Knowledge Base

Shepherd’s Pie: Where Did It Come From?

Beef and Rosemary Shepherds Pie

Have you ever wondered where shepherd’s pie comes from or what history is behind the shepherd’s pie? This amazingly simple and hearty dish has its origins in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. There is some debate as to whether it was created in Ireland, Scotland or northern England, so for argument’s sake we’ll just say it originates from the United Kingdom.

Now, we don’t want to give you a history lesson so here is a summary of what we could find on the web.

The Short Story

According to Britanica, the pie was invented as a way for peasant housewives to repackage leftover meat. Ok that’s a really short story about the origin and the history of the shepherd’s pie, so if you want to know the actual history behind it, then continue reading.

Shepherd's Pie: Courtesy of Chowhound.com
Courtesy of Chowhound.com

The History

Here is the official history of the shepherd’s pie and where it came from. In the late 15th century, England had taken control of Ireland, and made it part of the United Kingdom. As a result of the unification with England, Protestantism became the new official religion, despite Ireland being majority Catholic.

Due to the government’s protection and assistance to the British and Protestant Irish converts, the Irish Catholics became peasant land workers. As a result, they were generally low-income individuals, living in homes called cottages (hence the name “cottage pie.”)

The potato was introduced to Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh. Over time, it gained acceptance in Ireland as an edible, affordable piece of produce, particularly for the poor.

So then, after making a weekend roast, the unused meat was re-purposed into a pie using affordable potatoes as a crust. The name “cottage pie” referred to the consumers of the dish—poor Irish peasants who lived in cottages.

But wait a minute, I thought we were talking about shepherd’s pie and not cottage pie? Well you see, cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is basically the same thing, except for one thing. Shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, whereas cottage pie is made with beef or mince.

Shepherd's Pie: Courtesy of Chowhound.com
Courtesy of Chowhound.com

Conclusion

Ok, so that was a short history lesson, hey? We know you are busy and you don’t want to read the entire backstory of the origin of potatoes and how they were introduced into Britain. We could also have bored you with some more information about the history of the shepherd’s pie. Luckily we decided to keep it short and sweet.

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