Comfort Food – Shepard’s Pie and Cranberry Brown Betty

Last Updated on February 2, 2023

Shepard's Pie

Shepard's Pie

Recipes in this Post

I have been craving comfort food for quite a while.  It’s that time of the year, when you listen to Carl Off’s O’Fortuna, put your feet in warm fuzzy slippers, and want to eat food that will make you feel nice and warm inside.

Macaroni and Cheese is a classic comfort food, and so is Shepard’s Pie.  It combines potatoes,beef, veggies and gravy all in one dish.  Apple Brown Betty is also a classic comfort food, but cranberries are in season, so Cranberry Brown Betty is a delicious alternative.

There is another interesting story here.  My mother, Ruth Louise Burchart Boswell, was born in 1913.  When she went to school, there was something called Home Ec. If you were a girl, they taught you basic cooking skills, how to iron, clean the house, etc.  My mother told me that the final was to make Shepard’s Pie.  She did her best, but she didn’t like it, and the teacher didn’t like it either.  I suspect that she must have used mutton.  I don’t like mutton, either, although I do like spring loin lamb chops.  So, until I went to Ye Old Kings Head in Santa Monica, I never had it because my mother had said it was her most hated food.  When my dinner companion ordered it, it looked good so I tasted it and fell in love.

However, still leery of making it myself, I did not think of making it until tonight.   So, I started looking around the Internet for a good recipe for Shepard’s Pie.  Nothing I saw came close to what Ye Old Kings Head served, and they all called for strange things like mushroom soup or ketchup.  What the heck, I thought, I know what’s supposed to be in it, I’ll throw it together myself.

So, off Spane and I went to Ralph’s to get ingredients.  I was looking specifically for chili grind beef.  Of course they did not have it, and I thought that regular ground beef, even sirloin, would break up too easily.  There was a nice package of beef for stir fry that looked nice, so I go that, thinking that I would mince it myself.

Cranberry Betty right out of the oven

Cranberry Betty right out of the oven

While in the produce section getting carrots, I found a nice package of cranberries.  I love cranberries!  As I stood there, looking at the bag, and Spane was asking me what we were going to have for dessert, I had an epiphany – what about Cranberry Brown Betty?

Usually, when I make Apple Brown Betty, I use the wonderful Armenian Raisin bread, but, the Ralphs doesn’t have it, and thought it would probably not work as well with cranberries.  What to use, what to use!  Finally, I thought that Panko bread crumbs might be just the thing, they are bigger than regular bread crumbs, and nice and crunchy, perfect for a topping.  So, I bought that, too.

When we got home, I put the meat in the freezer, and put the potatoes on to boil in salted water.  Meat is easier to cut or slice when it has been slightly frozen.  I chopped up the onion, garlic, green pepper and carrots and set them aside, then I minced the meat into about 1/4 inch dice.

An iron skillet was my choice because it would only be one pan, and  could go from the stove top to the oven easily.  I thought it would be nice to make the Betty in an iron skillet as well.

I put the Shepard’s pie in the oven at the same time that I put the Betty in. They were done about the same time, and the Betty had time enough to cool so we could have warm Betty after our pie.

Everyone loved the Shepard’s pie.  I had a hit!  The meat was just the right texture, the sauce just enough, with the soft, cheesy mashed potatoes and peas and carrots all in one bite. 

I served the Cranberry Brown Betty with Alta Dena Crème fraiche.  I really like crème fraiche because it is not as sour as sour cream and perfect with fruit.  If you have never had it, certainly try to find it, or read about it in Wikipedia.  The combination of the tart berries, creamy crème fraiche and crunchy Panko breadcrumbs, with all that butter, was just wonderful.

I hope you will enjoy making this dinner as much as I did.  Bon appetite!

Recipe: Sheppard’s Pie

Summary: Great comfort food for a cold day


  • 1 1/4 pounds Beef for stir fry minced
  • 1 tablespoon Bacon fat
  • 1 Onion chopped
  • 2 Garlic clove chopped
  • 2 Carrot chopped
  • 1 Bell pepper chopped
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Beef base
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 teaspoon Tomato paste
  • 4 large Potato boiled
  • 3 tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tablespoon Sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Bacon chopped
  • 1 package Frozen petite peas
  • 1 cup Cheddar grated


  1. Put the beef in the freezer for about a half an hour. Get ready an iron skillet.
  2. In the meantime, boil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft. Set aside.
  3. If you do not have precooked bacon pieces, then cook 2 slices of bacon in the iron skillet, and reserve the fat. Chop up the cooked bacon and set aside.
  4. Otherwise, put this fat into the iron skillet and let it melt. Add the onions and garlic first, then the carrot. Sauté until the carrot is a little soft.
  5. While you are doing that, remove the meat from the freezer and mince it. It should be in quarter inch or so pieces. Put into a bowl with the flour, thyme, pepper and paprika. Mix together so all the pieces are evenly coated.
  6. When the carrots are slightly soft, add the meat. Cook at least five minutes on medium heat, allowing it to brown, but not to burn. Add the Worcestershire sauce and wine. Mix the beef base with water in a separate cup. Taste it, if it is too salty, add more water. Add this to the meat mixture, stirring. Finally add the tomato paste, and stir that in as well.
  7. Mash the potatoes with the butter and milk . Add the sour cream and the bacon bits. Set aside.
  8. Now to make the pie!
  9. Put a one inch circle of peas around the perimeter of the skillet holding the meat mixture. Put the potatoes on top of the meat mixture inside of the pea circle. Top with the cheese.
  10. Put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 and cook for an additional ten minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve hot.


Use Colcannon instead of mashed potatos and get your kids to even more veggies!

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: English

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Copyright © The Good Plate – Adrienne Boswell.
Recipe by Adrienne Boswell.
Microformatting by hRecipe.

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Recipe: Cranberry Brown Betty

Summary: Enjoy this twist on the classic Apple Brown Betty


  • 1 package Fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ginger powdered
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon Applesauce unsweetened, natural
  • 8 ounces Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 1 cup Butter melted


  1. Rinse the berries in water and remove any that have gone bad.
  2. Put the berries in a non-reactive pot with the water and the cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, then add the ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Let boil until the cranberries have burst and are starting to make a sauce. Remove from the heat.
  3. Butter an iron skillet and put the cranberries in. Mix the applesauce into the cranberries.
  4. Put the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and add the remaining brown sugar and add half of the butter. Mix pretty well, and add half of this mixture to the cranberries, and stir to combine.
  5. Some Panko breadcrumbs are drier than others. If yours are really, really dry you will need almost all the butter, if not, use less butter. Slowly add the butter to the remaining breadcrumbs, reserving about a tablespoon of butter. Put this mixture on top of the cranberry mixture, spreading it out evenly. Pour the remaining butter on top.
  6. Heat in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes.

Quick notes

You must use Panko breadcrumbs, regular breadcrumbs are too small, and breadcrumbs made at home will not be dry enough. You can get Panko breadcrumbs at your local supermarket, or your local Asian market.


Serve with creme fraiche, or ice cream.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Copyright © The Good Plate – Adrienne Boswell.
Recipe by Adrienne Boswell.
Microformatting by hRecipe.

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About arbpen

As an award-winning and serious home cook, I seriously believe there is no reason why you can't have a restaurant quality meal at home. One of the good things about eating at home is to save money, so armed with a good menu plan, a shopping list, and an appreciation of good food, we can all have gourmet food on a budget.

3 Responses to Comfort Food – Shepard’s Pie and Cranberry Brown Betty

  1. Hey, Nice work! This is my first time i visit here. I discovered so numerous fascinating stuff in your blog.

    • Anibal, thanks for visiting. I’m glad you found so many good things. Please be sure and stick around, there’s going to be some really cool stuff this Halloween, 2011.

  2. Pingback: Risotto Corned Beef Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Cream Sauce and Colcannon | The Good Plate - Adrienne Boswell