Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

Janette Fuschi | Culinary Ginger
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Traditional Shepherd’s pie is a British comfort food classic loved by all. Ground lamb or beef is cooked with vegetables and Guinness for an extra flavor boost, then topped with fluffy mashed potato and baked.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Photo

Did you know that traditional shepherd's is made with ground lamb and not beef? The name makes sense if you think about it. Lamb is a sheep and a shepherd is a person who tends to sheep, hence the name.

The pie made with beef is traditionally called cottage pie, made by the poorer people who lived in cottages, from leftover beef.

Both pies derive from the 18th Century, but as time has gone by, beef has becoming increasingly popular and more widely used than lamb, and so the recipe using beef is now commonly known as shepherd’s pie.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Picture

This recipe is made the traditional way using ground lamb, but if you are not a lover of lamb, use ground beef.

I like to add Guinness to my shepherd's pie. Over the years of making this, I found gives it that extra depth of flavor you just cannot get without it. The topping is made using mashed Yukon gold potatoes, as they make for soft and creamy mashed potato.

I have been known to add a small rutabaga to the mash, which takes it to a new flavor level, if you would like to try. As an extra bonus, the dish makes a little gravy as it cooks so you can reserve it and use for spooning over the top when serving.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Image

I like to make this recipe in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or oven-proof sauté pan) that be transferred to the oven. If you don’t have a cast iron or oven-proof skillet, you can start this recipe on the stovetop in whatever pan you have that will work, then transfer to a casserole dish of about the same size to finish in the oven.

This dish is also a perfect make ahead meal. Just make up to the point of baking, but don’t bake. Allow to the dish to cool, cover and refrigerate until ready use.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

    8 Servings

Ingredients

For the Potato Topping:
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup Milk, warm
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
For the Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds Ground Lamb, or beef
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 7 ounces Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 pound Carrot, diced small
  • 6 ounces Parsnip, diced small
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • 3/4 cup Guinness Draught
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup Beef Stock

Directions

For the Potatoes:

  1. To a large pan add the potatoes, add cold water until the potatoes are covered and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn down to a low boil and cook for 20 minutes until tender.
  3. Drain the potatoes a colander, and add back to the pan.
  4. Mash until smooth and add the butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix well and set aside.

For the Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Add vegetable oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/2 of the ground lamb. If the pan is too crowded, the meat will not brown, it will boil. Season with half of the salt and pepper, sauté until browned, breaking up the meat as it browns.
  3. Drain the meat keeping the fat in the pan and transfer to bowl or plate and repeat with the other 1/2 of the lamb, salt and pepper.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until softened.
  5. Add the garlic and thyme, cook for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix well.
  6. Add the carrots, parsnip, peas, Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, and beef stock.
  7. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the carrot and parsnips are tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat.
  8. Spread the potato mixture (or pipe with a piping bag for a decorative look) over the ground meat mixture. Make sure you make little peaks so they get a nice brown color in the oven.
  9. Place the pan onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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Janette Fuschi

About Janette

Janette is a British ex-pat living in Southern California. On her blog, Culinary Ginger, you'll learn all about it. On Food Fanatic, you'll see her favorite British classics, and ours too!