Shepherd’s pie symbolises everything I loathe about English food

Shepherd’s pie symbolises everything I loathe about English food

You start with intrinsically delicious ingredients — beef, onions, tomatoes — which in another culture would become something pungent and flavoursome, like spaghetti bolognese or chili con carne. And instead, the dark sorcery of English cooking somehow contrives to merge them all into this flavourless substance. OK, you can eat it. It’s not actually unpleasant. But it’s such a waste.

Blah blah blah boring blah

Have you ever noticed that English restaurants are rarely found in France? Or indeed anywhere? There’s a reason for that.

We can make great beer in England. But food? Not so much.

17 responses to “Shepherd’s pie symbolises everything I loathe about English food

  1. i think you may be mentally ill! Yes, of course a naff supermarket shepherd’s pie tastes like very little at all – but if done well, with fresh ingredients, a decent home made sauce and cheese melted on top after the potato has turned golden – it’s about the best damn food on the planet. I rarely feel excitement when a boring old bolognese or con carne is in the offering – oh yay, mince with pasta sauce, or oh yay, mince with horrid beans in it. Shepherd’s pie is a damn fine meal, honest, rugged and British to the core. Those nasty foreign foods you mention, with their overtones of fascism and incest, represent everything that’s wrong with your weak limbed overseas johnnies! As I look out across the English Channel, shepherd’s pie in one hand, brave british fork in t’other – I thank God, Churchill and the White Cliffs of Dover that I was born an Englishman!

  2. I thought shepherd’s pie was traditionally made with lamb (also potentially delicious, and more commonly available to the traditional shepherd).

    I’ve actually had shepherd’s pie that was quite good… nice sauce, crisped mash with a little garlic, veg still firm and flavorful… a quite nice combination all told.

    If you get a bland, poorly cooked pie, have you tried smothering it in HP sauce? ;)

  3. I LLOLled at Robin Jubber’s progressively more hysterical comment.

    Bevan’s right: technically, what I described is cottage pie, not shepherd’s pie: the latter is indeed made with lamb rather than beer. But still.

  4. Have you been using beef or beer? I think I see your problem… :-D

  5. LLOL again, this time at my own dumb typo. Thanks for spotting it — it’s too good to fix.

  6. I generally enjoy eating shepherd’s pie, but to the best of my knowledge I’ve never had one made by an actual English person. Perhaps English food is enhanced by someone getting all the little details wrong when preparing it due to it being different from what they’re used to. It must take a lot of practice to perfectly eliminate all flavor from tasty ingredients, after all.

  7. Potato, beef, onions, tomatoes – isn’t that Cottage Pie?

  8. For me, shepherd’s pie is one of the greatest foods in the world, and an example of how much *better* British food is than that of any other country. Of course, I have all sorts of sensory problems that make strongly-flavoured *anything* essentially inedible for me…

  9. I’m not British. I just like Doctor Who. Also I like Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

    Douglas Adams might agree with you, Mike. In “So Long and Thanks For All the Fish” he had very bad things to say about English food or at least the sandwiches. IIRC, he said that eating (horrible) sandwiches is how the British atone for their sins.

  10. I always thought:

    shepherds pie = lamb


    cottage pie = beef

    but says no!

    Fish pie! oh yes!

  11. There’s NO WAY a good cook, having those fine (and fresh!) ingredients would cause harm. Nat having eaten a real shepherd’s pie ever in my life I would guess a layer of melted cheese, potatoes and minced meat must create an interesting texture. At the same time I have had a pretty horrible bolognese and con carne: it’s not about the recipe, it’s about the (quality of) ingredients and the cook.

  12. In theory, I agree. In practice there is a subtle alchemy of cookery where the flavours of all those ingredients just cancel out, leaving you with a bland, flavourless mass. I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so disgusted.

  13. Shepherd’s pie is English moussaka. There are lousy steam table versions of it, and some amazingly good ones. When we visited England some ages ago, we were so nervous about getting fed properly that we had an emergency backup plan to cross the channel and check out Normandy. Needless to say, our fears were groundless. England was full of wonderful pub grub, seriously good game dishes, and amazing desserts. We still marvel over the hare in bitter chocolate sauce we had all those years ago, and the grass fed beef was a revelation. We even bought an English cookbook which has the best lemon curd recipe we have ever found.

    If you think England has bad food, consider the US where it isn’t obvious that the cuisine is suitable for carbon based life forms.

  14. Add whatever spicy flavour you want to the meat and also to the mash, it need not be bland at all 🍴

    and for the people saying
    Shepard = lamb mince and cottage = beef………
    I thought cottage pie was topped with sliced potatoes overlapping like roof tiles on a cottage :-)

  15. You’re obviously using inferior meat or lack the correct recipe. You have to use good chunky-ground grass fed lamb or beef, and you don’t actually use tomatoes. The mince must be slow cooked. The potatoes must be fluffy. What with the quality of the beef I ate in the US, as well as the sloppy nature of the mashed potatoes, I wouldn’t be surprised if it came out badly there.

  16. I’m sympathetic to the ingredient-quality argument, but the simple fact of the matter is that I’m using the same minced beef I use for chili con carne and spaghetti bolognese, and those both come out pretty darned stellar if I do say so myself.

  17. I couldnt agree with you more mate, just had the same argument here at work (prior to reading this article) and i pretty much gave the exact reasons as you did regarding a better use of ingredients being spaghetti bolognese and chilli con carne!

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