Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with lamb; in North America we’ve made the switch to beef. Ground lean beef or bison works well here – bison is far leaner, with about a quarter the fat of beef. If you use ground lamb, call it shepherd’s pie – if it’s beef, it’s cottage pie.
Classic Shepherd’s Pie (aka Cottage Pie)
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef, bison or lamb
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dry thyme
1 cup frozen peas
2 lb Yukon gold or rust potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large sauté pan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Cook the onion for a few minutes, until soft, then add the carrot and meat and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain any excess fat and sprinkle with flour. Add the stock, tomato paste, and thyme. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the peas. Pour into a baking dish that will accommodate it, with room for the potatoes on top.
Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain and mash with the butter, milk, salt and pepper. Spread them over the meat mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and golden.