I have been eating a lot of different kinds of shepherd's pie recently. Crazy Wisdom's tearoom has been serving up a chicken shepherd's pie that is made with what seems to be stoneground mustard. It has a very different flavor from what I think of as "traditional" shepherd's pie, but I like it!
My first introduction to shepherd's pie was via a vegetarian recipe I found online (and can not locate right now, sadly). It had all the layers, but the sauce (for lack of a better word) was very Indian in nature with spices like curry and turmeric. I liked it, and my Irish descent roommate liked it, but he declared it not shepherd's pie.
My first taste of "real" shepherd's pie was the frozen entree version at Trader Joe's, and I loved it. It has also ruined me on most (possibly all) future shepherd's pie made with beef. The Trader Joe's version uses cuts of meat, not ground, giving it a very meaty, stew-like texture, which I love. I have never liked ground beef. Too greasy. (And beef used to make me extremely ill. I can eat it usually now, but I am very selective about how, when, and from where I eat it.)
So when my boyfriend Greg and I went to Conor O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub and Restaurant in Ann Arbor (a great love of ours), I ordered the Fisherman's Pie (shepherd's pie made with shrimp, salmon, and cod) while Greg ordered their Shepherd's Pie (which has ground beef and lamb), which he'd been craving for a while since I first brought home the chicken version from Crazy Wisdom. (Incidentally, Conor O'Neill's also offers a vegetarian shepherd's pie. I do not think it has curry or turmeric.)
When I search this morning for shepherd's pie on the internet, I came across, as I often do in searches, the Wikipedia article which calls it "cottage pie" (hence the "aka" in this entry's title). I have never heard it referred to as cottage pie before, though that turns out to be the older name for it and a more encompassing one as "shepherd" implies "beef or mutton." I suggest looking through the variations in the Wikipedia entry. Very interesting!
And that's all I've got for this week. Now to pack up my leftover fish pie and head into work for 9 hours.