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Shepherds' Pie and Cottage Pie

There is some confusion outside the UK between shepherds pie and cottage pie
Basically shepherds look after sheep, hence a lamb or mutton pie is called a shepherds' pie (but not shepherd's pie if you want to be pedantic). 
Dishes containing beef and sweetcorn are not shepherds pie, you could call them  "Pâté chinois", a north American  variation consisting of layers of minced beef and sweetcorn or creamed corn, topped with mashed potato in the same way as shepherds pie (said to have originated in Quebec from Chinese descendants of railway workers, but anything less like Chinese food is hard to imagine). 

Any British beef and mashed potato pie is called a cottage pie. The name "shepherds pie" does not appear to be old, first appearing in the 19th Century, although the dish itself must be much older. It may well be that the name cottage pie was used for all pies of this type before the term shepherds pie came into use. Dorothy Hartley does not mention shepherds pie and refers to a cottage pie made from mutton. Alan Davidson refers to a first known mention of Shepherds pie in 1885, discovered by Jane Grigson. The  french equivalent is "hachis Parmentier".

Shepherds' Pie recipe
This mildly eclectic recipe calls on baked beans (US Boston beans) and curry powder to liven up this traditional English dish. Omit the beans and curry powder if you want authenticity.
It is not uncommon to mix cheese into the mashed potato.
the cooked lamb mixture adding the mash the finished pie

(serves 2)
Fry a chopped onion, add 1 pound minced (ground) lamb or, even better, mutton, fry until brown, stir in a spoonful of cornflour, add some chopped garlic, add a tin (420g or 15 oz can) of baked beans (haricot, navy beans in tomato sauce) large spoonful of Worcestershire sauce, spoonful of mild curry powder (this will contain turmeric, chilli, coriander, cumin, clove, cardamom, anything that starts in C!) a handful of garden peas and some sliced carrot, stir to mix.

Meanwhile boil enough potatoes to cover the top of the stew in mashed potato made with butter.
Put the stew in an ovenproof casserole and cover with layer of mashed potato. Bake in a moderate oven until the top is browned (the top of the potato should be level with the top of the casserole so that any overflow messes up your oven not the potato.
In my opinion the longer and slower you cook it the better.

Field Guide: Shepherds pie and Cottage pie:-

Shepherds, (people who look after sheep
note non-resemblance to cowboys including lack of horses. 
A sheep, note lack of resemblance to a cow including woolly coat
Call is baaaa! not mooo!
The actual pies are difficult to tell apart in the field, due to the covering of mashed potato.The best field characteristic is taste, lamb having a stronger tangy taste. Be suspicious of the north American sub species, especially when it contains creamed corn, most erroneous identifications of shepherds pie relate to this type. See if you can tell which is which from these two pies ready to be browned in the oven
Shepherds pieCottage pie
.All photos taken in Wasdale in the English Lake District where some of the best free range Herdwick lamb and mutton is grown. (Yes, there really were bulls and sheep outside the window but I combined three photos for better exposures and no, I didn't make two pies).
Traditional English food
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