Shepherds pie & mashed potato recipe

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Also a special request to go with the grilled chicken, roast vegetables and new potatoes last Thursday as their key wedding guests arrived in the Cotswolds.

Minced lamb from Home Farm.

Edit 23/2/9

After so many requests - people outside the UK are not always used to this english classic, sadly - I am adding a recipe.


What is the history of shepherds pie?
Cottage pie or shepherds pie - which is which or are they the same thing?

Like bread and butter pudding, bubble and squeak, queen of puddings, even pancakes, cottage pie was originally a dish made from left overs when potatoes had become the staple food (potatoes in the UK is the staple equivalent to rice in the far east).
In days gone by on Sunday you dressed in your Sunday best, went to church in the morning and had your Sunday roast in the afternoon. On Monday you had the roast cold, Tuesday it was minced into rissoles or cottage pie, and Wednesday it was made into soup. Thursday was cabbage broth made from the bones and Friday was Fish Friday.
Life moves on however, and with today's more affluent eating habits, shepherds pie or cottage is most often made specially, so we use raw minced meat, rather than the left over cooked roast. And 'cottage' pie has come to mean a pie made from beef mince, and 'shepherds' pie that made from minced lamb, or mutton.
Also these days they are minced lamb or beef with potato, rather than potato with minced lamb or beef.

How long does mince for shepherds pie/ cottage pie/ bolognaise take to cook?

There's no shortcut to quality. Some people say they cook it in 20 minutes. It will be cooked through, but it won't be tender. Put it on low heat for a minimum 2 hours - or use a slow cooker (crockpot in the US) for 8 hours, and you get a much better texture.

How to make shepherds pie

Onion - one per 4 people
Carrot - one per 4 people
Garlic - one or two cloves per 4 people - depends how much you like garlic......
Minced lamb or beef - work on 150 - 200 grams per person. You can also make your own with lamb trimmings - see more info here. Alternatively you can use diced meat, or a combination as shown here:
Red wine
Lamb stock - if you get your lamb from the butcher or farmshop ask them for the bones to make stock with. Or use lamb bones from your Sunday roast.
Worcestershire sauce
Fresh rosemary - if you don't have any in your garden you probably know someone that does.
Grated cheese

Mashed potato

Potatoes - desiree, estima or king edwards are my favourites.
Cream or olive oil

Heat a little oil in a large pan and add your minced lamb or beef. Allow to brown on the bottom then stir around to break it up, allow to brown again. Keep stirring till it's broken up into individual grains. Then add onions, garlic and carrots. Stir in and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the rosemary, worcestershire, red wine and lamb stock till the meat is more than covered. Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for a good 2 hours, or 3 if you have time. As it cooks the liquid will reduce. If it gets too dry add more stock. Thicken with cornflour just before you're ready to finish - doing this at the end means it's not burning to bottom of the pan for 2 hours - so the pan's easier to clean.
This can be cooked the day before you want to eat it - in that case you can chill it overnight in the fridge, then next day the fat will have risen to the top and solidified and you can take it off the top.

Mashed potato recipe

Someone asked me for my best mashed potato recipe at new year. Up to that point I had never thought of adding one......

Potato - Boil potatoes for 20 - 25 minutes. The best way - for a richer taste - is in a combination of milk and water. Drain them into a colander and leave them in the colander over the empty pan to steam for 10 minutes or so. This will give you drier mash. Push potatoes through potato ricer, then season with salt & pepper. Add olive oil for the healthy option, or cream and melted butter for the luxurious version. Grain mustard is also nice. When you mix cooked potato the starch changes - mix too much and you end up with wallpaper paste texture (this is why you must never use the food proccessor to make mash potato). So add your additions - cream, butter, seasoning etc. and then mix as little as possible.
Why not try a combination of potato and parnsip or potato and celariac or use sweet potato instead. Also if you have homemade chicken stock you can reduce a bit of this till it's very thick and syruppy and add some of this to the potato - that is real seasoning.

Making the pie

Spoon mince into oven-to-table dish. Either pipe mash potato on top of the mince with a piping bag (if doing this it's easier when the mash is warm - if fridge cold it's very hard to work with) or spoon on and run a fork over the top to make a furrowed pattern. Sprinkle a little cheese on top.


If mince is cold - heat the pie in the oven for 30 - 45 minutes depending on size of dish. If mince and potato are both still hot just flash under the grill for 5 - 10 minutes to brown the top.


Can I make the mash potato the day before?

Absolutely! Home cooking is about making your day easier so you have more time to spend with your friends/ family rather than spending all the time in the kitchen.
So make the mash the day before. Let it cool and refrigerate overnight. To re-heat - put in large base pan - the larger the base of the pan the quicker it will heat up, which also reduces the chance of it sticking to the pan. Alternatively heat in microwave. Or put in a deep oven tray/ pyrex bowl and cover with foil/ a lid and re-heat in oven c. 25 - 30 mins.

Related posts:

Shepherds pie with diced lamb and colcannon topping
1001 Kitchen tips # 17 - make your own minced lamb
Lamb and apricot casserole
Irish stew
Beef and Cotswold Way ale pie


Unknown said...

thank you.

really I had the same question - which mashed potato is best for cottage pie. i will go the olive oil route.

great also to get the history. the weekly schedule based on sunday's roast meet is so right. we should try to get back to such a plan for economic and excellent food. :)

James said...

Should do... but I fear life has moved on....