Recipes Shepherds Pie

I loathe shepherd’s pie with all of my being. I have horrific memories of a nasty ground beef and corn concoction being served to me in school cafeterias. Years later, as a chef we made it where I worked and I wanted desperately to like it. It was topped with ranch potatoes and cheese and rich brown gravy, try as I might though I did not like it. The version most Aerican’s are familiar with is actually Cottage Pie and this, I still maintain is not fit to eat.

One magical day I went to a tea room in Albuquerque for St. Patrick’s day and they served a petite shepherd’s pie prepared according to a traditional Irish recipe. It was heavenly. A pastry crust was topped with a rich Irish lamb stew and crispy golden pillow of mashed potatoes. I had to fight not to lick the cup. Later I ranted and raved to the owner, a friend, about how wonderful it was. This changed my mind about this great American staple and got me thinking about the origins of this dish.

After some experimenting here’s my version which even I will devour with hearty aplomb. The base is a simple loose drop biscuit dough, baked into a crust at the bottom of the dish, over this goes the rich lamb stew, and crowning it are fluffy potatoes mixed with egg so they form a crispy crust on top with a fluffy interior. Loosen your belt and enjoy.

Shepherd’s Pie


lbs ground lamb (Or beef if you must)

1 medium onion diced

2 carrots peeled and diced

2 ribs celery diced

2 tbs garlic

4 tbs tomato paste

4 tbs flour

2 cups beef or chicken stock

2 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs rosemary

1 cup red wine, brandy, or Irish whiskey

salt and pepper to taste

Biscuit crust

1 cup white whole wheat flour

¼ c butter

1 tsp salt

1 tbs sugar

¼ c melted unsalted butter

¾ cup milk

1 tsp baking powder

Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs red bliss potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 cup of heavy cream

¼ cup of butter

2 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

a pinch of paprika

Preheat the oven to 450.

Spray a large casserole pan. Use a 9 x 13 inch such as the kind you would make lasagna in or use a deeper round casserole. This is a three layered dish with a lot of components so be sure to use a pan that will accommodate all of it.

In a good sized pot melt the butter over medium heat and toss in the onions. Let the onions slowly caramelize.

Add the lamb, and using a whisk or wooden spoon break it up as it cooks, be careful not to burn it.

Add the garlic, carrots and onions and continue cooking until all the veggies are translucent.

Add the booze, whatever you have chosen and increase the heat to medium high. Let the liqour come to a boil so the alcohol will burn off. There will be sharp smell as the alcohol vaporizes. Fear not.

Add the flour and stir, using a whisk to incorporate, cook a few minutes.

Add the stock, seasonings and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and allow it all to cook together, and the flavors to mingle.

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water, bring to a boil and cook about 45 minutes until done.

While the potatoes cook prepare the biscuit dough

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Add milk and melted butter and stir to combine.

Pour into a greased, large casserole dish.

Bake at 450 degrees until golden brown and set. About 15 minutes or so.

Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer or in a mixing bowl.

Add the butter and mix until melted.

Add in milk, eggs, salt and pepper.

When the biscuit dough is done remove the pan from the oven.

Pour the lamb mixture over the crust and smooth.

Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the lamb and sprinkle with Paprika.

Return the pan to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn on the broiler and let the top of the potatoes brown.

It may be an admirable thought to try to keep it together as you serve it but I find this rarely happens. Enjoy it in all its gooey glory.

© 2019 Paul Timman