Whether you make it with lamb, beef or venison, this recipe for cottage pie, aka shepherd’s pie, is a comfort-food classic.
Shepherd’s pie or cottage pie? Regardless of what you call it, these are both basically a meat casserole with a layer of mashed potatoes on top. The main difference is the type of meat used. Traditional Irish shepherd’s pie calls for ground lamb, while cottage pie is made with ground beef.
During the winter months I find myself cooking more casseroles and one-pot meals — nothing like filling bellies and warming hearts with a big bubbly dish of meat and vegetables. The first time I prepared this cottage pie for my family I was trying to imitate a menu item my spouse frequently orders from a local Irish-themed restaurant, but it is called shepherd’s pie on their menu.
It makes sense that shepherd’s pie originated in sheep country in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This pie was originally created as a way to use leftover lamb or stew and vegetables. After the holidays you may have leftover vegetables, and this recipe is a great use for them.
We have family friends who are hunters, and they use ground venison in their cottage pie. To me, venison and lamb have a gamy flavor that I am not fond of, so I stick to the store-bought ground beef. You can use whatever meat you prefer or have on hand.
This recipe is rich with gravy, meat, vegetables and cheesy mashed potatoes. My favorite part is the creamy and cheesy mashed potatoes. They bake crispy on top thanks to a sprinkling of cheese, and the potatoes are all creamy underneath.
I find the easiest way to make this dish is to work ahead. You can prepare the mashed potatoes ahead of time or even used leftovers from a previous meal. You could even make the beef mixture ahead of time if you wanted to simply assemble the casserole, and bake it later.
Whether you take the time to make this cottage pie in one evening or you use leftover premade components, this meaty, savory comfort-food classic is hearty, filling and sure to warm up the hungriest crowd.