Today, let’s talk about shepherd’s pie, a staple French-Canadian dish loved by many children and easy to make with your family!

What a strange phenomenon this dish. It does not seem like a Chinese dish like its traditional name in French implies, but it is a very common dish in Canada, among francophones and anglophones, who call it shepherd’s pie.

So where does this popular dish come from? Apart from the potatoes, what myths can we dig up?

Shepherd’s pie can be made with roughly 3 ingredients and most of all the steps can be done by children! It’s an ideal dish to cook with the family, and it makes for a delicious and healthy meal afterward!

Step 1 : Preparation  

To make shepherd’s pie, you need 3 main ingredients:

  • 6 large potatoes;  
  • 1.5-2 Lb of ground beef;
  • 3-4 cups of corn (frozen corn niblets work well);

If you want to take the recipe further and make your dish more savoury, here are some key ingredients you can add sautéed onions (in the meat), and milk and butter (in the mashed potatoes).

You will need a potato peeler, a spatula, a blender or potato masher, a knife, a cutting board, a 14”x 10 ” baking dish, a frying pan, a large boiling pot and aluminum paper.

Step 2 : Prepare the layers of the dish

– Start by peeling all of the potatoes using the potato peeler.

– Sauté the onions in a pan with a drizzle of vegetable or olive oil until they are translucent.

– Add the ground beef, cook until brown and add salt and pepper to taste.

-If using frozen corn, heat it in a little boiling water in the medium pot. (If you are taking canned corn, you can skip this step.)

– In a large pot, boil water and add the potatoes.

– When the potatoes are soft enough, drain the water, add butter and milk, and use the blender or the potato masher to mash the potatoes.

Step 3 : Layer and put it in the oven!

In the baking dish and using the spatula, layer the beef, then the frozen corn and finally the mashed potatoes.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and cook at 375 F for 30 minutes.

Remove the aluminum foil, add butter to the surface of the mashed potatoes and put the dish back into the oven for another 10 minutes on low broil.

When the time is up, take out your dish and let cool for ten minutes before serving.

Bon appétit!


It’s time to take out your logbook! We invite you to describe your family cooking activity. The description can be in the form of a drawing, a collage, a cartoon, or even a poem!

Keep some space to write questions related to the activity of the day. These questions are for your children and are intended to motivate an interesting conversation around the activity.

  • What step did you prefer in the recipe?
  • Can you imagine other combinations of vegetables that could be incorporated into the dish?
  • Do you think the dish would be as delicious with cream corn?Would it be even better with beef cubes (leftover roast beef or steak) or lamb or pork rather than ground beef?

Did you know...

  • …  Shepherd’s pie was invented at the end of the 19th century during the construction of the great Canadian Pacific Railway. At the time, all the workers were fed daily rations of ground beef, potatoes and corn on the cob, which were readily available and inexpensive at that time. Most workers ate their meat, potatoes and corn separately but workers of mainly Asian origins, combined their rations to create shepherd’s pie, a more communal dish. The French-Canadian railway workers liked this new concoction, adopted the dish, and called it “pâté chinois”, which loosely translates to Chinese pie.
  • According to another hypothesis, this dish comes from the city of South China, in the American state of Maine, where many French Canadians immigrated during the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century due to lack of work in Quebec. A local specialty the “China Pie” would become the French-Canadian staple dish “pâté chinois”.
  • In the late 18th century in England, a similar dish called the “cottage pie” was integrated into the poorer working-class diet. If the pie was made of lamb, it was usually called shepherd’s pie (because the shepherd takes care of the sheep).

To take this activity further, you can vary the ingredients of your shepherd’s pie: substitute the meat, change the vegetables by adding carrots or green peas, or even use mashed turnips or sweet potatoes. Be creative and make it your own!

Activity by M.Coco