Okay, okay, this is technically cottage pie because I use beef, not mutton or lamb. Shepherd’s pie, rightfully, contains something sheepy. But we call it shepherd’s pie because if I asked Jim if he wanted “cottage pie,” I’d probably get a blank stare.
I have never had a better quick home-made shepherd’s/cottage pie than the one with Colman’s Shepherd’s Pie Mix from the British/Irish foods aisle at the grocery store; the envelope looks like this. I can find it in every grocery store here in the Boston area because there is a large segment of the population with recent, direct family ties to the Isles; it may be harder to locate in other parts of the country. The back of the envelope tells you exactly what you need to make a successful shepherd’s/cottage pie, but I can also tell you from memory the simple list of ingredients: an onion, some fresh carrots, frozen peas, a pound of ground meat (charmingly called ‘mince’ by our cross-Atlantic cousins), either lamb or beef (I wonder if ground turkey would work, I suppose it would, but what would we call it? Poulterer’s Pie?), mashed potatoes, and an envelope of sauce mix.
Brown mince and onion, and drain off excess fat. Mix sauce, peas, and carrots in, heat through, and then pour in to an ovenproof dish (I use a round glass casserole). Top with mashed potato (preferably with lumps!!) and bake for half an hour at 400 degrees. The directions are all on the sauce package. I warn you though, it might bubble over so watch out for hot bubbling liquid when you remove it from the oven. I let it cool on the stovetop for ten or fifteen minutes to let the sauce thicken and avoid burning my mouth!