#48 – “Whatevah Ya Wanna Call It” Pie!

#48 – “Whatevah Ya Wanna Call It” Pie!

This is recipe roundup episode 48. This winter has been a long one, and right now there is no avoiding the need for comfort food. Casseroles and pies are great for this time of year – a full meal in a single scoop. While they require some prep, the pay off is unbeatable. 


When I sat down to recount my recipe and do some research on the history of what my family calls Shepherd’s Pie and Chinese Pie interchangeably…little did I know I was stumbling into a greatly debated subject. So let’s break down some of the mythos behind what amounts to very simple food. 


First of all, a Shepherd’s Pie is specifically made with lamb meat and covered in potatoes. When the same dish is made with ground beef, it is called a cottage pie. There is much debate on the internet of how the term, “Chinese Pie” came about to refer to this dish. This term seems very popular in Quebec where it is called Pate Chinois and areas with French Canadian residents in New England – which is where my dad’s family is from. The story I was told about this dish is that it came about through the need to feed the Chinese and Irish immigrant railroad workers, and that cottage pie was an efficient way to do this. But I’ve also seen people suggest that it actually originated from the town of South China, Maine and has nothing to do with actual Chinese influence. We will likely never know if either or both of these origins are true. All I need you to believe is that this is GOOD FOOD!

So I am calling this “Whatevah yah wannah call it” Pie. 


Funnily enough, I do in fact use Chinese Five Spice in this recipe. I would say it is absolutely key to making this unforgettable. I thought this was more or less standard practice for cottage pie, but I could only find one recipe online that was similar, so I truly hop you will try this out if you are already sold on the Shepherd’s Pie/ Cottage Pie Concept. 


Chinese five spice is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. Typically, you may be more familiar with cinnamon and cloves for sweet dishes, but in this mix they provide the perfect contrast for the savory meat and potatoes. Szechuan peppercorns have a slight numbing effect on the mouth which I personally find delightful. A spiciness without any sting! 


You’ll need the largest casserole dish you can find for this recipe. I used a 9 X 12 roasting pan, but a large Dutch over would work and I would recommend the disposable foil pans if you are bringing this to a party. 



For the filling: 

Olive Oil

¾ cup chopped carrots

¾ cup chopped celery

1 cup dice onions

1 ½  cup of peas, frozen

1 ½  cup of corn, frozen

1 Large can of Diced Tomatoes

3 lbs of ground meat, beef and/or lamb

1 tsp Chinese Five Spice

2 tsp Curry Powder

2 tsp Smoked Paprika

1 tbs Black Pepper

Salt to taste


For the Potato Top: 

8 – 10 yellow potatoes, chopped

1 tbs garlic powder

1 stick of butter

½ cup + of cream or milk

Shredded cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

Salt to taste

Black Pepper to taste


  1. In a large pot, place your chopped potatoes, water and salt to boil. 
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil on medium heat and begin to cook the carrots. After about five minutes, add the onions and celery and continue to soften. 
  3. In a large skillet on high, begin to brown the ground meat with salt and pepper. 
  4. Test your carrots and make sure they are getting progressively softer. Add the whole can of diced tomatoes to the veggie pan. 
  5. When the meat is fully browned and the carrots are just about to be soft, combine the meat and vegetables. Add in the peas corn, and the rest of the spices. Allow this mixture to combine fully. 
  6. Check on your potatoes – when a fork can easily pierce them, carefully strain and place into a large bowl. Add butter and begin to mash, letting the heat of the potatoes melt it. 
  7. When your filling has fully combined and heated, pour the mixture into your casserole dish and pat flat. Turn on your oven’s broiling function. 
  8. Continue to mash the potatoes until smooth, adding cream, garlic powder, salt and pepper. 
  9. Spread the mashed potatoes on the top of the mixture, smoothing it down flat. Sprinkle on shredded cheese if desired. 
  10. Broil for 3 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the mixture is bubbling. 
  11. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving – extra good the second day!


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