While Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with lamb, beef is just as tasty in this recipe. This is the sort of food that brings a smile to everyone’s face – that saucy, deeply flavourful filling, that creamy potato topping, and that awesome golden cheese crust!
When I shared my Cottage Pie on Facebook, there was almost an all out cyber-war about whether it was in fact Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie. 😂
So let me just answer the burning question first, to get that out of the way:
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COTTAGE PIE AND SHEPHERD’S PIE?
Cottage Pie is made with beef and Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb.
Shepherds herd sheep. Not cows. That’s how I remember it!!
Other than beef vs lamb, they are essentially exactly the same recipe.
So a Shepherd’s Pie made with beef is Cottage Pie, and Cottage Pie made with lamb is Shepherd’s Pie!
If you’re new to Shepherd’s Pie, let me be the first to welcome you to your new favourite comfort food. Essentially, it’s lamb and veggies smothered in a gravy – and who doesn’t love an excuse for tons and tons of gravy? All those times you were limited to just a small drizzle on a few slices of roast lamb because there wasn’t enough to go around… Bah! This is how you get your gravy fix!!
There are a few stages to making Shepherd’s Pie, but it’s a straightforward recipe. There’s just two little things that you don’t see in most recipes, little things that bugged me:
- Cool the filling before topping with potato: It thickens and makes it easier to spread the potato across the top and it stops the potato weeping into the filling;
- Creamier mashed potato= easier to spread and just an all round better eating experience. I just don’t like dry, very firm mash. When I break through the mash, I want it to be borderline collapsing, rather than being able to cut cleanly through it like cake.
I stress again – these are little things that bug me, so feel free to by-pass them! – Nagi x
PS Yes, that crust is as crazy golden in real life as it looks in the photos. I even had to dial back the colour when I was editing the photos!
PPS One last time – Cottage Pie is made with beef. Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb! 😂 (Shepherd’s herd SHEEP!)
Shepherd’s Pie is one of those foods that brings a smile to everyone’s face – especially when you get seconds! Switch the lamb with beef, and you have Cottage Pie. Terrific make ahead! Recipe video below.
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 1 carrot , finely chopped
- 1 rib celery , finely chopped
- 3/4 tsp each dried thyme and rosemary (or 2 sprigs fresh thyme + 1 sprig rosemary)
- 750 g / 1.5 lb ground lamb (mince)
- ¼ cup / 35g flour
- ¼ cup / 55g tomato paste
- 2 cups / 500 ml beef stock / broth
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml red wine (or water)
- 1 beef bouillon cube , crumbled
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1.2 kg / 2.2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes
- 2/3 cup / 165 ml milk (whole or low fat)
- 2 tbsp / 30g butter
- 2 – 3 tbsp grated parmesan , optional
- 2 tbsp / 30g butter , melted
- Fresh thyme leaves, optional garnish
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add carrots, celery, thyme and rosemary. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened and sweet.
Turn heat up to high. Add lamb and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.
Add flour and mix in. Add tomato paste, broth, red wine, bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir well.
Bring to simmer, then turn down heat so it is simmering rapidly - I have it on medium. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces down to a thick gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video).
Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Transfer Filling to 1.5 litre / quart pie baking dish. Stir through peas. Cover, then refrigerate to cool for 1 - 2 hours or overnight (optional, Note 2)
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off stove. Allow to steam dry for 30 seconds or so (Note 3).
Add butter and mash until melted, then add milk, salt and pepper. Mash until it's soft and smooth (ie spreadable, but not sloppy), adjusting with a touch more milk if required.
Spread mash onto pie, use a fork to draw squiggles over the surface. Sprinkle with parmesan, drizzle with butter.
Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until deep golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh thyme leaves if desired.
* Carrots and celery are used to make a truly great mirepoix / soffrritto flavour base for this pie. However, they can be omitted, but add 1 tsp of sugar instead.
1. Whatever the thickness of the sauce when you pour it into the dish, that's what it will be once baked - no steam escapes while baking to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until it's the consistency you want - you don't want it too runny otherwise it's like lamb soup!
2. Cooling the filling ensures that the potato doesn't weep into the filling and makes it much easier to spread. If you are in a rush - as I often am - pop it in the freezer while you make the potato. That works pretty well.
3. Watery potatoes drops excess liquid into the filling which makes the sauce watery and can make the potatoes weep into the filling. So don't skip the step of steam drying the potatoes! Also, make sure the mash is hot when spreading onto the pie. Cold mash is hard and impossible to spread.
4. Variations: If I'm making this for company or am on a calorie-blow-out mission, I add a big handful of cheese into the potato (cheddar, tasty, gruyere, Monterey Jack). It doesn't need it, it's a bonus. 🙂
For the filling, sometimes I reduce the amount of lamb and add chopped veggies like zucchini and spinach (frozen thawed or fresh).
5. Make ahead instructions: Fabulous for making ahead. Assemble pie but don't bake it. Once cool, then either refrigerate or freeze. Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe.
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 6 servings.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
The petting zoo is now officially open for business! The star attraction is back to his usual cheerful self and seeking confined-space-entertainment.
Now for the fun part – rehab. He is being such a sook about it. 🙄
* For those playing catch up, Dozer completely destroyed his ACL (rear knee), underwent surgery and is 2 weeks into a 3 to 4 month recovery period. Challenging for this highly active dog!