Now a dish of minced beef in gravy, often with onion, below a substantial layer of mashed potato. Baked until the potato is crisped.
Though 'cottage pie' is commonly the name for the dish made with beef and 'shepherd's pie' for the sheep-meat version the two terms are slightly interchangeable.
'Cottage Pie' is mentioned as far back as Parson Woodforde's diaries of 1791, but may there refer simply to a pie which had been made in a cottage. There don't seem to be any definitive references to it as now made before about 1890, though there are precursors such as Saunders and...
Original Receipt from 'The English Cookery Book' edited by JH Walsh (Walsh 1859);
Potato Pudding With Meat.
Boil them till fit to mash, rub through a colander, and make into a thick batter with milk and two eggs; lay some seasoned steaks in a dish, then some batter, and over the last layer put the remainder of the batter; bake a fine brown.
The eariest references to something like the modern form we find from the later part of the 19th Century...
Liverpool Mercury - Saturday 23 March 1861
Original Receipt in 'Sheffield Independent' - Saturday 29 November 1884, p16
Cottage Pie. — Mash the cold potatoes left from yesterday, spread a thick layer at the bottom of a pie dish, then lay on tho cold beef cut into very small pieces, almost minced, pour a teacupful of gravy over, saved from the stock used for soup, a little pepper and salt, then another layer of mashed potatoes. Score the top, then put it into the oven to get thoroughly hot and nicely browned.
Original Receipt from 'Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald' - Saturday 28 April 1894, p2
Cottage Pie.—Take the remains of cold joint, especially in winter weather. For it allow one pound of cold meat, one Spanish onion, teaspoonful of chopped parsley, and seasoning of pepper, salt, and curry powder. First chop the onion and fry- it dripping till brown, flour it well, then add gradually a little water as stock and the parsley. Chop the meat rather finely, add it to the gravy and seasoning, and place it in pie-dish. Cover with a layer mashed potato, put a few bits of dripping on the top, and bake in a good steady oven for 40 minutes. a good plan to add little ketchup, tomato sauce, or pickle vinegar to the gravy, just vary the flavour
Potato Table Pasty
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