Minced or chopped beef, mixed or topped with vegetables, then topped with mashed potatoes and baked.
Before mincing machines came along in the 1870s, it would have been made with chunks of meat, and before the British grudgingly started eating the potato at the end of the 1700s, it would have been topped with a pastry crust instead of the mashed potato.
It differs from Shepherd's Pie in that Shepherd's Pie uses lamb instead of beef, and doesn't always have vegetables in it.
In the hands of an able cook, Cottage Pie is a dish that warms the heart in winter and calls all by itself for seconds. In the hands of a mean or indifferent cook, it is every school child's worst nightmare.
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