Comfort Food from My Motherland

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Though I was born and raised in Kentucky, Great Britain holds a special place in my heart. My mother was British, and some summers we visit family in Wales.

In addition to growing up with Hot Browns and other Southern fare, we ate plenty of British favorites, including Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie.

What's the difference between the two? If you were a shepherd's wife, you made a pie with vegetables lamb and called it "Shepherd's Pie." If you didn't tend a flock, you likely used beef and called it "Cottage Pie." Whatever you call it, you use a variety of vegetables and top the "pie" with mashed potatoes. It's comfort food for sure, but this version is easy on the waistline.

I like them both, but lean beef is both more affordable and more readily accessible to most people.

Traditionally, one serving has almost 400 calories, more than 20 grams of fat and almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium.

My version has 271 calories, less than five grams of fat and about 300 milligrams of sodium.

Click here to get the recipe.

Chef Tips:
  • To keep the lean beef from sticking to the pan, I cook the beef and onions at the same time.
  • I prefer to use French-cut green beans in this recipe.
  • For a vegetarian version, use soy crumbles or cooked lentils and vegetable broth.
What are your favorite foods from your family's homeland? Do you ever cook them yourself? Are they healthy?

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I'm Swiss-American and grew up in Switzerland. I miss all of the fantastic bread and cheese, and the enormous variety of vegetables, and the smoked meats. Amazing stuff. Report
Latvian "speķu rauši" bacon, ham & onion filled rolls. Report
In my part of the UK Shepherd's Pie had a pastry crust and Cottage Pie had mashed potato on top. Each could be made with either beef or lamb. The meat was ground along with raw onions and carrots. All was mixed together with a small amount of brown gravy mix plus salt and pepper to taste. Report
Matzoh Ball Soup, Matzoh Brie and Pot Roast (can you tell I have Passover Planning on the brain). Report
Truth be told I absolutely HATED sheperd's pie as a kid (even though my Mum put ground beef in it) I think it was what she put in it and how she made it. I will try it again some time. Just the idea right now takes some getting used to (YES THAT'S HOW MUCH I HATED IT). I do love most other food from my "mother country" (ENGLAND).
Its hartening to see americans acknowledging and being proud of their (British) heritage. Its not something you see in the MSM. Report
My favs are Carbonnade Flamande, beef stewed with onions and beer. I have not made it in a while since my family does not care for it. My others come from my husband of 35 yrs family. Cabbage rolls-I use no sodium added tomatoe products and turkey keilbasi as well as low sodium bacon strips. I also love Chicken paprikash, but I haven't worked on that recipe to much-it is a family favorite. Report
I make a large Shepherd's Pie when cooking for 8 of us and I use half ground beef (93% lean) and half lean ground turkey with lots of vegetables and figure it is a wonderful way to get veggies into the kids - as they all love it! Report
My favorite is stuffed cabbage (golabki) which is a Polish dish. I make it with either 95% lean sirloin and pork or ground turkey, and add celery, onion, and sometimes add shredded carrots. The sauce is made from tomato soup and butter which isn't the healthiest, but it's very tasty and the leftovers are even better. Report
Sounds yummy. I'll have to try it. Report
I'm an Appalachian-American and I suppose that the closest thing to a "national meal" we would have would be brown beans, corn bread and fried potatoes. I dislike all three. (Shhhh don't tell anybody - they might kick me out). Report
We have been making shepherd's pie, here for years in Canada. I make mine with ground beef. there are a lot of different recipes. thanks for yours. Report
Southern cuisine which is fattening! Hard to make lighter versions without losing the great taste. Grandma rolls...just relish and I eat them at thanksgiving and Christmas. Report
My heritage is British and Dutch on both sides. Mom used to make a kidney stew to die for. Dad's specialty was stove-top frittatas, usually made with leftovers. My comfort food is chili! Don't know where that came from. ;-) Report
Humm - well I must agree with PWINCESSEMILY - its "different" but I can see why - the health benefits are obvious!!
My favourite English food (yep I was from UK way back) Yorkshire Pudding served with a good old beef rib roast!! But Yorkshire Pudding has defeated me for a make over!!
I'm English. I live in London. I don't mean to be critical but I dislike misrepresentation, and that recipe is not like any Cottage Pie recipe I have ever seen here! It shouldn't have chilli in it or be tomato based. And while it can be made with a variety of vegetables I am perplexed at corn. Seriously? Report
I was raised in England and there are many foods i miss like Branston Pickle, Sausage Rolls Mince Pies and my favourite Steak and Kidney Pudding! Luckily there is the British Peddler in Gulf Shores where i can stock up especially around Christmas time!! Report
Sheperds pie and home made rolls,my Gram taught us yum ! Report
My family is primarily Polish, which means kapusta and pierogi and OF COURSE paczki, especially this time of year. Serve that with a nice stiff brew and it's not exactly the healthiest option! LOL! There are some redeeming qualities, like braised red cabbage :) Report
I am Korean-American, second generation. I love Korean food but for me, it's hard to eat in moderation. Korean dishes also always revolve around glutinous white rice or noodles and the side dishes are always sodium-rich. I don't ever prepare it - it's laborious and time consuming.

But I pretty much love ALL Korean dishes. Some of my favs:

- of course... kim chi (spicy pickled/fermented cabbage)
- dduk bok ki (pan fried rice cake)
- mul naeng myun (buckwheat noodles in cold broth with vinegar, mustard and cucumbers)
- dak tori tang (spicy chicken stew)
- soon doo boo (soft tofu stew)

OK I think I should stop now Report
I'm Native American, I loved my mom n grandma's buffalo stew served with fry bread. Of course now that everyone has been touting the benefits of buffalo meat, it has made it unaffordable to my little family, I tried to make the stew with hamburger or stew meat, just doesn't taste the same, my husband still likes it, but splurges for me once in a while on buffalo meat. Report
I am of Irish ancestry, but Swedish "by marriage." tonight is our lodge's pea soup and pancake supper, and I am the "pancake hero." Report
I don't really have a "homeland." I think the most I am of any one thing is 1/16. I've always wished I could feel connected to a particular group! Report
My favorite food my grandma used to cook was "hamburger soup". I don't know if it's from her German decent, but it sure was good. Lots of mixed vegetables, noodles and, of course, hamburger meat. Report
I hail from sweden and we eat this quite often,Pickled herring and Jansson's frestelse,wich translates to jansson's temptation.
the temptation dish is made of cream , butter, potatoes , onions and ansjovis YUM
I'm English I emigrated 15 years ago but I still miss Pork Pies, Sausage Rolls, Branston Pickle and proper Bacon Report
Pierogies! Report
My dad's family was from the German speaking side of Switzerland. I grew up loving a good crusty bread, buttered, with a good quality cheese. Or fondue, which amounts to bread and cheese again. Report
Yum - sounds great - of course here in the Northeast people call Shepards Pie some "thing" with hamburger..... Oh well..... one man's comfort food is another man's ewww. Report
My husband is Welsh so we like to have a roast dinner on Sundays--usually beef or chicken. I almost always make roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding to go with it (often make individual ones in muffin tins--makes about 9 servings) as they are favorites with the kids and husband. I usually just adjust my other meals so I can have a little bit of both with my dinner. The rest of it is lean meat and lots of veggies and I use bisto gravy which is very low in cals (although a bit high in sodium) so overall doesn't have too many calories. I also often make cottage pie and sometimes I make sausage and mash--if I can get the sausage or have time to make it (there are a few places near Cincy that do actually sell proper bangers) but that's a lot higher in fat so is an occasional treat. Report
I'm from Scotland, and I love haggis and stovies - not at the same time! My husband's from Switzerland and we're very fond of Rösti, also Geschetzeltes, thin slices of veal, or other meats, often in a cream sauce - not for those who're trying to lose weight! Report
I live in the british isles and i often make cottage pie and shepherds pie,another variation is cumberland pie,and that is to add a layer of mashed carrot and turnip on top of the meat and with the mashed potatoes on top.
I also make ridges with a fork on the potatoes and also dot the potatoes with some low fat butter or spread and then brown for a few minutes under a hot grill.
It makes a nice crispy top. Report
I'm from Canada, but my father is from Yorkshire, England and my comfort food is Yorkshire pudding drowning in gravy. I rarely make this treat now I'm sure just looking at it will cause me to gain weight in fact I need to stop thinking about it... lol. Report
My favourite, of course, Laksa Sarawak (my mom's version, hehe). It consists of noodles made bihun (Rice vermicelli: thin threads of noodles made from rice), coconut milk, special prepared spices, strips of fried eggs, strips of boiled chicken, boiled prawns, boiled squids and bean sprout (not cooked but you pour hot water over them). I guess it's not too healthy to eat often, what with the seafood and coconut milk, hehe. Report
I cook shepherd's pie a lot for my family---easy way to stretch the food budget, it's not heavily-processed food, and my kids love it!

Now me, I'm from Louisiana, and my comfort food is (when desperate) french bread and white rice. But I RARELY eat either, because, as I've grown up, I've accumulated grown-up comfort foods that are healthier, like dark chocolate, air-popped popcorn, homemade chicken noodle soup....

I love hearing the history and personal stories about foods, though, so loved your insight. Report
I love the 'shepherds pie' recipe.. however, not being from the south... I haven't a clue what you are talking about HOT BROWNS??????
THIS Looks like a different presentation of a shepherds or cottage pie .. just spread out on a plate...........hmmm I like the OLD STANDARD PIE aspect. Report
My homeland food would be hajacas .... almost like a tamale; but, with a very different type of filling which tastes NOTHING like a tamale. Report
I definitely need to try that recipe! Report
Sounds delicious and comforting! Report
Interesting. Report
This blog is near and dear to my heart as my parents are both British, and I grew up eating a lot of the same foods. Shepherd's pie is one of my favorites. Interestingly enough, my work's cafeteria made a chicken shepherd's pie today and I initially didn't know how i'd like it but it was YUM! Maybe a little off-beat but a healthy alternative to the beef, maybe. I also like - LOVE - Yorkshire pudding but don't know if it's possible to make a healthy version of it. Thanksgiving and Christmas just aren't the same without it though. Report
Sounds good, thanks for sharing Report
fried chicken
sausage gravy
pork chops and gravy
over cooked green beans
generally fattening stuff that's bad for you!

I enjoyed this! thanks for sharing!
jeanne in ga Report
it seams good. Report
Weird, I am currently living in Kentucky with family and My mother in law is british! She grew up mostly in Canada so she lost alot of her british ways. I wish she would still cook that way though she doesnt.

Thank you for sharing!! I now know that all these years all I have ever had was cottage pie, not what my family called shepards pie... I knew there was a difference, I just wasnt sure of what it was! Report
My parents are right off the boat from Scotland. I was born there, and raised here. Irish Great Grandparents. I'm teaching my sons how to make Irish Soda of our favorites. Haggis is a bit to expensive....LOL Report
Our family came from various parts of Europe. Grandfather Paul from Germany used to make a soup made of potatoes and buttermilk that was called something like(spelled phonetically) zoop-toof-key. My grandmother from Ireland made a mean chicken in a skillet that she would braise and cook in electric frying pan until the liquid was sticky and thick, mmmmm! Comfort food... Report
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