So you may ask, "just what is the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie?"
In truth, not much except historically speaking, cottage pie would contain beef as its filling, whereas shepherd's pie would contain lamb.
Essentially, both are a savory pie that contain some sort of minced meat within, topped with mashed potatoes. It is a popular and traditional dish of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The term "shepherd's pie" first appeared in 1877, and it specifically alluded to the use of mutton, or lamb, as the pie's primary meat ingredient (hence the name shepherd).
Over the course of time, the name "Shepherd's Pie" has become synonymous with "Cottage Pie" regardless of whether the principal meat used in its preparation is beef or mutton. For the sake of historical accuracy and tradition, I'll refer my version of the dish, that listed below which utilizes beef, as cottage pie.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/4 pounds ground beef
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
For Mashed Potato topping:
2 lbs potatoes, peel and cubed
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots and garlic.
3. When the onions begin to sweat, add the beef and crumble with wooden spatula. Cook until browned, approx 8 -10 minutes.
4. Once beef is browned, drain the fat from pan then add: beef stock, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add 2 tbsp butter and sprinkle with flour. Add peas and stir to mix thoroughly.
6. I like to give the whole mixture another minute or two on simmer to get the peas heating and the flavors intermingling (see photo below).
8. While the filling is resting, bring the cubed potatoes to a boil and cook until tender, 15 minutes or so.
9. Drain potatoes and mash with butter, milk and salt. You want a creamy, yet firm, consistency so adjust milk (more?) accordingly.
10. You can use a cake or frosting spatula, or as I prefer, a heat-resistant rubber spatula to spread the mashed potatoes over the meat filling.
On this step, you can be as decorative or as rustic as you like. You can crosshatch with a fork, give a twist of the wrist with a spatula, or even use a frosting dispenser for more complex decorative designs.
Me? I'm going for the more traditional rustic appearance as shown in the photo at the lower right, and just smoothing it over the top with little peaks that will crisp up.
11. Bake 35-40 minutes until potato crust is golden (as depicted below).
12. And the final step, cut a slice and enjoy a taste of auld Ireland!
7. After a minute or two on simmer, transfer the filling to a 9" deep-dish pie pan or a 2 qt. casserole dish, and gently tamp down (as shown below).