhat succesful (from the modern viewpoint) recipe for a simmered leg of lamb, called Gigot de Sept Heures. As I had suspected, the result was a very fine broth, some tender but not too flavorful meat, some okay vegetables and an unhappy wife. The shepherd's pie I made from it the following night took care of all of those things.

          1. Shepherd's Pie is my all time favourite comfort food. yum. Recently though I have been using lean minced beef (I know, that makes it Cottage Pie) and adding leeks and mushrooms to the recipe. Here in the UK my friends and I make it all the time, as you can really use what vegetables you have at home (of course the classic recipe is with carrots and peas) and its not expensive at all to make.

            1. I like to add a little grated cheddar to the potatoes before baking, that helps the top get crispier.

              1. I really love making shepard's pie in the winter, making a winey lamb stew for the base, a layer of semi-sauteed root vegetables in the middle, and mashed potatoes (rounded out with either garlic & parmesean or yogurt & scallion) on top.
                But, when I was a kid, my mom made "shepard's pie" a lot using ground beef on the 1st layer and (as a kid) I think I really preferred that to lamb. She'd sautee the beef with onion and I think sometimes there was a little bacon in there, too. Middle layer was carrots/onions/peas, top layer was very creamy mashed potatoes. The most important element was the bottle of worsteshire sauce on the table which allowed us kids to feel like we were seasoning our own portion to taste.

                1. Nigella Lawson has a great cottage pie recipe in "How to Eat."

                  1. my mom's "shepard's pie" (we never called it cottage pie) was always made when we had a lot of leftover mashed potatoes she would use ground beef with garlic and other seasoning (not sure exactly what she used) and cooked with onions for the bottom layer then a layer of mashed potatoes (with and egg mixed in to make them stand better) and topped with sharp cheddar, I like(d) to eat mine with ketchup.

                    What a great comfort food :)

                    1. I love making my "version" of shepards pie. I use ground beef and saute with 1 huge onion and several cloves of garlic. I add one - two cans of cream corn. I put in a pie crust and top with mashed potatoes (you can use your favorite version of potatoes such as roasted garlic, cheddar cheese, sour cream/chives). I make peaks on my taters so they crisp up. Bake in oven until taters are browned and golden.
                      Serve with salad and a great merlot! Wonderful comfort food on a cold snowy night!

                      1. i had a teensy bit of leftover belgian beef stew and a teensy bit of leftover mashed potatoes not too long ago so i made myself a little individual cottage pie and it was delicious.

                        a southern version of this meal would be tater tot casserole. ;)

                        (browned ground beef, onions and garlic, seasonings to taste, cream of mushroom soup, shredded cheddar, topped with tater tots and baked) i don't see how adding peas, carrots or even green beans would hurt ;)

                        quite tasty, btw.

                        1. Thanks for the suggestions everyone - my mum used to do the mince version so I may try the chunkier version for something different (and also b/c one of my pet cooking hates is browning mince - no quick way to do it properly), although I may revert to my childood version if its not hitting that nostaglia button effectively. Adding a bit of cheese to the potato for extra crispiness is a great tip. Sunday night dinner is organised.

                          1. This Gordon Ramsay recipe was on the Times' website, I made it this past weekend and it was fantastic.

                            2 tbsp olive oil
                            900g lean minced lamb
                            Freshly ground black pepper
                            450g onions, peeled and finely chopped
                            2 sprigs fresh thyme, picked and chopped
                            2 cloves garlic
                            25g butter
                            2 tbsp tomato purée
                            2 tbsp flour
                            200ml red wine
                            75ml Worcestershire sauce
                            1 litre chicken stock
                            1kg boiled floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper
                            50g butter
                            150ml milk
                            2 egg yolks
                            Freshly ground white pepper and salt

                            1 In a large frying pan, heat the oil until hot, add half the mince, season
                            with pepper and fry until well browned. With a slotted spoon, remove the
                            meat from the pan and place in a metal colander to allow the excess fat to
                            drain. Repeat with the second batch of mince and place in the colander.
                            2 Add the onion to the pan with the thyme and garlic and a knob of butter,
                            and cook until soft and translucent. Add the meat and tomato purée, then
                            sprinkle over the flour. Cook stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes to cook
                            the flour.
                            3 Add the red wine and Worcestershire sauce and cook until the liquid has
                            reduced to half the original volume. Add the chicken stock, bring back to
                            the boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes. The mixture should be thick and
                            glossy. Allow to cool, then check the seasoning.
                            4 Mash the potato until creamy and smooth or pass through a Mouli or
                            potato-ricer. Put into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Place the milk and butter
                            into a small pan and heat until the butter is melted and the milk is about
                            to boil. Pour over the potatoes and beat well, adding the egg yolks and
                            seasoning with salt and white pepper.
                            5 Put the mince into a large baking dish, then top with the creamed potato.
                            Use a fork to rough up the top.
                            6 Place in a preheated oven at 200C/Gas 6 for 30 minutes or until bubbling
                            and golden brown in colour

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: childofthestorm

                              that's the one i was going to recommend! i made it last weekend as well and it was full of flavor. great comfort food. my only suggestion would be to reduce the mixture in step 3 longer, or it comes out way too liquid-y. enjoy!

                            2. If you are making it with lamb one addition to the above that I've had success with is a few splashes of a dry sherry. It gives an unexpected but delicious flavor to the meat and veggies.

                              1. any good veggie versions? sounds delish!

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: lollya

                                  there's probably not a lot of vegetarian shepherds.

                                  1. re: amkirkland

                                    I dunno about that. If you have the sheep for wool or cheese purposes (vegetarian as opposed to vegan), I can see a lot of vegetarian sheep dudes and dudettes existing.

                                    If you try it with tofu crumbles or saitan, I would increase the onions and maybe add a litle salt, pepper, and garlic, as well as carrots, parsnips, peas, a little worchestire sauce and beer (dark might be nice..a porter of stout.), maybe some olive oil to add richness. Tofu lacks flavor of its own, so you have to add it with veggies and seasonings.

                                    It might be best to sautee the veggies and brown the tofu or saitan first, and combine them all. try to get as thick and rich a gravy as you can before bakig. A little starch of some sort in the "meat" mixture migh be needed.

                                    Pour the filling in your cassarole, and continue with the mashed taties as normal.

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      To get milk for cheese, the sheep have to get pregnant. So lots of extra lambs running around. And wool comes and goes, just like the animals.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        lots of extra lambs running around, thus...?

                                        1. re: amkirkland

                                          Sadly, too many to support so they must be slaughtered. Same with beef (bob veal) and also horses to get that estrogen medicine made from pregnant mare's urine.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            or sell to others to start flocks to make more cheese and get more wool. I know this happens.

                                            Of course, keep in mind that not all vegetarians, who are NOT the same as vegans, have gone vegetarian due to ethical reasons or sentiments.

                                            I am mostly vegetarian (beans and a little fish), but I wear wool and leather, eat cheese, drink milk, and cook red meat for my husband, now and again popping a little into my mouth.

                                            For me, it's a health thing. I can't stomach a lot of animal fats in huge doses.

                                            1. re: Diana

                                              I'm a near vegetarian for health/economic reasons, and am putting of reading "The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter," by Peter Singer for fear that I'll become a vegetarian on ethical standards.

                                  2. re: lollya

                                    I've made veggie versions a couple different ways: one, by making a combo of cooked beans (black & kidney) and lentils, sauteed with lots of onion, garlic & spices as my first layer; another version going with vegetarian "ground beef" or crumbled up boca burgers, sauteed with onions, garlic, chopped mushrooms & spices for first layer. In both cases, you may want to use some veggtarian broth and/or tomatoes to make sure they don't dry out in the cooking process. I imagine a thick daal would make a nice 1st layer as well.

                                  3. To me a good shephards pie (or cottage pie for that matter) has relativley few ingredients. Meat, Onion, (at a push some celery and carrot)and pea's are all you need in the base (with worchester sauce, asmall amount of tomato puree, maybe a dash of mustard and the essential ingredient for me) a generous splash of malt vinegar (and I mean generous).

                                    With respect to gordon (and I like the marjority of his stuff) I saw his recipe on his show, it looked like a pile of slop on a plate - this dish should hold up fairly solid, like cut with a knife solid.

                                    1. The recipe on cooksillustrated.com was yummers.