From the United Kingdom to The Republic of Ireland, Cottage Pies or Shepherd's Pies are synonymous with comfort food. The former typically features ground beef filling while the latter includes ground lamb. Otherwise, these names are pretty interchangeable for a ground meat base topped with mash. Regardless of what you call them, they are popular and delicious! This version yields adorable individual pies perfect for a party!
For my recent Olympic party, I elected to make individual Cottage Pies as my dish representing the United Kingdom. I thought serving these dishes of comfort in small ramekins would add a personal element to this traditional casserole. I must say they were very very popular to the party-goers. They all swooned with mouths full of this rustic British dish.
Cottage Pies vs Shepherd's Pies (Tomato Tomahto)
Many of you may be familiar with Shepherd's Pies, a more Irish version of the same dish that utilizes lamb for the meat component. Technically, if the dish uses beef it is Cottage Pie, but the terms are often interchangeable.
The ground meat (in this case beef) is combined with onions, carrots, and peas as well as a flavorful gravy. My gravy coated the meat mixture nicely, but if you'd like a saucier base for your pies, increase the amount of beef broth.
A simple mashed potato top conceals the meat while the casserole bakes. Ridges in the potato topping give way to beautiful browning and some nice texture.
Some people include cheddar cheese in their mashed potatoes, or top with a bit of shredded cheddar at the end. Although this sounds decadent and delicious, I decided to stick with the more traditional cheese-less route.
Piping the potatoes with a star tip add a really pretty touch to the final look of the dish. If you are going to do this as well, definitely puree your potatoes with a food mill or potato ricer to get the finest texture.
Otherwise chunks of potato could stop up your piping bag and cause a mess. If you choose to simplify your life and just spread the potatoes over the top, that's fine too, but I suggest adding a little texture to aid in browning.
The easiest way to do this is using the tines of a fork to scrape over the surface in a decorative way. This recipe can also easily be halved.
Other 2012 Olympic Party posts
Do you prefer Cottage Pies or Shepherd's Pies (beef or lamb)? Let me know in the comments, and don't forget to rate this recipe if you try it. Thanks!
Individual Cottage Pies (Shepherd's Pies)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 2 large cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 pounds ground beef or lamb if making Shepherd’s Pies
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ to ¾ cup beef broth or stock (use more for a saucier base)
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 3 pounds russet potatoes
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a large skillet, heat the olive over medium heat and then add the onion and carrots. Saute for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste, and stir to combine. Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook the mixture, stirring well to break up the meat, until the beef is cooked through and no more pink remains. Add the flour and stir, followed by the beef broth. Cook the mixture for about 8 to 10 more minutes or until the sauce thickens and glazes the meat. Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in the peas and remove from the heat.
- Lightly grease 12 (1 cup) ramekins. Evenly distribute the beef filling to the ramekins. They should be filled about ⅔ of the way.
- Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Add them to a pot and cover with cold water. Season the water generously with salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and pass them through a food mill or potato ricer to achieve the smoothest texture.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter together until hot and the butter has melted. Stir this into the potatoes and season with salt as needed (salting the water will already help to season the potatoes, so don’t go overboard here until you taste them first).
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the mashed potatoes. Decoratively pipe the potatoes into the ramekins over the meat mixture. Alternatively, spread the mashed potatoes over the tops, adding texture with a fork or spoon (this will help the tops brown in a more aesthetic way).
- At this point, the cottage pies can be chilled and baked later on. If you are assembling them in advance, remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking to bring them back to room temperature. You may also have to bake them an additional 10 or 15 minutes longer to heat them through properly.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes have started to brown. Some of the beef mixture may also start bubbling up the sides. Serve immediately.
- Please note, these are small, individual cottage pies which were developed as part of an international buffet menu for an Olympics party. You can use small casserole dishes (larger than ramekins) to make larger individual cottage pies to serve about 6 people instead of 12.
- Or follow the recipe and make a large cottage pie in a large casserole dish instead of individual ones. It will bake around the same amount of time until bubbly and golden. Broil for a minute or two if needed to get an extra golden crust.
- This recipe can easily be halved.
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*