Shepherd’s Pie or cottage pie refers to a British or Irish meat pie made with beef mince and with a crust made from mashed potato. The term cottage pie is known to have been first used in 1791, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor.
In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.
The term "shepherd's pie" did not appear until the 1870s, and since then it has been used synonymously with "cottage pie", regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton. There is now a popular tendency for "shepherd's pie" to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb, with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cattle. This may, however, be an example of folk etymology.
Though in modern day recipes it is considered standard to use mashed potato as a topping, traditionally it was served with slices of potato layered over the meat filling which, when cooked, looked like the tiles of a cottage roof. This is thought to be how the dish got its name.
The cumberland pie is a version with a layer of bread crumbs on top. A similar British dish made with fish is a fish pie.
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Cottage pie , en.wikipedia.org
No-fuss shepherd's pie , www.bbcgoodfood.com
Recipes: Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe , britishfood.about.com