8 Things You Never Knew About Shepherd’s Pie
It's a comfort food staple, but do you know what makes shepherd's pie special? It's come a long way from its origins!
Shepherd’s Pie Hails from Scotland
The original shepherd’s pies were baked in pastry crusts and used leftover roast meat combined with a savory gravy to bring it all together. When the dish made its way from Scotland to Ireland, they skipped the pastry and used their abundance of potatoes instead, creating the modern-day mashed potato topping.
The Traditional Ingredients Aren’t What You Thought
Our favorite shepherd’s pie recipe has come a long way from its origins. The word “pie” likely comes from “magpie”—a bird well-known for collecting a random assortment of items in its nest. It’s thought that early pie eaters were equally un-picky about the contents of their pies, baking them with everything from pigeons to crows. I’m pretty glad we’ve evolved past that!
It Isn’t the Same as Cottage Pie
Technically, you can only call it shepherd’s pie if it contains lamb or mutton. Any pie made with beef, like these, should be called cottage pie. Want to top your pie with breadcrumbs? You’ll have to refer to it as Cumberland pie.
Its Pie Status Has Been Questioned
The Brits are serious about pie: According to a petition calling to “make wrongly describing a casserole with a pastry lid as a pie a criminal offence,” we shouldn’t be calling shepherd’s pie a pie at all! The petitioners argued that a pie has to have a top and base of pastry; a casserole covered by a puff pastry—or mashed potatoes—isn’t enough. (Spoiler alert: It only received half of the requested 10,000 signatures).
Shepherd’s Pie Can Have a Pastry Crust
While some people still make shepherd’s pie with pastry the way the Scots did, it’s much more common to make it Irish-style using mashed potatoes as the topping.
It Can Be Pricey
The most expensive slice of meat pie was sold in Lancashire, UK, for over $1,700 a slice! It was made with Japanese wagyu beef filet, priceless Chinese matsutake mushrooms, Winter Black truffles, French Bluefoot mushrooms, and gravy made from made two bottles of vintage 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine. To top it all off, it was garnished with edible gold leaf! It’s a Guinness World Record.
There’s a Shepherd’s Pie for Vegetarians, Too
A popular vegetarian version of shepherd’s pie is emerging these days. It doesn’t have an official name; some people refer to it as shepherdless pie while others name it gardener’s pie. The fillings vary, from lentils and sweet potatoes to mushrooms and leeks.
South Americans Have Their Own Spin
In Spanish-speaking countries like Chile and Peru, it’s called pastel de papa. With potatoes on top, the casserole looks similar to the shepherd’s pie you know, but instead of vegetables, cooks often layer in chopped hard-boiled eggs, black olives and raisins. Sometimes, it’s wrapped in pastry dough and served up empanada style.