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Cottage Pie with a hand from Tamasin Day-Lewis in Saveur Magazine

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Growing up in Canada, the Sunday Roast was a tradition in our house.  An enormous piece of beef would appear on the dinner table and our extended family would dig in.  And it was almost always beef because my parents had no great affection for lamb or, heaven forbid, pork which could cause a disease called “Trichinosis”, the very sound of which sent shivers up our spines.  So beef it was. In the week after the roast, my mother would make Shepherd’s Pie, which is what she always called it.  This is a really old English recipe.  The first time it was printed was in an anonymous writer’s cookbook in 1737 called “The Whole Duty of a Woman”. (Can you imagine the response that title would arouse today? )  Shepherd’s Pie has evolved since then. In the Victorian era, the hand-cranked meat grinder was introduced so that turning the leftover roast into minced meat was infinitely easier. Mixed with onions and, sometimes, leftover vegetables, the filling was then topped with mashed potatoes and reheated in the oven.  I loved it.  And it was a good thing because it was a weekly staple in our house for years and years.  But when Andrew and I got together he cringed at the very thought of Shepherd’s Pie.  Apparently when he was in school in England, in his own words, ‘you can just imagine how badly it could be made’.   But having already made hash with some leftover prime rib, I still had leftovers. I decided to prove him wrong.  But first I had to correct something wrong about my mother’s Shepherd’s Pie.

“Shepherd’s Pie” refers only to the version that uses lamb.  What my mother made was “Cottage Pie”, the version made with beef.  When I started my search for a recipe for the dish, I was awfully glad I stumbled upon one offered up by Tamasin Day-Lewis in Saveur magazine.  If her surname sounds familiar, it is likely because her brother is the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Ms. Day-Lewis is no slouch herself. She is the author of at least 10 cookbooks including “Food You Can’t Say No To” (Quadrille 2012).  What particularly appealed to me is Ms. Day-Lewis belief that the dish “needs a little savory enhancement”.  To her recipe, she adds Worcestershire sauce, some tomato paste and, in lieu of leftover vegetables, the simple holy trinity of onion, celery and carrots plus some tomatoes.  Other recipes I saw added mushrooms, cooked the dish with Madeira and added cheese to the potato topping.  But Ms. Day-Lewis’s version was a triumph.  The filling was full of flavor and potato topping– so full of cream and butter, it was frightening—looked and tasted just beautiful.  It is traditionally served with green peas and I saw no need to change that side dish. I am almost certain that if you have no leftover roast beef on hand, you could likely substitute ground sirloin.  So here’s to our old English roots and to a pie that Andrew pronounced splendid.  Here’s the recipe:

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