The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. The key to dating Shepherd’s pie is the introduction and later acceptance of potatoes in England. Potatoes are a new world food that was introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. But, potatoes were not commonly accepted by the British until the 18th Century.
Shepherd’s Pie, a dish of minced lamb topped with mashed potatoes was probably invented sometime in the 18th Century by frugal peasant housewives looking for creative ways to serve leftover meat to their families. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep — hence the name. The actual phrase “Shepherd’s Pie” dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular.”
In present day England, Cottage Pie is an increasingly popular synonym for shepherd’s pie, a dish of minced meat with a topping of mashed potato. Its widening use is no doubt due in part to its pleasantly bucolic associations, in part to the virtual disappearance of mutton and lamb from such pies in favour of beef…But in fact, Cottage Pie is a much older term than Shepherd’s Pie.
So, Shepherd’s Pie is made of lamb, but Americans don’t eat that much lamb. My understanding is that when you use meats beside lamb it should be called “Cottage Pie”, but everyone is more familiar with the term Shepherd’s Pie. Anyway, no matter what you want to call it, here is a recipe from an old hospital-issued diabetic cookbook called “Hamburger Pie”, that I modified.
- 1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 small onion, chopped finely
- 1/2 can of tomato paste (about 4 – 5 Tbsp)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper and chili powder, to taste (more for adults, less for kids)
- 0.5 to 1 pound fresh or frozen french-style green beans
- 2 1/2 cups of real homemade mashed potatoes
Saute beef and onions together in frying pan until meat is cooked through. Add tomato paste, sea salt, pepper, and chili powder and mix well. Place mixture in bottom of casserole dish. Cook the green beans. Place cooked (and drained) green beans on top of meat mixture. Spread mashed potatoes on top of green beans. Sprinkle with a little more chili powder. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.
This dish was loved by all the kids… and parents too. It says 5 servings above, but was enough for 2 adults and 4 small kids as the main part of the meal with just some cut-up fresh fruit added. Other recipes add additional vegetables to the meat, such as carrots, peas, corn, and/or celery. If you wanted to make it really unique, you could try using mashed sweet potatoes for the topping.
Source for history of Shepherd’s Pie: http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodpies.html#shepherdspie