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.