Shepherd’s pie is prepared as a casserole dish but just how it came to be is quite interesting.
Near the end of the eighteenth century the potato was one of those edible crops in Western Europe that was introduced to the region and as very affordable. The potato was around centuries before this but when the area experienced a little bit of what we recall as an ice age famine was frequent among the people. At that time the potato became the crop that became popular with rural workers and the peasant class of people making it a staple in their homes.
It is believed that the early version of shepherd’s pie was originally called a Cottage Pie. The word cottage referred to the modest dwelling or rural workers in the area.
Eventually the potato became even more popular and dishes were made using left-over meat crusted with mashed potatoes. During those times mutton and lamb were the meats of choice and when meats were added to the dish its name was changed because those meats were readily available to the average shepherd, ergo the name Shepherd’s Pie.
During the course of the decades following shepherd’s pie became even more popular and people changed the recipe to suit their tastes and used ingredients that were available to them at the time.
Variations to the original Shepherd’s pie are:
When the meat in the pie was turkey or ham instead of lamb the dish was called a St. Stephen’s Day Pie.
In other areas a layer of breadcrumbs were placed on top making it a Cumberland Pie.
In England, the English preferred fish instead of meat and called the dish a Fish Pie.
In Finland they used ground pork and beef which they mixed into the masked potatoes and called their creation a Lihaperunasoselaatikko.
Eventually vegetarian versions were created to suit dietary needs substituting potatoes with soy or legumes like chickpeas and lentils and deemed their dish a Shepherd-less Pie.
- 3-4 pounds of ground beef
- 1 medium onion
- 1 ½ cups of Portobello mushrooms, diced
- 1 (15 ounce) can of creamed corn
- 1 cup of bell peppers, chopped
- 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 (26 ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
- 2 cups of shredded cheese
- 1 package of onion/mushroom soup mix
- 2 Tablespoons of paprika
- A bowl of mashed potatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375’.
- Chop and dice the onions, mushrooms and peppers and set aside.
- Brown the beef in a large frying pan and drain thoroughly.
- Add the vegetables to the frying pan with the browned meat with a little water and simmer until all the vegetables are cooked though.
- Add in the soy and Worcestershire sauce along with the soup mix and a splash of water without making the ingredients in the pan too wet.
- Sit in the corn and mushroom soup and cook on low until the mixture comes to a low bubbling boil for 5 minutes stirring to make sure everything is well blended.
- Warm the bowl of mashed potatoes and mix in half of the shredded cheese.
- Transfer the beef mixture into a baking pan ensuring there is about one inch to the top of the pan so there is room to add the mashed potatoes.
- Cover the beef mixture with the cheesy mashed potatoes and sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top.
- Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper and paprika.
- Bake in the oven until the top of the mashed potato crust turn a golden color and the edges start to bubble for 20 minutes or so. The time will vary according to your oven and shouldn’t take long to bake since all the ingredients were cooked already and you just want to heat the pie through.
- Add a few pats of butter to the top of the pie before baking to create a crustier crust to the mashed potato and cheese topping.
© 2014 Beverly Mucha / All Rights Reserved
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