My take on the classic – shepherd’s pie! Of course, like with any of my other recipes this shepherd’s pie is loaded with herbs and spices to give it the best flavor. Finally, we’ll top it off with the cheesiest Irish cheddar mashed potatoes your shepherd’s pie has ever seen!
Gosh, golly! Would you look at that bubbly brown, cheesy crust!
This isn’t any ordinary shepherd’s pie. Sure it’s humble food, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bland and boring. It starts with tender onions, celery, and carrots and of course tons of garlic, because when do we not do garlic around here? Then there’s also this herb and spice-scented ground lamb (or beef) all blanketed with cheesy Irish cheddar mashed potatoes. It’s fall/winter/spring comfort food and who can even say no to that?
There’s something so magical about this easy shepherd’s pie recipe. Sure, every family has a version, and sure with every version, you’ll find something is a little different. Most of the time I notice shepherd’s pie to be a little on the bland side. It’s your simple mirepoix with ground lamb and mashed potatoes on top. And yes, that does sound comforting, but I like to use a few additional ingredients to amp this dish up to a whole new level.
Shepherd’s Pie? Yes. Bland and boring? Heck no.
How to make Shepherd’s Pie:
After a few weeks of unseasonably warm weather, we’ve gone back down into the 50’s, and 60’s here, and I plan on taking full advantage. Chowder, shepherd’s pie, and a tetrazzini are going on the menu while we still can enjoy them.
For me, comfort food isn’t just about shoveling bubbly spoonfuls of beef gravy and mashed potatoes into one’s mouth. It’s a labor of love. Chopping the veggies while I enjoy the long casted morning light and a steaming mug of coffee. It’s about stirring the gravy, tasting, and adjusting with spices until it pleases the palette. It’s about creating something hearty and filling while thoroughly enjoying the process of it all.
Shepherd’s pie is most traditionally made with lamb, and I think you call it a Cottage Pie when you make it with beef? Any experts here? Is that right?
I say call it whatever you want and use lamb or beef; I’m not here to judge you and your protein choices. We’ll make a hearty meat and veggie gravy then cover it all up with a layer of the cheesiest creamy mashed potatoes and let them hang out in the oven for a while until the cheesy melts and you’re left with almost a crust on that pie.
My shepherd’s pie recipe is pretty straightforward and starts the way most do. You’ll begin by boiling the potatoes in a pot of salted water. If you’ve ever made my cheddar mashed potatoes, you’ll know the ones I’m using in my shepherd’s pie are very similar. Sometimes I throw in a few cloves of garlic with the potatoes if I want them to have more of that garlicky aroma. If you know one thing about us, it’s probably the fact that we heart garlic to the max. However, this is purely optional; I know that not everyone feels that same way. I get it!
While the potatoes are boiling, we’ll get the ground lamb going. Crumble the meat and brown it. Then we’ll add in the mirepoix and allow the veggies to soften. Mirepoix is just a simple combination of chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Once you’ve gotten all of that together, flavor the shepherd’s pie with garlic, Worcestershire, tomato paste, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, and a bay leaf.
You’ve probably seen most shepherd’s pie recipes calling for fresh herbs, but the cinnamon and nutmeg are a little spin that I like to put on it. Just a 1/4 teaspoon of each of these spices surprisingly gives the meat and potatoes so much flavor. It reminds me a little bit of moussaka, and as you go in for a bite, all those aromas from the spices greet you before you’ve even touched the food to your lips. I unquestionably love that.
And also, can we get a round of applause for potatoes and nutmeg together? Oawh yeaaah. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
And here’s a little planning ahead, if you make my mashed potatoes (like the instant pot ones!!) for Easter, the leftovers would come in real handy to pull together a rustic potful of shepherd’s pie later on in the week. Just a little bit of shredded Irish cheddar and an egg yolk to help give it that golden, sun-kissed look.
When you pull it out of the oven, I dare you not to jump in right away while that crust is all golden, bubbly and all that sauce starts seeping up from the sides. Give it 10 minutes before you dig in, so it has a chance to set up and also so that you don’t end up burning your mouth. Take it from someone who knows. It’s. NOT. Fun.
As a bonus, my shepherd’s pie is gluten-free because instead of using flour to thicken the gravy, we’ll go the cornstarch route. I find it makes it a little silkier smooth.
And there it is! I want you to eat this shepherd’is pie to your heart’s content.
So much goodness all up in this. 👅
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground lamb (or beef)
- 3 cups mirepoix ( equal parts chopped onion, carrots, celery)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons EACH: tomato paste and cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon EACH: ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- fresh herbs (a few sprigs rosemary, thyme, and a bay leaf)
- 1 1 /4 cups low sodium beef stock (or chicken)
- 1 1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed + drained
- 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 4 ounces EACH: cream cheese (softened) and shredded Irish cheddar
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup room-temp half and half (or milk)
- potatoes: boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork tender. Sometimes I’ll throw in a couple cloves of garlic in with the potatoes too. Drain, mash and mix in the remaining mashed potatoes ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- cook the meat and veggies: heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and crumble the meat using a wooden spoon. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the meat browns, drain any excess grease leaving just 1 tablespoon. Add the mirepoix and season the veggies with a small pinch of salt and allow the veggies to cook down until translucent, about 7-9 minutes. Add the garlic and let cook another 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- beef gravy: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF. Sprinkle the ground meat mixture with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch, stir to combine and let cook for 15 seconds before adding the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, herbs, bay leaf, and beef stock. Allow the gravy to come to a simmer before reducing the heat to low and letting it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs, stir in the peas, taste and adjust with salt and pepper as desired.
- bake and serve: Drop large dollops of the prepared mashed potatoes on top of the beef gravy then smooth out gently. Bake for 15 minutes then, finish it under the broiler if you want it to be golden brown on top. Let cool for several minutes before serving.
- You can also make the potatoes in the instant pot. Here’s how; just follow steps #1 and #2.
- If you don’t have a dutch oven or an oven-safe pot, transfer everything to a greased baking dish.
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