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Shepherds Pie or Cottage Pie?

Posted on March 31, 2010 by in lamb

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Shepherds Pie was first made  in England in the 1870’s and it differs somewhat from other pie recipes in that it has a base of ground meat with a layer of mashed potatoes on top. There is no pastry involved here. Shepherds pie is authentically made with ground or minced lamb.
The meat is cooked with a sauteed onion and some optional vegetables and while it cooks, the meat makes its own gravy which, with the mashed potatoes, make for a delicious treat. Soon after the English came up with this brilliant recipe, other countries adopted it and of course changed it.
The cottage pie was the first to follow and the only difference it has to the shepherds pie is that it is made with beef and not lamb. I think in countries like America they refer to it as shepherds pie regardless of what meat is used. Another variant of this pie of course is the fisherman’s Pie where minced fish is used.  Here in South Africa we even have a version called “Ouvrou onder die kombers” which means “old woman under the blanket.”It is a layer of minced meat baked with a batter on top. Most shepherds pie recipes keep it simple by adding just salt and pepper, but my own preference is dry coriander and cloves to give that extra meaty taste. Browsing the internet for shepherds pie recipes, I saw the addition of  cheese, beans even tins of tomato, but if you use a good organic lamb, little else is needed to make this a deliciously comforting meal. Other subtle differences in recipes are cooking methods such as broiling versus baking or browning the meat or not.  I grew up, having this dish at least once a week and in our house it was always served with sweet potato and green peas. Having the brown(meat), white(mashed potatoes), yellow(sweet potato) and green(peas) on the plate, made for a perfectly balanced meal in those days! Luckily today we know better so I serve this with a simple salad consisting of  crispy lettuce, cucumber and  tomatoes. Let’s cook!

Shepherds Pie


1 kg boneless shoulder of lamb
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp fine cloves
2 tsp whole dry coriander – dry-fried and pounded in the pestle and mortar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
1 stick celery finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
50 gr tomato paste
1 tbsp Worchestire sauce
250ml vegetable or lamb stock

For the mashed potatoes

1 kg potatoes – peeled and cut in chunks
200ml milk
2 egg yolks
a big knob of butter – about 2 tbsp


Ask your butcher to mince the lamb for you or trim off the excess  fat and process it in your food processor until it is minced roughly. Add the flour and seasonings and toss until evenly coated.

Heat a heavy based pot and add the olive oil. Add the minced meat and  stir until the meat has browned somewhat. Add all the other ingredients and cook the lamb for about 10 minutes or until the stock has reduced and the lamb has formed a thick gravy. Transfer the meat to an oven proof dish. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, boil them in salted water until cooked  and then drain well. Heat the milk in a separate little pot. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher and pour the heated the milk  over the potatoes. Add a knob of butter and the egg yolks and mix well until smooth and creamy. Spoon the potato mixture in a piping bag and make rosettes on the meat or just spoon it directly on the meat, making patterns with your fork.
Bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes until the potato topping has browned. Serve with your choice of vegetables or salad.

Other Pie recipes that you might like…

Beef with Potato Scone topping

Beef and vegetable Pies

Chicken Pie

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29 Responses to “Shepherds Pie or Cottage Pie?”

  1. Sam 31 March 2010 at 9:16 am #

    Lamb mince… now that's something I've never seen or tasted. I love lamb though so I'm sure it's delicious. Your pastytjie is al te vraai and pretty!

  2. Emily 31 March 2010 at 9:32 am #

    My goodness! Look at those perfectly piped potatoes! This looks amazing!

  3. Juno 31 March 2010 at 10:39 am #

    This is the most delicious-looking shepherd's pie I have ever laid my eyes upon, Nina. Can you please come and live in my house and make this for me every day? Stunning.

  4. Bellini Valli 31 March 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    This is comfort food at it's best Nina!!!!I just love a good shepherd's pie and we do make it out of whatever we have available.

  5. elra 31 March 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    I love them both actually wether it's shepherd's pie or cottage pie. Now is a good time to make shepherd's pie, it's spring here, so young lamb is everywhere.

  6. SavoringTime in the Kitchen 31 March 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    I can't believe I have never made a Shepherd's Pie in my life. Something I must fix! Yours looks beautiful and I love how you piped the potatoes over the top.

  7. That Girl 31 March 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    I think you're right about Americans calling anything with meat and potatoes a Shepherd's Pie – I definitely didn't know the difference and I'm married to an Irishman! Now this one will throw you for a loop – on St. Patrick's Day I made us "Shepherd's Pie" with sausage (turkey) – what would that be called?

  8. Peter M 1 April 2010 at 1:27 am #

    Shepherd's Pie, definitely with ground lamb. I can see you're tucking into heartier dishes day by day.

  9. Cynthia 1 April 2010 at 2:30 am #

    Look at that topping!

  10. redkathy 1 April 2010 at 3:30 am #

    A grand display you have shared here! Lamb is the classic recipe, all of the rest are "what's available" shepherd's pie! Lamb is quite expensive and I would imagine this adds to the variety of meat choices.

  11. Adele @ WillworkforBiltong 1 April 2010 at 4:56 am #

    Comforting indeed. Looks like a hug on a plate.

  12. Sook 1 April 2010 at 6:34 am #

    Oh the pie looks so delicious!

  13. Nina Timm 1 April 2010 at 9:31 am #

    sam – Pasteitjie being the operative word here!

    emily – I just wanted to show off a bit, he-he!!

    juno – we've had a conference and we've had demos, I think it is time we cook together and just have fun?

    val – Absolutely me too, I just wanted to make a point here to show the difference!

    elra – the beauty of this is that it can also me mutton really, you just need to cook for a while longer!

    savoring time in the kitchen – the pointy bits of the potato bake so nicely and it adds a lovely dimension to this simple dish!

    that girl – I should try that sometime although turkey is not that readily available here!

    peter – Yes, we have pushed the salads aside for a while!

    cynthia – thanx sweetie!

    red kathy – lamb is also expensive here, but like I've said, I wanted to prove a point here!

    adele – hugs to you!

    sook – thank for popping in!

  14. Rose&Thorn 1 April 2010 at 9:42 am #

    okay,Juno is going to have share you on alternative days, my boys will love this. As you say, it's time for the comfort food to come back to the Cape Town kitchen.
    Have a great weekend.

  15. Marisa 1 April 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Ek hou van die 'ouvrou onder die kombers' naam!

    Food styling perfect – really accentuates the comforting rustic-ness of Shepherd's Pie. I like the addition of coriander & cloves to the meat – I imagine the flavour would be divine!

  16. tigerfish 1 April 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I'm often confused by these two pies too. Thanks for reminding me of their difference.

  17. Kitchen Butterfly 2 April 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Looks lovely…I love the piped potatoes on top and the bit of greenery

  18. Pam 3 April 2010 at 12:27 am #

    Oh Nina, this looks like a wonderful and comforting dish. I love how you piped the potatoes on top, they look so pretty and delicious.

  19. myfrenchkitchen 3 April 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Sheperd pie, cottage pie, ouvrou onder die kombers, Nina's pie…yours can go under any name and it will still be delicious…it looks absolutely gorgeous with those beautiful "roses"! I haven't eaten this in many years…car to fedex me a slice/spoonful/
    Ronelle xx

  20. Lori Lynn 4 April 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    Looks fabulous! I'm sure it tasted great. Not so sure I like the name "old woman under the blanket" that is one unappetizing name! haha

    Wishing you and your family a very lovely Easter Nina! I'm sure you're cooking up a storm!

    P.S. Your photos are terrific, you have such a knack for the little details in the shot.

  21. Jan 4 April 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    What a lovely looking pie! I love the way you've done the potato on top!

  22. Juliana 5 April 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    Nina, love your intro for the Shepherd pie 🙂 And it sure looks delicious, love the way you decorated…nice meal and very soothing! Great pictures as well. By the way, thank you so much for your kind words 😉

  23. Barbara 6 April 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    I put diced carrots and spinach in mine, for extra moisture and extra veg. Also a bottle of beer to deglaze. Bellhaven works really well! Mine never looks as pretty as yours though as I just pile the mashed potatoes on for a, shall we say, rustic look.

  24. Kit 8 April 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    We always called it shepherd's pie whether it was beef or lamb, growing up in England too – though I knew it was supposed to be lamb for shepherds and beef for cottagers!

    I make it regularly for my kids, and it is an ideal hiding place for small chopped vegetables, so I include carrots and courgettes in mine as well. Mine has never been quite as beautiful as yours though!

  25. Kathleen 11 April 2010 at 12:38 am #

    I love shepards pie. Your recipe looks delicious and those potatoes look fabulous!

  26. Susan @ SGCC 12 April 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Just gorgeous! Shepherd's/Cottage Pie is a favorite in our house. Sometimes, when time is short, I'll cook up the meat mixture and scoop it over baked jacket potatoes. Totally delicious!

  27. Jeanne @ Cooksister! 23 April 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Oooh, that looks divine! Lamb mince can be a bit, well… lamby for me, bt I like to mix lamb and beef mince. Wonder what THAT would be called?? Gorgeous pics!

  28. Yani 22 March 2011 at 3:28 am #

    This is so awesome!this pie is really good!


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