Shepherd’s Pie: No Shepherds Are in This Foodstuff

Shepherd's pie

Here’s another ultimate English comfort food. Hearty shepherd’s pie, eh? Reet proper! And if you ever visit England, expect this stuff in abundance.

What’s Shepherd’s Pie?

It’s a ground meat pie featuring a mashed potato topping and vegetables within.

It also goes by the name of cottage pie and (over in France) Hachis Parmentier. The latter makes it sound all super fancy, eh?

And in Quebec of Canada it goes by the name of pâté chinois. There’s also a dish in Holland called filosoof (philospher’s stew). This variation includes apples.

And then of course there are variations on the whole “pie” aspect. Fish pie, for example, in England is just shepherd’s pie but with fish and seafood added over red meat.

What’s the History of Shepherd’s Pie?

The dish first appeared as “cottage pie” back in 1791. We believe shepherd’s pie is far more in use these days, but that didn’t appear in records until 1854.

That’s probably due to the use of meat in the pie. As if it’s lamb-based, then you’ve got the whole shepherd tending his flock thing going on. Logical route to take, eh?

Over in France, it began taking the name Hachis Parmentier in 1900. “Hachis” means finely chopped, referring to the many vegetables that populate the pie.

But the Parmentier bit is, rather cool in its naming, after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813). He was a pharmacist and agronomist who ardently championed the use of potatoes for food.

The result? Many potato dishes were named after him in the 100 years after his death.

For the French, the dish was also viewed as a “homely” recipe. As with the English, it was often cobbled together out of leftovers.

Bearing in mind the difficulties of cooking in, say, the 19th century. For dinner you couldn’t just go off and cook up a Pot Noodle or something, it was a laborious and tedious affair involving hours of prep.

So, Hachis Parmentier was a simple meal that resonated amongst many folks in Europe.

And these days it can, of course, be vegan friendly. Plenty of meat substitutes out there, if that’s your thing.

How Do You Make Shepherd’s Pie?

Swearing maniac Gordon Ramsay knows a thing of two about a rustic shepherd’s pie.

The basic ingredients for the dish are:

  • Potatoes (mashed)
  • Red meat/vegan substitute
  • Finely chopped vegetables
  • Cheese (for a potential topping)

That’s about it, really. Cook everything up, got a nice plate pan thing, dump the meat/veg in, and then dump the mash on top.

It’s hearty. It’s rustic. Many Brits seem to think it’s down to our national culture.

And yet, once again, we see it ties Europe together for one reason or another. Oh well. Sod that! LEAVE MEANS LEAVE!


  1. We have this in NZ too – my Mum used to cook it when I was a kid. No actual shepherds were harmed in the making of same, but I believe mock shepherd was common (rendering it not entirely unlike mock turtle soup, probably). I have a theory that the original recipe, cooked up by shepherds tending their back-country flocks, probably consisted of (a) bits of sheep meat, (b) odd bits of sheep dung accidentally scooped up, (c) bits of dirt (same problem), (d) tiny branches and small rocks (more of the same), (e) potatoes, (f) bits of stray grass (see b, c and d). But I may be entirely mistaken.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having grown up with my own version of me mam’s Shepherd’s recipe, first born was chuffed to bits when it appeared on her menu at school, when she was about 10.

    The Swedish school system’s catering wing had not done their research correctly, however, and first born took the abomination they produced as a terrible insult to her Northern English heritage, giving the poor dinner ladies a 10 minute lecture on said slop’s many faults.

    Back at home, her review consisted of but a single word – “shite!”

    Liked by 1 person

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