Does What You Call It Really Matter

I have been told I don’t make shepherds pie, I make cottage pie. Since I am a bit of a history nut when it comes to food I did a bit of research. Thankfully it is a lot easier than it use to be when I had to go to the library. Now I can use my phone, tablet, or laptop to do my research. So big question is am I wrong calling what I make shepherds pie?

Shepherds pie, cottage pie, hachic parmentier, miroton are all names for basically the same thing. Shepherds pie is thought of as a lamb dish, that is Scottish or English in origin. Thing is the Irish also claim it as theirs. They all say the name tells you it has to be made with lamb. Shepherds made it so to make it with anything else is a cottage pie. So it you take that as a gospel then I make cottage pie.

The origin of this type of dish appears to be the French version hachic parmentier. Now what do all the different names have as their common element. Wether it’s shepherds pie, cottage pie, hachic parmentier, or miroton they’re all made with leftover chopped meat. The French version is by far the oldest and was topped with bread crumbs. Still they are all basically the same recipes, leftover chopped meat, some vegetables, topped with something. So could all of them be called shepherds pie?

The oldest description of what was called shepherds pie was this. Shepherds pie a dish common to the area of southern Scotland made with any leftover cooked meat topped with mashed turnip and baked until hot. The mashed turnip makes sense because potatoes came originally from South America. Key part of what I found was the any leftover cooked meat. Shepherds didn’t just eat their flock, it was anything they could catch or kill. What ever they had they used the leftovers for this dish. This makes sense because the sheep were very important for more than meat. They needed the milk and the wool more than they need the meat. Killing one of their flock was for a feast or in desperate times.

So from my little bit of digging the name has to do with what the occupation of the people was not the type of meat used. Over time we have decided that the name it’s called means it has to be made with lamb. So in my case I called it what my mother called it. She made it with ground beef and called it shepherds pie. I make it with ground beef and call it shepherds pie. The way I look at it if I called any of the names that this type of dish has it would be ok. The regional names, occupation of the person making it, and family history determine what name a recipe has. For me names of a dish really doesn’t matter, what matters is that it tastes good.

About Graham Stewart

This is me on a bad day.
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4 Responses to Does What You Call It Really Matter

  1. Sheree says:

    I stand corrected 😊

    • LOL, no I need to thank you! I had a lot of fun and learned a lot of things in my digging. I grew up with the same info, shepherds pie was with lamb and cottage pie was beef. It was just my mother called it shepherds pie even with beef, I even told her a couple of times it was cottage pie. It was fun learning about the other ones that shepherds pie was based on. Was nice getting to know the history.

  2. My english grandmother called it shepherds pie when it was topped with mashed potates and cottage pie when it was topped with pastry….whatever the meat she used.
    History is always fascinating, isn’t it. Do you know Dorothy Hartkey’s ‘Food in England’? Well worth reading when interested in history.

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