This is what I'm fixing to make tonight. How about you?
Cottage pie or shepherd's pie is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato. The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791 when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor. (The term "cottage" means a modest dwelling for rural workers). In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind (it was a recipe to re-purpose leftovers), and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.
The term shepherd's pie appeared around 1877, and since then it has been used synonymously with "cottage pie", in America and Ireland regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or "mutton."
Our family's traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie recipe was born from many cold nights at our family cottage. Often in Ireland, you can find a mixed package.
o 1 tablespoon olive oil
o 1 teaspoon black pepper and or salt
o 1lb – 1 1/2lb ground beef
o 1 large onion, finely diced
o 3 -4 large carrots, finely diced
o 1 cup frozen peas (or if you’re in a rush just use frozen peas and carrots)
o thyme, finely chopped to taste if you have it.
o 2 tablespoons flour or corn starch
o 1 or 2 tablespoons butter
o 1 can tomato paste
o 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
o 1 cup beef stock
o mashed potatoes made with butter and milk (6 cups, fresh, or store-bought or leftover if you’re in a rush)
o paprika and grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400°.
Sauté carrots in olive oil until they get tender if using fresh. Then add the onions and sauté for a minute or two then add the chopped meat. Season with black pepper, salt (I prefer sea salt), and thyme. Cook it all up until browned then drain fat away.
Add the butter and frozen peas. Sprinkle on flour or corn starch and mix well. Then add tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. The mix is all very well. Then add the beef stock. (I also add a wee bit of stout but that’s our family secret…shh!)
Allow mixture to reduce down until you have a thick meaty gravy. Season to taste.
Remove mixture from the heat. Then grease up an oven-proof dish about 9x13 with butter and add the meat.
Spoon the mashed potatoes over top. You can get creative with your pattern. Add some butter and sprinkle with paprika and Parmesan cheese if using. Bake for about 30 minutes, really until the mashed potato is browned on top.
Serve with some crusty bread or traditional Irish Brown Bread to mop up that yummy sauce! You can purchase brown bread or a mix at your local Irish Shop.