Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Energy Saving Shepherd's Pie

I was going to make shepherd's pie for my dinner, but then I thought what a waste of using the oven, just for a little shepherd's pie for one person.  There wasn't anything else I wanted to cook at the same time, so I decided it didn't really need to go in the oven.

Shepherd's pie and cottage pie are very similar but the earliest recorded mention is of cottage pie on 29 August 1791 by the Reverend James Woodford who had it for dinner with roast beef.

Shepherd's pie was not mentioned until the 1870's, coinciding with the popularity of mincing machines for shredding meat and the name seems to have originated in Scotland and the North of England where more sheep and less cattle were bred than in most other parts of Britain.

The first cottage pies would have been made with diced up meat from the Sunday roast by frugal peasant housewives.  Adding diced vegetables such as carrots helped to add bulk to the meal and lining the dish with mashed potato and then adding more potato on the top was a cheap way of making the meal even more filling without the expense or bother of making pastry.  Once it was made it could be put aside until nearer dinner time and then just popped in the oven with no more work.  This is an ideal dish for someone who needs to prepare a meal in advance and heat it up later.

I wasn't preparing my meal in advance, so I thought, why bother with putting it in the oven.  By the time I served it up it would look very much the same.

I made my pie with organic minced beef, so perhaps it should be called cottage pie, but for me that recipe contains peas and diced carrots. Not surprisingly for a British dish, nearly all my ingredients came from the British Isles and probably most came from less than 100 miles away.  Most of the vegetables (potatoes. onions, mushrooms) all came from Riverford, so were probably grown in Hampshire.  The one that came from further afield was the sweet potato, which I added for interest, but would not have been known to the 18th century peasant or his wife.


  1. What a mine of information you are. I'm afraid it's always 'shepherd's pie' in our house, despite the fact that it's minced beef.

    I'm glad to hear that you're still working though some of the issues you considered in No Impact Week. I'm hoping the same will be true for me. It's practising being more aware (mindful?) of the world around us and how we impact on it, and then making little changes for the better to the way we live.

  2. I think that's exactly right; being more aware of our impact on the world around us and making little changes for the better is the way forward to a better world. :-)

  3. Congratulations on your low energy meal. I fear I counterbalanced you though. After a long few days of fighting with my computer and my boyfriend (those two always seem to go together) and realizing that I'd eaten nothing but chocolate and popcorn all day (I think there's an inverse relationship between healthful eating and emotional state).

    Anyhow, I decided that I should cook myself a proper supper. One of my blogging buddies had been extolling the virtues of indoor grilling, so I decided to grill myself some salmon and vegetables. I must say it was one of the most beautiful looking and delicious meals I have ever prepared...

    But I now understand why a hood vent is an essential piece of equipment for indoor grilling. The entire house filled with smoke and I had to open all of the windows in sub-freezing temperatures to air it out! The cats at first were sure the world was coming to an end as the house was filling with smoke and the detector was blaring. Then they thought they'd died and gone to heaven since all the windows were open and they could look out.

    It sure tasted good, but I fear it was anything but energy efficient! Perhaps I'll have another glass of wine...

  4. It somehow seems wrong that such a healthy meal should be bad for the planet, Rebecca. I hope it hasn't put you off trying other healthy and tasty recipes.


All relevant comments to this post are welcome, so feel free to have your say.