Cottage Pie is an interesting spin on a typical meat pie recipe; instead of using a typical pie crust or something like filo pastry, cottage pie using a layer of mashed potato as a crust. The meat most commonly used is beef, typically minced, which is spread across a baking dish before a layer of mashed potato is applied to the top of the meat mixture. Some personal recipes will mix different things into the meat mixture, such as onions, carrots, even peas in some instances.
Cottage Pie Meats
The dish actually came about as a means of making use of leftover meat, a practise going back at least as far as the late 1700s (which is when the term cottage pie started appearing in cookery books). The recipe has largely remained the same, although early on, the pie dish would actually be lined with a layer of mashed potato before the meat was added. The name cottage pie came about as a result of the potato becoming a wildly available crop for the lower classes, with the term “cottage” itself often used to refer to fairly humble places of residence for rural workers.
On that subject, though the term shepherds pie and cottage pie are often used interchangeably, regardless of the meat filling contained within, a shepherds pie is traditionally supposed to contain mutton, hence the name. In modern terms however, lamb is often used due and this makes for an absolutely delicious meal, if I do say so myself.
A few notable versions of the cottage pie exists that are worth briefly documenting. First, there’s the Cumberland pie, which is nearly identical, save for an additional layer of breadcrumbs laid atop the mashed potato layer (presumably to help crisp up the top layer during the baking process even more so then it would otherwise).
The fish pie (or ocean pie) is likewise fairly similar, only it instead calls for a filling comprised of poached fish (typically smoked white fish, such as cod or haddock), and a light cheese sauce partially made from the milk used to poach the Fish. Finally, there’s the St. Stephens Pie; specifically made in commemoration of St. Stephens Day (which falls on either the 26th or 27th of December, depending on the church). The St. Stephens Pie will use a mixture of turkey and ham in place of beef.