Shepherd's pie is made with lamb or mutton, either already cooked or not, with some flavouring vegetables such as onion mixed in, then topped with mashed potato and baked.
It's often served with garden peas.
If the dish is made with a meat other than lamb or mutton, it is actually a Cottage Pie.
Instead of ground meat, try using chunks of meat from shoulder of lamb, or beef shank. Leave some fat on, to help prevent the meat from going dry on you.
Cook the chunks of meat first until tender, and then proceed to assemble the pie.
The mashed potato on top should have lots of butter and milk in it. Ideally, they're not mashed too smoothly.
The dish as we know it, though, couldn't have originated before potatoes became generally accepted in the UK, which wasn't until the end of the 1700s.
Before that, the dish or a very similar one was made in Scotland, but topped with a pastry crust instead of mashed potato.
The name for the dish appeared in the 1870s.
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