Deep South Cottage Pie or Shepherds Pie

As you can probably guess, I don’t venture into the realm of “man food” very often.  I’m that stereotypical loony hippie who craves kale.  Fortunately, my husband happily consumes anything I make without complaint.  He’s not into big chunks of meat anyways, for which I am thankful.

But on the rare occasion that one of us buys ground beef and it becomes a meatloaf or shepherd’s pie, J is in heaven.  He loves peas and potatoes, and sauce of any sort.  Accordingly, cottage pie goes over so well around here, it keeps getting eaten before I can photograph it.  Not a bad sign, I guess.But hang on, you’re maybe wondering why I keep switching up the terminology. Is it cottage pie or shepherds pie? Until recently, I thought ‘shepherd’s pie’ and ‘cottage pie’ were interchangeable–my mother called it one thing and my dad the other.  I figured one was an American term and the other English/South African. 

Then, an English friend provided some clarification: both terms are correct.  It’s called shepherd’s pie if it’s made with lamb, and cottage pie if it’s made with ground beef.  Well, bob’s your uncle!  That sounds like as good a definition as any.

The last cottage pie to emerge from my oven was a creation of necessity, based on a few odd items kicking around the kitchen.  (Dinner often feels like an Iron Chef challenge: “Make something edible out of condiments, a can of mushy peas, and a frozen lump of beef!”) Thankfully there’s always Hunter’s Pride barbecue sauce to tie it all together.

The resulting tangy beef & ranch mashed potato pie was too good not to blog about, and makes regular appearances on our table.  Sweet potatoes, ranch, and tangy Georgia-style barbecue sauce make it a little different than usual, but even our English friend approves of the changes.  Whether you call it cottage pie or shepherds pie, enjoy!

Deep South Cottage Pie
Serves 6
Georgia-style barbecue sauce is very different from the thick, sweet, tomato-based sauce most of us are used to. Hunter's Pride is the sauce of choice here in Savannah,with a peppery bite, a dash of mustard, and a vinegary tang that we love. Check out their online store at for a bottle or three. If you can only find regular barbecue sauce, omit the tomato paste and add a teaspoon or two of cider vinegar to cut the sweetness.
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Total Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
  1. Meat Layer:
  2. 1 lb. lean ground beef (or crumbled tempeh or cooked, drained lentils for vegetarian)*
  3. olive oil
  4. 1 carrot, diced
  5. 1 small onion, diced
  6. 1 rib celery, diced
  7. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 3/4 c. canned or frozen peas
  9. 1/3 c. tangy barbecue sauce
  10. 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  11. 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  12. salt & pepper to taste
  13. Mashed Potato Layer
  14. 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 lb.) , peeled & diced into 1" cubes
  15. 3 smallish Yukon Gold potatoes (1 lb.), diced into 1" cubes (I leave the skin on)
  16. 2 Tbsp. butter
  17. 1/4 c. sour cream
  18. 2 tsp. powdered ranch dressing mix (check to ensure it's gluten-free!)
  19. salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the mashed potatoes first. Put cubed potatoes in a large pot, and fill with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and boil potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until they are soft enough to slice simply by running a paring knife through the pot. Drain potatoes, and return to pot. Add butter, sour cream, and ranch mix, and mash. Season with salt & pepper to taste, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425F and get out a standard pie pan or 8"x8" baking dish. Mix barbecue sauce, tomato paste, and Dijon mustard in a measuring cup and set aside.
  3. Heat a tsp. or so of oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and saute the onion, garlic, carrot, & celery, until onion begins to turn translucent. Crumble ground beef into the pan, and cook until browned, then drain. Pour in barbecue mixture and peas, and cook until peas are thawed and everything is warmed through. Add a Tbsp. or two of water if the mixture looks dry. (If you're using lentils, you won't need water.)
  4. Spoon meat mixture into the bottom of your baking dish. Dollop mashed potatoes on top in an even layer. Bake about 20 minutes, or until bubbling around the edges and lightly browning on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
  1. *I've been doubling the recipe and using half lentils, half ground beef lately. Possibly my favorite combo!
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