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Shepherd’s pie for the alky’s.

January 29, 2010

Everyone is familiar with Shepherd’s Pie. If you’re Irish, then you definitely know Shepherd’s Pie. It’s classic pub food. The original name is “Cottage Pie.”

Cottage pie refers to an English meat pie made with beef mince and with a crust made from mashed potato. A variation on this dish using Lamb mince is known as Shepherd’s pie. The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791,[1][2] when potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (cf. “cottage” meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers). In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.[3][4]

The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until the 1870s,[2] and since then it has been used synonymously with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] There is now a popular tendency for “shepherd’s pie” to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb,[9][10] and not cattle,[11][12] with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep, however this may be an example of folk etymology.

Therefore, the recipe I’m presenting to you here today is really a cottage pie. Although nobody would know what the hell that was if I called it that. So anyway, basically what a Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie is is a “casserole” of sorts, made of meat, vegetables, and topped with a mashed potato “crust.” It can be made lousy, I’m sure, like a sort of mystery meat pie (which reminds me of Sweeney Todd, with Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett with her meatpies… *cringe*) but it can also be made in a super flavorful, delicious and not-mush-like way. And would I make it any other way than that?

There’s been a lot of talk about Shepherd’s Pie lately, Brianne made it a few weeks ago, and recently Jay’s mom was talking about it as well. It gave me a hankering for it,  I haven’t eaten any red meat (or cooked any) in a long time, so I thought this was a good way to reintroduce myself to it. I had a really awesome recipe for Shepherd’s Pie with Guinness that I found somewhere on the web years ago, and of course I couldn’t find it, so I did a Google. And luckily I did, because I couldn’t find that recipe again, but I found the Hungry Housewife’s version instead and it was fantabulous. Seriously. I added a few things and made some changes, and have some recommendations but it’s essentially her recipe.

It would be awesome if you made this, served Guinness stout with it, and then made Guinness cupcakes for dessert. A whole night’s meal made with Guinness! Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. And remember, you can use any kind of ground meat for this: turkey, lamb, a mixture, etc.


Get thee the following materials:

  • 1 ½ pounds organic ground beef 80/20
  • 1 (1lb) bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 2 packets of dry Brown Gravy Mix
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 medium onion
  • olive oil
  • 2 bottles Guinness (or other dark stout- just NOT a chocolate stout or cream stout)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups sharp Irish cheddar cheese (i.e. Dubliner)
  • 3 pounds baking potatoes
  • ¼- ½ cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Then ye do as follows:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Peel the potatoes, then boil them in salted water until fork tender, about 40-45 minutes. Drain completely and place back in pot so all of the water evaporates. In a medium mixing bowl add butter and potatoes. Mash until smooth, while adding the milk for a medium consistency. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Cook and drain ground beef. Place drained beef back in skillet and add Worcestershire sauce and 1 bottle of Guinness*. Cook until beer has almost cooked out.
  4. Add tomato paste to meat. In a medium sauce pan, prepare the brown gravy according to package directions, however, use beer for half the liquid called for (1 cup water, 1 cup beer)**. Pour gravy into meat mixture. And cook all together until you get a nice thick gravy.
  5. Rough chop the onion. In medium skillet with olive oil,*** sauté onion until soft and translucent. Add mixed vegetables to the onion and cook until warm throughout.
  6. In a 2 quart baking dish, add meat as bottom layer, the add vegetables, and then add the mashed potatoes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until cheese gets nice and bubbly.
*I used Guinness in cans. It doesn’t really matter, the bottles have a little bit more in them, that’s all. We’re talking the difference of an ounce or two.
**I used Knorr, and it called for 1 ½ cups water per pouch, so I used 1 ½ cups of each. However, the gravy was a bit much so next time I’d do either 1 straight cup each or maybe even less.
***I used the same skillet I used to cook the beef, so the flavors absorbed into the veggies too. I also suggest not cooking the vegetables too much, or else they’ll be mushy in the pie. I left mine somewhat cold, just barely heated (I circled them a few times in the skillet with the onions), and they were nice and crisp in the pie.

I used over a pound of the mixed vegetables. I bought a 2 lb bag and just kinda eyeballed it, and it turned out to be more than half the bag. But that’s up to you.  You could buy fresh veggies if you really wanted. And If you can, I recommend using an Irish cheddar, like Dubliner or another Irish cheese, and shredding it yourself.  If you can’t, then it’s quite alright to stick with a regular sharp cheddar. And organic beef is my preference, if I’m going to eat red meat, but again… that’s totally up to you. Nobody’s going to shoot you if you buy the ground beef that’s on sale this week instead. Also, if you don’t have the time to mash your own potatoes, I suggest using 2 bags of Ore-Ida’s Steam & Mash in the classic cut russet flavor. It’s the closest thing to homemade mashed potatoes you can buy. Box mixes just really don’t cut it.

The Guinness flavor in this is amazing. It really comes through perfectly. If you’re a Guinness fan, I highly endorse you making this dish.

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  1. SO. GOOD. Just make sure to take into consideration my changes… esp. the gravy one. I ended up with a lot of gravy, which isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t as cohesive as it could’ve been.

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