Shepherd’s Pie is an ultimate comfort food with its flavorful and hearty meat base, and mounds of creamy, mashed potatoes on top, baked till just browned and delicious.
Although its origins are not Amish, I can see why the Amish community adopted the recipe, and placed it in the Mennonite Community Cookbook. The ingredients and flavors are simple and delicious, and it uses ingredients commonly found in their kitchens.
Meat and potato pies date back to medieval times, with roots in Great Britain. Shepherd’s Pie is a relative of its earlier cousin; Cottage Pie. Shepherd’s Pie was typically made with lamb or mutton, while Cottage Pie used beef.
“But in fact, cottage pie is a much older term than shepherd’s pie, which does not crop up until the 1870s. On 29 August 1791 we find that enthusiastic recorder of all his meals, the Reverend James Woodford, noting in his diary Dinner to day, Cottage-Pye and rost Beef’ (it is not clear precisely what he meant by cottage pie, however).”
—An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 92)
The earliest online reference I could find of Shepherd’s Pie in an American cookbook, was in “Philadelphia Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book,” published in 1886. (www.FoodTimeline.org.)
The recipe listed in the Mennonite Community Cookbook is very simple, using the old-fashioned Shepherd’s Pie method of lining the bottom of the baking dish with potatoes, as well placing them on top. It doesn’t list amounts, rather calls for leftover meat, and a few additions. Today I’m sharing a recipe I’ve compiled from several – one that my entire family (with varying palates), enjoys very much! It can easily be modified and be made dairy and gluten-free. Although true Shepherd’s Pie often calls for cubed or chunks of meat, I love to use pasture-fed, organic ground beef from local farmers, because of the simplicity in cooking it. Happy eating!
Gather potatoes, carrots, and an onion.
Peel and quarter all potatoes but three potatoes, and place in water. Salt them and cook, for the mashed potato topping on your Shepherd’s Pie. Peel the remaining three potatoes and cut into one inch squares. These will be used in the stew portion of your dish.
Chop onions and slice carrots.
Sprinkle with salt, and saute’ in with olive oil for three minutes. Remove from skillet.
Brown ground beef in same skillet.
Place browned ground beef, sautéed vegetables, diced potatoes, broth, tomato purée and seasonings in large pot. Bring to a simmer.
While the stew is simmering, mash the potatoes.
After Mashed Potatoes are ready, whisk together flour and water till smooth. Add to simmering stew.
Stir well and allow to thicken for several minutes. Place stew in buttered casserole dish, and top with mashed potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, at 350.
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-5 carrots, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Salt, & Pepper to taste
- 12 Russet potatoes (9 quartered and boiled for mashed potatoes, and 3 diced for stew base)
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- 15 ounces tomato puree
- 1/8 teaspoon Thyme
- 1/2 cup sweet, red cooking wine (optional)
- For Mashed Potatoes: 1/2 cup butter, and 1/2 cup or more of milk, cream or half and half
- Peel and quarter all but three potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until soft.
- Chop remaining three potatoes into one inch cubes.
- Chop onion and garlic, slice carrots.
- Heat olive oil in skillet, sprinkle with salt and saute vegetables for three minutes. Remove from skillet.
- Add one more tablespoon olive oil to pan. Brown meat in same skillet. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
- In large pot; place meat, vegetables, the three diced potatoes, chicken broth, tomato puree, thyme and optional red cooking wine. Bring to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Add more salt and fresh, cracked pepper if needed.
- Drain cooked potatoes. Beat till mashed. Add butter and mix well. Add cream and beat till smooth. Use reserved water from cooking potatoes if more liquid is needed.
- *If desired, whisk together 3/4 cup cold water and 1/3 cup all purpose flour till smooth, and add to stew mixture. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, to thicken.
- Butter bottom and sides of baking dish. Pour stew in bottom. Gently place mashed potatoes on top, spreading out to cover the meat.
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top.
Jamie Oliver’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Shepherd’s Pie
Cook’s Info on Shepherd’s Pie