Cottage Pie? Shepherd’s Pie?

My mom made the best Shepard’s Pie that wasn’t

make-ahead meal cottage pie

Cottage pie? We always called them Sheperd’s pie but that wasn’t really what they were. They were Cottage Pies and there is a distinct and singular difference. A shepherd’s pie is made with lamb while a cottage pie is made with beef or pork…or a combination of the two. It can also have lamb but it would still be a cottage pie in my book. Does it matter? It may so to some, but not to me. I love either of them.

At Clean Slate Farm we try to make the most of what we harvest from the garden by preparing several different types of soups and freezing them in convenient two cup portions.It’s really a great meal to come into from the cold after barn chores or shoveling snow. Fall just seems to be the time when, like squirrels, we start stocking up on meals we can pull from the freezer, thaw, and heat. This Cottage Pie recipe is one that fits that task to perfection.

Mise en place is key to preparing any make ahead meals and with this recipe, it can be key to saving time and working efficiently. These can be prepared over two days, but as long as you are knee deep in cooking you may as well finish them in one fell swoop.

Once all my slicing and dicing is finished before I start cooking anything. It’s what I picked up from cooking professionally and it makes your life a lot easier when making any recipe. I have a video about mise en place on our Youtube channel if you need any pointers.

Making the cottage pie

I always begin by preparing the mashed potatoes first so that while I’m cooking the filling the potatoes are doing the hot tub thing and will be ready when I need them. The rest of the recipe is really simple, sauté as you go and follow the instructions. You may need to drain some of the fat from the pan but don’t drain it all. The fat and flour will combine to thicken the sauce. My recipe does not include peas, an item usually found in these pies, but add them if you wish. You could also add parsnips or other root vegetables.

My recipe does not include peas, an item usually found in these pies, but add them if you wish. You could also add parsnips or other root vegetables. If you are adding soft ingredients, like peas or corn, incorporate them at then end of cooking so they don’t overcook. Root vegetables, on the other hand, should be added at the beginning of the sauté so they have a chance to soften just a bit.

When everything is cooked it’s time to assemble. Distribute the filling evenly into the mini pie tins and set aside to cool while you fill the piping bag with mashed potatoes. I never bother with the screw-on-hold-the-tip-in-place thing. I just drop the star tip in the bag and go. To fill the bag, roll the edges down over the outside and grasp the bag loosely while you use a spatula to fill the bag. Gently squeeze the potatoes down to the end taking care not to squish them out too soon. Start piping the potatoes onto the filling from the outside and work toward the center. I find it makes for a neater look and helps seal the edge well.

If you’re making these to cook immediately, just pop them in the 400-degree oven (204 Celcius) for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown ever so slightly. If you will be freezing for make ahead meals let them cool to room temperature, place them on a sheet pan and freeze. When they are totally frozen, it will be over night, I seal them up with our Food Saver to pull all the air out. The mashed potatoes don’t get squished because they are frozen and the pies will keep for about 6 months…if you can hold off eating them that long. All you need to do is thaw them on the counter top and pop them in the oven. If you go directly to the oven cover them with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes.

That’s it. Easy as pie (pun totally intended). Here’s the recipe.


Cottage Pie for Make Ahead Meals


  • 3 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, or whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • For the meat filling:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef, with ground pork if desired
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Peel the potatoes and chop into 1/2 cubes. Put in a medium sized pot and cover with cold water, turn heat on high and cover. When the water boils turn heat down to simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until a cube can pierced easily with a knife.
  2. In a small sauce pan or in the microwave warm the butter and half and half.
  3. Drain potatoes and return to the saucepan to let some of the moisture evaporate. Mash the potatoes and add the warmed half and half and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and continue to mash/stir until smooth and creamy. You may need to add a bit more warmed half and half. You can also stir some corn into the mashed potatoes, about 1/2 cup.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  5. Heat a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium hight heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers add the onions and carrots. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes then add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  6. Add the meat, salt and pepper and cook turning and stirring until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Spring the flour over the top and stir in well. Cook for about one minute more.
  7. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir well. Let this come to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer stirring occasionally to let the sauce thicken.
  8. Now add the corn and stir well to incorporate evenly. Place mixture in to the pan or pie tins, distributing evenly. There is enough to make eight mini 5.75” wide, 1.25” deep mini tins. This mix will generously fill a 9” x 12” pan.
  9. Pipe the mashed potatoes onto the top(s) starting at the edge. I use a star tip for the visual effect. Try to seal the edge with the potatoes.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  11. If freezing for make-ahead dinners let cool completely then freeze and vacuum seal and put back in freezer immediately.SOURCE: Dave and Joanne Lenweaver
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  • reply Your sister-in-law Pat ,

    BIG YUM, David!!!!

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