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Aug 1, 2009 09:53 AM

shepherd's pie: to cheese or not to cheese?


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  1. whatever you like to eat, tatamagouche!

    i personally love cheese with non-traditional variations made with beef, but i'm not such a fan of cheese with lamb for whatever reason (conditioning? too much richness?). but honestly, it's completely up to your tastes. cook it how ya feel it.

    1. My recipe comes from my sister's Irish MIL, although it is cottage pie (using hamburger), and there is no cheese in the recipe. However, in my house, we cover it with shredded cheese - extra good to us!

      1. Being Irish/scottish I grew up on Sherperd's Pie (or Pate Chnois as we call it hee in Quebec) As a chef I've been involved in numerous dicussions on the dish. Lamb or beef. What veg to put in, etc.

        What I've come to realize over the decadesis that you should do what ever "floats your boat".


        3 Replies
        1. re: bigfellow

          Isn't sheppard's pie made with lamb while cottage pie with beef?

          1. re: Evilbanana11


            However that distinction is not always made in the UK and the terms used to be somewhat interchangeable depending on what part of the country you lived in.

            Cheese is quite common. Posh versions can have a cheese sauce on top that is added later and put under the broiler to brown. Same can be done with scalloped spuds on top of the mash.

            1. re: Paulustrious

              Yes it is. Cottage pie = beef. Sheperd's pie = lamb. Always.

              Cheese, on the other hand, is a matter of personal taste, but more usually found on cottage pie.

        2. I agree with those who say "do what YOU want or what YOU would like." Me, never...I use leftover roast lamb, herbs, whatever leftover au jus I have from the lamb and a little red wine...mashed potatoes, period. David Rosengarten did a show on this way back when on the Food Network and portrayed (or tried to portray) the history of this dish which was very rustic and austere...there was no corn, no peas, no cheese to add to it in those days and in that locale (Scotland) was just leftover roast with juices with potatoes...even his version of it was probably not very authentic. I know, I did not ask for authentic or say anything about it! But I'm Scottish by heritage too and I was charmed by that show!

          7 Replies
          1. re: Val

            I didn't mention it, but I was sort of curious about that very thing—I sort of assumed that cheese would be a later addition, and I wondered whether this was the sort of dish that would arouse great passions in purists...

            1. re: tatamagouche

              Love cheese. Don't use it on traditional shepherd's pie, but I don't make it that often, my mom kind of ruined it when I was growing up, and her recipe still sticks in my mind when I think of it.

              But, I DO add cheese to a Mexican version that I came up with - like a chili, usually made with ground turkey, but beef is fine, then add sprinkled cheddar on it before adding the mashed potatoes. Delicious, my dad requests it every time he visits, and my mom doesn't make it her way anymore!!

            2. re: Val

              'no corn'?
              Why would there EVER be corn?

              1. re: Peg

                Brits put corn in lots of things and it's not unusual to see corn in Cottage or Shepherd's pie though I wouldn't say it's traditional.

                Cheese on top is not traditional in the UK but you will see it. I prefer it without cheese, it's just too much fat and protein.

                1. re: smartie

                  what about english peas? that's how my (southern) elementary school made it.

                  i haven't made it in a while, but last time i made cottage pie, using ground beef, guiness, some tomato paste and worcestershire, minced onions and also adding the peas, it was pretty tasty, whatever the concoction ;-).

                  no cheese in my version.

                2. re: Peg

                  The only way I have ever had/made shepherd's pie is ground beef, corn, and mashed potatoes.

                  1. re: al b. darned

                    That was my mom's recipe in the early '70s.

              2. I have recently started to make Shepard's pie but I have to say it is so savory I never thought about adding cheese, I am going to try it tomorrow. I will report maybe a Stilton instead of cheddar