Another traditional english recipe, this one coming from the West Country sheep-farming communities. This is my version of the recipe which may not be quite so traditional but tastes divine.


What to do

Chop the onion (finely or coarsely, it's up to you) and fry gently in the oil until translucent. Add the minced meat and continue frying until it has browned. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of stock, enough to just cover the meat. Finely chop the tomatoes and add them. Add the seasonings and ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile peel the potatoes and boil them in salted water. When soft, drain and mash with plenty of milk and butter.

When the meat mixture is cooked it should be of the consistency of a thick chilli, pour it into an ovenproof dish, making sure it comes no more than two-thirds of the way up the sides. Now place the mashed potato on top of this, forming a thick potato "crust" on top of the meat. Optionally garnish with grated cheese and/or slices of tomato and put in a hot oven until the top of the potato goes crispy.

Serves 3-6 depending on how hungry you are, serve with fresh vegetables, salad and crusty bread.

I was at Boy Scout camp one year, and there was this camp counselor named Hester. She was a blonde Swedish girl who worked at the waterfront and was brimming with nice delicious breasts. I think she existed solely to tease the hormone-raging adolescents to attended the camp. But I digress...

My particular troop was one of the most hated in camp. We didn't give a shit about "Scouting". We were more concerned with lighting fires and using sharp, bladed objects, and generally pissing off folks that went to camp to (*gasp*) earn merit badges. Another pastime we had was smuggling as much food from the dining hall as we could without getting caught. Said food would then be sacrificed later that night in that night's bonfire of many non-wood objects.

We had managed to get a wide variety of foods - rolls, fruit, pudding, even an entire ham, but the Holy Grail had avoided us. We had to acquire an entire 12 serving shepherds pie. Luckily, we had our chance...

The group was equally divided into two camps: wimps, and those with the intestinal fortitude to forego dinner for a greater cause. We had weeded out the non-believers and formed a solid group who would sit together. Mealtime arrived. It was the zero hour. The time had come. There was nothing that could stop us! Nothing... but...

Hester. You see, every table must have at least one camp counselor at it, and Hester decided, as she often did, to sit at our table. I think this was because she respected the fact that we outwardly flirted with her, rather than the standard introvert Boy Scout who gathers up mental images and then "pitches his own tent" later that night. But again, I digress. Hester was hungry. We tried to placate her with bread and punch, but it was to no avail - she wanted shepherds pie. We came clean and told her of our plan, hoping that she would see the bigger picture. Instead, she started toying with us!

"Well, then," she said in that sweet Swedish accent, "I won't have any unless you guys have some. But Chris, wouldn't you like some shepherds pie?"

Chris shook his head. He was far too young to fall victim to such wily charms.

"Jason, how about you?"

No dice. Jason was perhaps the one among us who loved fire more than anything else in the world.

"Timothy, wouldn't you love to share some delicious shepherds pie with me?"

Jackpot! I've never seen a shepherds pie torn into so quickly. Hormones can do that to a shepherds pie, I guess. After that, saving the rest of the pie became a moot point. Tim never lived it down, though. His Oreo stash was sacrificed to the fire god that night, and he was open-aired that night after he went to sleep.

Jeez. I guess the moral of the story is that if you're a buxom Swedish blonde, you can get a teenager to do anything you say, just by using the words "love", "share", "me", and "delicious".

In French, Shepherd's pie is known as Pâté Chinois, which translates to Chinese meat pie. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I have two theories however:

1. Derivation of "Chinoiserie"
Chinoiserie is an expression for obfuscation. It's not derogative (well I don't think so). It's because the French think everything that is Chinese is complicated, upside down or nonsensical.

Having that said, since Shepherd's pie is kind of "mixed up", it was named so.

2. It was invented by the Chinese
A less likely theory, but I've been told of this by a few of my friends, so I'll mention it. I was told that when the Chinese had just immigrated to Canada, they did not have much money or food, so they made a dish with potatoes and corn.

Shepherd's pie is oftenly accompanied with Ketchup, (yet another) invention of the Chinese.

And this is what it looks like from sideways:

mashed potatoes
ground beef

A variation on hachis parmentier.
On Melodrame's comment about pate chinois; it's not exactly clear why it's called that but the most common theory is that it was the dish that was fed to Chinese immigrants hired for the major infrastructure work in Canada during the late 19th/early 20th century: The Grand Trunk Railroad, digging the St-Lawrence Seaway. French-canadians working on these projects picked up the recipe and adopted it...

Shepherd's Pie

I got this recipe years ago from an Oxo ad in a magazine. It is one of the few things I can make for dinner that all of my family likes. It's really good on a cold day...hearty and filling. And simple.


Sauté onion and celery in fat, until onion is transparent. Add flour and beef, and brown. Drain off excess fat. Dissolve Oxo in boiling water, add pepper and salt. Add to beef mixture. Turn into 6 cup baking dish. Cover with corn, top with potatoes. Brush with melted butter. Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees. 6 servings.

You can substitute frozen corn for the canned corn, or use your favourite vegetable. Peas, green beans, whatever. This is also a good make-ahead dish, something that the kids can pop into the oven when they get hungry.


Planning meals to feed the family can be tough on any schedule. It is a good idea to utilize leftovers whenever possible. The trick is not in figuring out what to make when you have them but lies more in planning meals around expected leftovers. For instance, mashed potatoes make a great side dish to many different meals and if I know I'm going to make them at some point in the week, why not make enough to use in other recipes? Try them in the following (easy), albeit americanized, Sheperd's Pie recipe that I've adapted from several others over the years:

Yield: about 8 servings

1lb. ground beef

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 16oz. can seasoned stewed tomatoes (Italian or celery + onion)

1 can green beans

½ can corn (or better, leftover corn!)

1 egg, beaten

Approx 4-6 cups left over mashed potatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F

In a large frying pan, brown beef and garlic. Add salt and pepper.

Drain meat and place in a 2 qt. casserole dish. Pour tomatoes, crushing them as you go, over meat. Top with green beans, then corn. Heat leftover mashed potatoes in the microwave until warm and spreadable. Mound them over the top of the casserole. Ideally, they should not be uniform smooth but like rather like frosting a cake with the “peaks” created allowing for a better brown. Brush with egg. Bake for 30 minutes. Broil 1 minute to brown the top. Enjoy!


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