The History of Shepherd’s Pie

The History of Shepherd’s Pie
Elixor DDO

Have you heard about the delicious Shepherd’s Pie? If not, you are missing out on something important. The Shepherd’s Pie is a type of savory pie that is usually prepared with minced or diced lamb then topped with a relatively thick layer of mashed potatoes.

Some people call it Cottage Pie although that name is given explicitly to a version made of beef instead of lamb meat.

Many people believe that the peasant housewives invented the pie as an easy way to repackage leftovers from their Sunday roast.  The Shepherd Pie is thought to originate from Ireland and the northern parts of England.

Shepherd’s Pie

A Brief History of the Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is believed to have been invented in the early 1800s. During this time, housewives were struggling to find innovative ways to recycle the leftovers that their husbands and kids had turned up their noses at. Back then, the struggle was real just as it is today.

The Norman invasion of the Republic of Ireland started in the 13th century and led to an unprecedented union between England and Ireland. This union would last for about 800 years. At the start of the 15th Century, England had taken over the control of Ireland and included the Island in the United Kingdom.

As a section of the United Kingdom, Protestantism became the new religion even though Ireland was largely Catholic. The British and some of the senior protestant Irish converts became the new rulers while Irish Catholics who refused to convert became peasant farmworkers living in humble homes referred to as “cottages.”

Around 1589, Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potato farming to Ireland, and over time, potatoes gained acceptance in Ireland since they were not only delicious but also affordable for the poor.

The British loved meat (beef) and this sparked a sudden increase in beef production in the Republic of Ireland. Although the Irish were never big meat eaters, things changed when Ireland was under British control.

Towards the end of the 18th century, a new dish known as “cottage pie” came about somewhere in the vast expanse of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

It is believed that it originated as a way for women to make use of the leftovers to avoid food wastage. After making the delicious weekend roast, all unused meat was carefully repurposed into a pie using affordable potatoes as a crust.

While Shepherd’s Pie came out as one of the best ways to deal with the leftovers, the results were also delicious.  After that, it became one of the most sought-after dishes in the two countries. Since Ireland and the United Kingdom had such a long union, both of them claim the origin of the Shepherd’s Pie.

Cooking Tips

Instead of using pre-ground meat from the store to prepare your Shepherd’s Pie, try using soft chunks of meat from the shoulder of a lamb or beef shank. Make sure that you leave a sizeable chunk of fat on to prevent the meat from drying up. Cook your chunks of meat first until they are tender before you proceed to assemble your pie.