Shepherd’s Pie

On the sheep farms of Cumberland tough mutton had to be used up somehow. In a hash (rarely an entirely satisfactory dish anyhow) the meat can be like leather. So the shepherd’s wife chopped the cold tough cooked mutton and beat it in a mortar; it was much better; with thickened stock and potato on top it was delicious and very filling. It became a standard dish, made much easier by the advent of the mincer. It is certainly the simple rather than the high cooking of England but none the worse for that.


  • 1 lb. (½ k.) cooked meat (any fresh meat or bird may be used but salt beef and sausage meat are not suitable)
  • ¾-1½ lb. (½-1 k.) peeled potatoes
  • 2 oz. (60 g.) butter
  • ¼ pint ( dl.) milk
  • 1 oz. (20 g.) flour
  • seasoning
  • ½ pint (3 dl.) good onion-flavoured meat stock
  • grated cheese if liked


Mince the meat, removing all fat and skin and gristle first. Cook the potatoes, peeled and cut in halves, till tender for mashing.

Melt the oz. (45 g.) butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. To this add, slowly stirring, the milk and meat stock. When smooth and fairly thick and just on the boil, stir in the mince. Stir over very low heat for three minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a flat buttered fireproof dish and leave to get cold. Meanwhile cream the potatoes, season, stir in the rest of the butter and a little milk, and whisk with a fork till smooth. Set aside until the minced meat is cool enough to have solidified and formed a solid surface. If you add the potato to the hot mince it will sink into it.

When cool, spread the potato about an inch thick all over the dish, working lightly with a fork. Dot with pieces of butter, or cover with grated cheese. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 350° F., gas mark 4, for 20 minutes, when the top should be golden brown.

The dish may be prepared in the morning and left for cooking until the evening without harm.