How to Make Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie

Updated on January 9, 2018
Diana Grant profile image

I'm a food lover, cooking family meals for over 50 years. Before qualifying as a lawyer, I worked in my family's restaurant & helped run it.

A Lovely Dish of Shepherds pie


Shepherd's Pie is one of my family's favorite meals

People have different ideas about how to make shepherd's pie. This recipe for is the way I have been making it for half a century, refined to perfection over the years and passed on to me by my mother, who was an excellent cook. It contains lots of vegetables, as well as meat—and children and old people love it because it is easy to eat, being soft, as well as delicious. (And "why would old people like soft food?" I hear you ask. That is a subject for further conjecture, and I put it to you that you can work out for yourself why chewy food is not always practical for them).

It's Easier to Make Than It Looks

Shepherd's pie may be a bit fiddly to make, but it is very cheap and nutritious. Most of the seasoning I have mentioned below is optional, so if you prefer a bland flavor, or haven't got some of the ingredients, all is not lost, as long as you have the main ingredients, minced meat, and potato.

If your family are not keen on vegetables, this is an ideal meal for disguising them, for instance by adding a grated carrot, or finely chopped celery or greens to the minced meat. I've been there, read the comic and got the T-Shirt, and have become a bit of a tricky Dicky in that respect. You don't become a grandmother of five without picking up a few techniques along the way.

Another point I would like to make about the ingredients is that I like to cook with minimal salt, for health reasons. And I always use olive oil for frying, as it is healthier than most other cooking oils. You could even spread a little olive oil on top of the potato instead of using butter, if you are really virtuous, but butter does give it a better flavor.

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Cook Time for Shepherds Pie

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 40 min
Ready in: 1 hour 10 min
Yields: Serves three people

Equipment Needed to Make Shepherds Pie - a Baking Dish

Pyrex No Leak Lids 3 Cup Rectangle Baking Dish with Plastic Lid
Pyrex No Leak Lids 3 Cup Rectangle Baking Dish with Plastic Lid

I have one very similar to this (see photograph) and love it - you can cook your shepherd's pie, and then keep it in your fridge for a day or two, covered with a lid.


Here's My Own Pyrex Dish - Very Useful With Lid Which Can be Used in Microwave Oven or Freezer


Ingredients for Shepherds Pie or Cottage Pie

  • 13 oz. (350 g) Minced meat, Best beef mince, which is lower in fat or minced lamb
  • 1 medium size Onion
  • 3 medium size Potatoes
  • 4 leaves Cabbage
  • 1 tin Chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil, or other cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons Milk
  • 1 blob Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Sage and Onion stuffing
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Mixed herbs
  • 1 Clove
  • 1 Bay leaf, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • A few drops Worcester Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Bisto or other gravy thickener
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions for Cooking Shepherds Pie or Cottage Pie

  1. Fry the onion gently in a saucepan on a low heat in the olive oil, until golden brown. Then add the minced meat, breaking it up and squashing it with a wooden spoon. Keep turning the meat and squashing it down, so that it cooks and browns evenly. If the meat isn't broken up and squashed, it tends to form into chewy lumps.
  2. Add the garlic, spices and herbs and mix in so they are spread through the meat. Add the tomatoes and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce , stir well, and simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the mixture sticking to the pan. If it starts to dry out, add a little water.
  3. Whilst the meat is cooking, peel and cut the potatoes into fairly small pieces, cover them with water in a saucepan and boil until soft, adding a small amount of salt if desired. The potatoes should be done in about 15 minutes. Drain off most of the water, leaving about 1 tablespoon of of the water in the pan with the potatoes. Add the milk, and then mash the potatoes into the liquid, ending up with a fairly soft consistency.
  4. Wash the cabbage leaves and then boil for 5 - 10 minutes maximum. I usually cook them in with the potatoes, and then fish them out and save separately before the potatoes are mashed. This saves dirtying another pan. The cabbage does not need to cook for long, as it will be cooked further in the Shepherds pie.
  5. Add the Bisto or other gravy thickening to the minced meat and stir until the gravy has thickened. Then spoon the meat into a medium-sized oven-proof dish. Sprinkle the sage and onion stuffing mixture evenly over the meat. Then cover the meat evenly with the cabbage leaves. This will stop the gravy seeping into the mashed potatoes. Then spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top of the cabbage, using a fork. Use the fork to make a light pattern in the potato, and then put some small blobs of butter on the top. It will melt in the oven and run into the ridges formed by the fork.
  6. Cook on the top shelf in a medium hot oven until golden brown for about 30 minutes, depending on the oven and heat. Check whether it is done - it should be golden brown and slightly burnt like the photograph. If necessary, give it another 5 - 10 minutes..

The Various Stages of Making Shepherds Pie - All is Explained Below


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Leave Your Comments Here - I love to know what people think

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    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from London

      If you make two pies, you can even freeze one to eat later

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      I love this! one of my all time favorites, its easy to cook and I always make a huge one to last me at least three days! lol! thanks!

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 4 years ago from The High Seas

      Cottage pie is my favorite and I used to make it a lot. Great recipe.