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Shepherd's Pie - a Typical British Dish

Updated on July 23, 2015

Shepherd's Pie Today

The modern recipe can contain a wide variety of ingredients. Recipes often passed down through generations are often a signature dish, with a personal twist, for example adding grated cheese to the top of the potato. Today, to be considered Shepherd's Pie the meat used would to be lamb or mutton, but some people also use hamburger or beef. it is considered by many a comfort food and is perfect for cold winter evenings, warm and filling. In fact as it contains a variety of vegetables and meat it is often not necessary to serve it with any other side dishes and is a meal in itself.

Origins of the Dish

Shepherd's Pie is a traditional British dish made with minced or ground meat, gravy and mashed potato. The exact origin of the dish is unclear, although many people consider it to be from the Scottish countryside, an area with a traditionally heavy population of sheep. The cooking of pies in general can be traced back to the middle ages and even before. Pies such as game, pot and mutton would be topped with pastry and cooked for several hours.

Shepherd's Pie however, was historically considered a poor persons meal, It would be a good way to use up leftovers, any meat and vegetables available being included. Its origins can be dated back to the 1520's when potatoes were first introduced to Europe by the Spanish, but it became more popular in the 1800's when mincing machines made shredding meat possible. Commonly lamb would be the meat of choice, but any leftover meat would do. Instead of a pastry crust, a potato crust would be used.

Common Ingredients Added to the Basic Pie Recipe
vegetable stock
bay leaves

Variations of Shepherd's Pie

Cottage Pie
often confused with shepards pie, cottage pie contains minced beef instead of lamb
Cumberland Pie
layer of toasted breadcrumbs instead of potato
Fish Pie
using fish instead of meat

How to Make Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie has been commercially made for many years and is often a staple on pub restaurant menus. However it is also easy to make at home and the recipe has evolved to suit individuals tastes. It can be found in any good cook book, often on the leftovers section. The following recipe can be found on the BBC GoodFood website.

500g lean lamb mince
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
500ml lamb stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
dash of Worcestershire sauce
150g frozen peas
800g potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
knob of butter
2 tbsp milk


Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until they are tender. Drain, and mash until smooth. Add the butter, milk and mustard and mash again until really fluffy.

While the potatoes are cooking, fry the mince, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is nearly all brown. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for a further 3 mins until soft.

Brown the Minced Meat


Browned the Meat


Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Then add the stock, puree and Worcestershire sauce and seasoning. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 mins until the sauce has thickened and reduced.


Stir the in the peas then spoon the mince into dish. Spoon the potatoes evenly over the surface then fluff it up with a fork. Bake for 25 mins or until the top is golden brown. Serve warm.

Grated Cheese Sprinkled on the Potato Crust


Shepherd's Pie Recipe by Marco Pierre White

Don't have Time To Cook From Scratch?

Commercially produced Shepherd's pies are sold in both refrigerated and frozen form and can be microwaved in a short time. There are also a variety of dry mixes available that can be used to make the gravy portion of the pie. The mix is combined with water,added to the meat and them topped in the usual way with potato. It is not necessary to measure out the ingredients exactly, exact quantities are not essential for this dish. The pie also freezes well so you could make double batches and save one for another day!

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  • Ruthbro profile image

    Ruthbro 3 years ago from USA

    I agree, a real comfort food!

  • profile image

    Lynnefry 3 years ago

    A nice warming meal for the winter when it's cold outside you can freeze it as well