What is the difference between Shepherd's pie and Cottage pie?

 There are a number of things that drive me crazy (well actually there are lots of things that drive me crazy) but in the world of food, particularly British food, I have at least two pet peeves.  One is High Tea, more on that later, and the other is Shepherd's Pie.  If one just thinks about it a little, the clue is in the name - "shepherd"  = lamb!  Pretty much the same recipe made with beef is called Cottage Pie which I much prefer over it's lamb counterpart.  I often make this in advance, freeze in portions to serve two, and only have to make some mashed potatoes for a comforting dinner that takes only minutes to make.

Cottage Pie

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds chopped beef

2 onions, finely chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons plain flour

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef stock

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

few thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1½ cups frozen peas

4 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

7 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan and cook beef until browned - you may need to do this in batches. Break up any large pieces of beef with a wooden spoon. Set beef aside. Put the rest of the oil into the pan, add the vegetables and cook on a gentle heat until soft, about 20 minutes.

 Add the garlic, flour and tomato paste, increase the heat and cook for a few minutes, then return the beef to the pan. Pour over the wine, bring to a boil and reduce slightly before adding the stock, Worcestershire sauce and herbs.

Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes. If a lot of liquid remains, add a tablespoon or two of flour (Wondra works best) until mixture thickens. Season well, then discard the bay leaves and thyme stalks. Add peas.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain well, then allow to steam-dry for a few minutes. Mash well with the milk, butter, and ¾ of the cheese, then season with salt and pepper.

Spoon meat into an ovenproof dish. Pipe or spoon the potatoes to cover. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden.

Makes 10 one cup servings.

Send questions to bbusciglio@gmail.com

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