A pie by any other name

I’m pretty sure we’ve talked about the highs and lows of homemade cottage pie on here before. In my opinion, for a dish that’s essentially a layer of savoury mince topped with a few mashed potatoes, the amount of effort required to make it far outweighs the enjoyment of eating it. No matter how tasty the end result might be, I always feel a little short changed afterwards. Nevertheless, knowing that Pud and Eddy are quite partial to a plateful of this hearty, savoury concoction, I selflessly soldier on and make it on a regular (well maybe once a month) basis.

Today was their lucky day though and while I was in the middle of frying the mince and onions, Pud asked me what the difference is between a cottage and a shepherd’s pie. For a moment I thought this was going to be a funny joke until I remembered that Pud isn’t really a funny joke kind of guy, so I gave him the sensible answer which is cottage pie is traditionally made with minced beef and shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.

I understand his confusion, we’ve been calling it shepherd’s pie for years but recently I’ve gone all fancy and started calling it by its rightful name. Now Pud doesn’t know what he’s getting for dinner anymore (come to think of it, that’s nothing new). I don’t know why I’ve decided to use the correct name after all this time but now I’ve gone all proper it’s only a matter of time before I’m inviting the family to retire to the drawing room after dinner for a postprandial cigar and glass of port while I go and scold the butler for leaving a fingerprint smear on my best cut glass wine goblet.

The good thing about making cottage pie though is that there’s usually enough mashed potato left over to make one of Molly’s childhood favourites, unfathomably named ‘bum potatoes’. These consist of a patty of potato, sometimes with cheese and bacon mixed in, coated in breadcrumbs and lightly fried before finishing them off in the oven. Some might call them a croquette but I think ‘Aunt Bessie’s Bum Potatoes’ has a much better ring to it (pun wasn’t intended but who doesn’t love a bit of toilet humour?)

And still on the subject of mashed potatoes, I have a friend who makes a cottage pie (or it might be shepherd’s, I just don’t know anymore) and then covers the top with a layer of puff pastry. I have to admit I thought this might be a step too far but I’m not one to knock something until I’ve tried it, so I used a scrap of pastry I found knocking about in the fridge to go all out and make a trial sized cottage pie in a pie!

I had hoped to show you pictorial evidence of the cooked cottage pie with its burnt orange cheesy topping but in a cruel plot twist this evening our oven packed up and I ended up having to quickly improvise with sausages, beans and toast. I don’t think there’s another name for that nutritional delight apart from perhaps ‘Mum’s mini meltdown surprise’…