Shepherd’s pie is a comforting, hearty, Classic English dish. Traditionally Shepherd’s pie, is made with ground lamb, when beef is used, it’s called “Cottage Pie”. This version is gluten free. (If you don’t want to read about my time working in pubs, feel free to click the “jump to recipe” button.”)
After I finished cooking school, I decided to move to England and get a job. I’d never had a “real” job before. Well, unless you count babysitting, and Carl’s Jr. counter girl in high school. My dad bought me a one way plane ticket and then put me on the plane with $500 in Traveler’s Cheques and told me, “This is it.
(This post was originally published on January 19th, 2012. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases)
When you run out of money, you’re coming home and getting a real job!”
I didn’t actually believe him…until the moment when I got on the plane and realized he hadn’t laughed, nor given me any more money. I spent the entire 11 hour flight, figuring out a plan.
Did I mention that I didn’t actually have a place to live or a job set up before I got there?
I took the train from Gatwick to Victoria Station. Placing my luggage in a locker, I then took the Tube to Earl’s Court to find a room in a cheap hostel, grab a “Time-Out” magazine, and start looking for a job.
The first hostel I walked into was cute, clean and filled with Aussies and Kiwis. “Perfect!” I thought. Unfortunately, they did not have a room.
As I walked down the steps, a girl came running after me. “Hey! Do you want to work here?” They had nothing for me there, but if I was willing, I could work at another hotel not too far away.
It would involve cooking, (check) and light cleaning (I hoped for “light”), but more importantly, it would be a place to sleep and they’d pay me! “Hotel” is a term I use loosely. In fact, it was what the British refer to as a “Doss-House”, cheap rooms for people on the “dole” (welfare).
It was run-down and smelled of cigarettes and grease. I was expected to cook breakfast for a bunch of dicey men, in addition to Hoovering their rooms and emptying their trash!
It was there I met Sandy, who had never held a real job either. Sandy came in to rent a room, not realizing that this was definitely not where she wanted to stay.
We 3 worker girls convinced her to bunk with us in the maid’s quarters. After 2 weeks of 15 hour days, Sandy and I landed jobs in a pub just off of Sloane Square. We shared a clean and spacious room, in a great part of London, and got paid.
What’s the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie?
A classic shepherd’s pie is made from lamb; shepherd – lamb, and a Cottage Pie is made out of beef. But in the US, not many Americans know the difference, and tend to label them both as “Shepherd’s Pie”. Of course you can also substitute ground turkey in place or the ground beef or lamb.
I imagine it was created by a frugal farmer’s wife as a good way to stretch that pound of “ground meat”. When it’s mixed with plenty of vegetables and topped with lots of mashed potatoes, it makes for a hearty meal.
One pound of ground beef will stretch to feed 6 with the addition of all the vegetables, which is something I like when we’re trying to eat less meat in general.
This is one of those dishes, that if you ask 10 cooks how to cook a Shepherd’s Pie, you’ll get 10 different recipes. That’s the beauty of cooking, adapting, modifying, and putting your own twist on it.
My husband loves mashed potatoes and cheese, so I always make my Cottage Pie with plenty of both. I had to cook a lot of Shepherd’s Pie when I was a cook at the John Bull Pub in Old town Pasadena, so this has evolved over the last 30+ years. The owner of the John Bull taught me her “secret”. She put a layer of grated cheese under the mashed potatoes as well as on top.
What makes this recipe gluten free?
Traditional Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie usually is made with gravy that contains flour. I try to omit flour from a recipe if I feel I can do it without compromising the flavor. So while it has broth, there are no thickeners in it. We find that there is no sacrifice in taste or texture.
A great way to use leftover mashed potatoes!
You’ll need about 4 cups of mashed potatoes. That works out to about 2 large russets, boiled and mashed with butter, cream or milk, salt and pepper. BUT if you have leftover mashed potatoes, you’re halfway there!
(Postscript; it was a full year before I cashed in my first Traveler’s Cheque and another 4 months before I asked for the return ticket home.)
If you’re looking for another way to eat Shepherd’s Pie, these individual Shepherd’s Pie Baked Potatoes would be great for Game Days!
Cottage or Shepherd's Pie
- 3 Tablespoons oil use a neutral oil or mild olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 1/2 lb. ground beef or ground lamb
- 2 cups carrots and peas frozen or fresh
- 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce or to taste
- 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese grated (divided)
- 4 cups mashed potatoes
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add onions and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, ground lamb or beef, stirring to break it up about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Saute until meat is no longer pink.
- add beef broth, carrots and peas. Cook until broth is reduced and veggies are cooked
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Put meat mixure into a casserole dish. (You can also use a souffle dish or oval baking dish...something between 8"x8" and 13"x9").
- Top with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
- Spread or pipe mashed potatoes and top with remaining grated cheese. You'll want ridges or peaks in the potatoes. Top with remaining shredded cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.
- Ground lamb, beef or turkey may be used
- This is a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes!
- Use a sharp English cheddar for a great traditional flavor.
Chef Mimi says
I’ve always loved shepherd’s pie, but it must be 25 years since I’ve made it! I have no idea why – maybe because my hubs doesn’t want a lot of carbs, even though if I made this he’d eat it! Thanks for the reminder.
Jacqueline Debono says
I love shepherd’s pie (well usually it’s a cottage pie) and make it pretty often. It’s so moreish we always end up eating too much! I’ve never added cheese to it but love the idea!
Great recipe enjoyed with my family a keeper
Such a great Shepherd’s Pie and just a bonus that it’s gluten free!
What a great recipe! This combination of flavors is the ultimate comfort food dinner. Thanks for another winner from What a Girl Eats!
You’re welcome! I appreciate your comments, thank you!
What a great adventure! You are brave for traveling that far without a job beforehand. I’ve only visited London for a few days, on a trip my senior year of college. I’d love to go back someday. In the meantime, I make both Shepherd’s and Cottage Pie often at home. We add cheese to ours too! So good.
London is one of the greatest cities in the world! I hope you get back soon!
First, this is one incredible Shepherd’s pie; so rich, loaded, and just comforting. I like seeing your photos from your first cooking in a hostel. Beautiful memories.❤️
Sara Welch says
This is my kind of comfort food! Enjoyed this for dinner last night and it did not disappoint! Easily, a new favorite dish!
Sandhya S says
Simple and comforting Shepherd’s pie. Makes a hearty weeknight meal for the family!
This was such a comforting classic dish to make for our Sunday night family dinner! Super filling and everyone loved it!
Such a classic. Perfect family meal. Hearty and comforting.
That it is!
Delicious and the perfect weekend meal for my family. Bursting with all the nutrition and flavors of the combinations used. Looks so festive too.
Worcestershire sauce is not typically gluten free, so this recipe is not actually gluten free. This could be very dangerous if someone wasn’t gluten aware and looking for a recipe to feed someone with an allergy. sounds like a great recipe if you aren’t celiac though!
Thank you for pointing that out! You can certainly omit it completely as well! I’ll update with that notation.
First, this was amazing! Everyone loved it. In regards to the Worcestershire sauce, we use French’s brand and my Celiac child has zero issues. It’s not labeled gluten free but there is nothing in the ingredient list that has wheat; the thickener used is xanthan gum. Maybe this can help someone else.
thank you for those tips! Glad you liked it!
Dawn Ruppert says
can I freeze this?
Yes. I usually freeze it in smaller portions. Wrap well in foil.
Cooked this last week. Going to cook again tomorrow. Housemate and I both loved it. I will be cooking with less salt this time. Housemate has kidney disease.
I do have one question you say what girl’s eat, neither my housemate nor I am girls. We are full fledged , hormonal balanced guys so am I not supposed to cook your recipes? Just curious.
Thanks Bob…Yeah, when I started my website 12 years ago, I was on my stationary bike trying to figure out a name for it and saw a DVD of What A Girl Wants….oops.