Cottage Pie (with video)

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Cottage Pie is the original, authentic Shepherd’s Pie we all know and love. What you may not know is the rich history of this dish with multiple layers of mashed potatoes and a red wine lamb mince meat with sauteed vegetables, was once a poor man’s dinner. Then again so was lobster. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year with an authentic Irish recipe that’s worth repeating all year long.

If you’re looking for more hearty recipes to eat on St. Patrick’s Day, considered Guinness Stew, Guinness Corned Beef, Caramel Whiskey Corned Beef, or the more Americanized version Shepherd’s Pie with Beef.

Authentic Cottage Pie for St Patricks Day in a cast iron casserole dish

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Cottage Pie vs Shepherd’s Pie

Cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are both traditional British dishes made with minced meat and mashed potatoes, but there are a few differences between them. The main difference lies in the type of meat used and their origins.

A close up image of cottage pie being served from a cast iron casserole dish

Cottage pie is known as the original, and precurser to shepherd’s pie. While both used minced lamb meat for the filling, over the centuries shepherd’s pie has evolved to use ground beef. This is due in part to the cost and the availability of ground beef becoming more mainstream than sheepr or lamb.

The History of Cottage Pie

Cottage pie is said to have originated in Ireland. The name cottage pie refers to the humble cottages that the Irish would live in during the famine of the 1400s. In the 1500s the settling of the British brought potatoes to Ireland. This was an easy crop to grow and cheap to buy. Soon the Irish homemakers would find themselves making “pie crusts” from potato as it was much cheaper and easier to make than a sourdough pie crust. Hence the name, cottage pie. A true cottage pie will have both a top and bottom layer of mashed potato to serve as the “crust.”

Cottage Pie served on a white plate with red wine in the background

Shepherd’s pie, on the other hand, is believed to have originated in Scotland or northern England and was traditionally made with leftover roast lamb from the Sunday dinner. The term “shepherd” refers to the fact that sheep farming is a common profession in those regions. For more history of the Cottage Pie check out this video by the History Channel.

What is St. Patrick’s Day (homeschool corner)

St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious holiday that is celebrated annually on March 17th, the date of St. Patrick’s death. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and driving out snakes from the country.

The history of St. Patrick’s Day dates back to the early 17th century when the day was made an official Christian feast day by the Catholic Church. It was celebrated as a religious holiday in Ireland and was a time for attending church and feasting with family and friends.

Over time, the holiday evolved and became more of a cultural celebration of Irish heritage and identity, particularly in the United States. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York City in 1762 when Irish soldiers marched through the city to celebrate their heritage.

Overhead image of cottage pie casserole with a scoop missing.

In the mid-19th century, the Irish potato famine led many Irish people to emigrate to the United States, where they faced discrimination and prejudice. Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day became a way for Irish immigrants to show pride in their heritage and culture, and it eventually became a national holiday in Ireland in 1903.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world with parades, parties, and events that feature Irish music, food, and drink. It has become a symbol of Irish culture and a time for people of all backgrounds to come together and celebrate.

What goes in a Cottage Pie

The ingredients you need are pretty forgiving. Let’s go over a list of ingredients you’ll need, the ones that are good to have, and where you can take creative liberty.

picture of what ingredients are needed to make cottage pie or shepherd's pie
  • Meat: Ground lamb is the traditional meat of choice but ground beef, ground pork, and even ground chicken have been known to be good substitutes. For a more Americanized version of this (and easier on the wallet) consider making a meat combo of half ground beef and half ground pork for a rich flavor and fat content.
  • Vegetables: onions, carrots, peas, celery, and garlic (or any combination of them) would have been used in the mince meat layer. Remembering that this dish was popular during a famine, the vegetables on hand either fresh or preserved is that which was used.
  • Potatoes: Mashed potatoes is what created the “crust” for the “pie” of cottage pie. While a chicken stock would have been common place, liquid dairy may not have been. This recipe doesn’t call for any milk or cream, but the use of eggs provides a richness to the mashed potatoes. You can substitute with any of your favorite mashed potato recipes.
  • Herbs & Spices: fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, paired with salt and pepper are cheap and easy ways to impart bold flavors with little effort.
  • Other: red wine may or may not have been available but is commonly used today to impart a rich, deep, floral flavor to the otherwise gamey taste of the ground lamb. The tomato paste acts as a thickener. The chicken stock creates a thick sauce for the mince meat. Butter and cheese are added to the mashed potatoes for flavor.
Golden brown edges of a cottage pie

How to Make Cottage Pie

  • Start by browning the meat. Add the vegetables of choice and saute. Work in the tomato paste and cook out for a minute.
  • Add the red wine to deglaze the skillet, followed by chicken stock to thicken the sauce.
  • Reduce down until thick, shiny, and remenicent of sloppy joes. Set the skillet aside.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Make the mashed potatoes.
  • Spread half of the mashed potatoes onto the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer with all of the meat filling, and top with remaining mashed potatoes.
  • Texturize the top of the mashed potatoes with a fork and sprinkle extra cheese on top. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and edges begin to golden in color.

How to Make Cottage Pie Video

To store leftover cottage pie, follow these steps:

  1. Let the casserole cool down at room temperature for about an hour after it’s been cooked. This helps prevent moisture buildup inside the container.
  2. Divide the leftover cottage pie into smaller portions. This makes it easier to reheat only the amount that you need and to freeze any extra portions for later use.
  3. Transfer the portions of cottage pie to an airtight container. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids work well. Make sure there is enough room in the container to prevent the pie from getting squished.
  4. Label the container with the date and contents. This will help you keep track of how long the cottage pie has been stored in the fridge or freezer.
  5. Store the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

When you’re ready to reheat the leftover cottage pie, remove it from the refrigerator or freezer and let it thaw at room temperature for a few hours. Once it’s thawed, you can reheat it in the oven or microwave at 350F for about 30 minutes (when reheating a whole casserole).

Cottage Pie served for st patricks day

Tips for Cottage Pie

  • Cut down on prep time by using canned or frozen vegetables.
  • Use a good red wine. Does not have to be expensive but the flavor will shine through.
  • If you love the layered look, allow the meat and mashed potatoes to cool significantly before layering.
  • Make-ahead and freeze as a solid casserole. Bake from frozen for 1 hour at 350F to serve.
close up of cottage pie layers

What to Serve with Cottage Pie

This casserole is of course meant to be served as a one pot dish, but could easily be served with a side salad, Irish Soda Bread, and finished off with some Guinness Chocolate Cake! Yum!

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Authentic Irish Cottage Pie Recipe

Course Main Course
Cuisine Irish
Prep Time 22 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 2 minutes
Servings 12 people
A multi-layered, hearty casserole dish with two layers of mashed potatoes and minced meat lamb featuring sauted vegetables and red wine gravy.



Minced Meat

  • 2 pounds ground lamb or ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion medium, fine diced
  • 15 ounces carrots chopped
  • 15 ounces peas
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic minced
  • 4 stems thyme leaves removed from stems
  • 2 stems rosemary chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Mashed Potatoes

  • 2.5 pounnds potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup cheese shredded, parmesan or Irish cheddar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


Mince Meat Filling

  • To a skillet over medium-high heat brown the ground lamb for about 10 minutes, allowing the fat to release. Remove most of the excess grease.
  • Once brown, add the onion and carrots to the skillet with the meat and saute for 5 minutes until onions become translucent.
  • Add the peas, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to the skillet and saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir in to cook for 1 minute.
  • Pour in red wine to deglaze the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes to remove alcohol and reduce the wine. Add the worcestershire sauce followed by the chicken stock. Reduce by half. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mashed Potatoes

  • Peel and dice the potatoes. Add to a pot of boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes until fork tender. Time will depend on size of potatoes. Drain and add to a large bowl.
  • Add the chicken stock, butter, egg yolks, half of the cheese, salt, and pepper to the bowl of hot potatoes. Use a hand held stand mixer to mash and cream the potatoes.

To Assemble

  • Spread half of the mashed potatoes into the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer the entire meat filling next, spread evenly. Top with the remaining mashed potatoes, texturize with a fork, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
  • Bake at 350F for 40 minutes until golden brown and cheese is melted. Top with fresh herbs and serve.


Timing Note: Start the potatoes while the meat is cooking. Let the meat layer cool while mashing the potatoes. 


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 401kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 681mg | Potassium: 565mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 6543IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 3mg

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