I was thinking about this. Cottage Pie has been around in name since 1791. Shepard’s Pie is the newest kid on the block, arriving on the scene in 1877.
I can imagine the scene it caused at the time. Daily Telegraph paperboys shouting at London street corners, “Shepard’s! Baked in pie! Shepard’s! Baked in pie!”. The terror it must have caused in the UK at the time.
Naturally, it didn’t help when the Daily Mail’s paperboy was shouting from across the street, “National Sheep Association Concerned about Henry Plumb! Henry Plumb not seen for Weeks!”.
My timeline might be a little skewed, but you get the idea.
Here we are in 2014, 137 years after …. (I did the math. Look….)
… and we are still calling it Cottage Pie. Or Shepard’s Pie. In our fast-paced society, it is time to modernize the name of these simple, yet delicious meals. I think Apartment Pie and Busy Cubicle Dweller’s Pie (if you work for the government, you can call it BCDP) have a nice ring to them. The point about this meaty delicious pie, is that even if you live in a squishy flat with a hot plate, you can create this awesome meaty pie.
If you are a purist and want the EXACT recipe to make the PERFECT Cottage/Shepard’s/Apartment/BCDP’s pie….. you don’t get it. Cottage and Shepard’s Pie are all about tossing together:
Yes, it is that simple. If you want to make it delicious, you will add a bit of salt and pepper. If you want to make it like Mum or like the cook in the pub down the street, then you need to talk to them to see what “little bits of this and that” they add. For me, I keep it simple. A bit of Worcestershire (pronounced, in our home, as woo-stur-shur) Sauce, salt, pepper, a spoonful of Knorr beef stock, a few proper teacupfuls of potato water, and a happy sprinkle of dried thyme.
There is a bit of multi-tasking whilst making this. But you can do it! Here’s how (my way):
a) Put the ground beef/lamb/pork/bison in a pan. Cook. Stir often, breaking it up into a crumbly mess of cooked flesh.
b) Chop an onion into smithereens if you don’t like onion, or into nice chunks if you do.
c) When the beef if browned and crumbly, turn down the heat and add the onion. Cook it on low and slow until the onion has melted into the beef.
d) Meanwhile, remove the dirt bits from a bunch of mushrooms, and leave them on a piece of paper towel to dry a bit before chopping. This is a good opportunity to take a picture if you write a food blog.
e) Peel your potatoes (I use russets), cut in quarters, boil (in water). When mashable, drain, then mash. Add a bit of butter (the amount depends on how your lab work came back from your last doctor’s visit), salt and pepper. You may want to add a bit of the potato water you smartly reserved if you are lactose intolerant, or a splash of milk if you want to please the Dairy Farmers.
If you are lucky, the beef is browned, the onions melted, the mushrooms softened, the potatoes mashed all at the same time. Then, you find a casserole type of dish and pour in the meat, and top with mashed potato. Flatten the potato over top of the mess of meat so you can call it, PIE. If you feel artsy, use the back of a fork and make forkie marks over the potatoes.
If you are trying to impress someone:
All you need to do is present them with a glass of wine when they enter your abode and have a candle burning (safely) somewhere in your home (not in a closet please). After a glass or two of wine, declare, “Let me check on dinner!” and swish into your kitchen, and peek in the oven. When you notice the burble and delicate browning, lower the temperature to Warm (or less than 200F if you don’t have the words “WARM” on your stove). It is sometimes helpful to open the oven door and fan the aromatics around the apartment. This is the best opportunity to build suspense and let your guest smell the deliciousness coming out of your kitchen, yet make them wait for supper through another glass or two of wine.
Honestly, there is no trickery with cooking. Cook things that smell good. Invite people over. Serve wine. You will be happy. I certainly am.