by Cat, Dec 2008 (photo, right, by Cat)
It’s called Shepherd’s Pie because the sheep herders make it using leftover mutton or lamb roast. When you use roast beef, it’s called ‘Cottage Pie;’ I do not recommend using ground lamb or beef for this traditional dish; it is much better (and less fatty) to cube leftover roast, as was done in more agrarian times.
This is a fairly quick and easy recipe with just a little bit of prep to slice/cube the veggies and meat.
Other sources of cooked meat for the pie:
- From the making of stock: I use short ribs & oxtails to make beef stock, then freeze most of the stock but reserved some, along with the cut up cooked meat (removed from bones) for a cottage pie.
- Braise leg of lamb steak on stove top in a bit of potato peel (or other veggie) broth or beef stock, then cube the cooked meat and follow this recipe. Save the braising liquids to add to the pie.
If you use wine for the roast and make a sauce from the deglazing liquids, save some of the sauce to add to the sauce in the pie.
Shepherd’s/Cottage Pie Recipe
This recipe is adapted from the Irish Heritage Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson. I usually make a half recipe if it’s just for me, and I only have about 1/2 cup of cubed roast left over.
Also, I’ve found it helps to double the amount of cream for the mashed potatoes (to 4 Tbsp for full recipe), which makes it easier to spread them over the casserole.
Sometimes I use a leek instead of yellow onion for a different flavor. Also, yellow-Finn potatoes can be used instead of baking potatoes, but they may not mash as well as baking potatoes.
As indicated in the recipe, I like to save the cooking water (from the potatoes and the carrots), and the cooked potato peels, to make Potato Peel Broth. This is very rich with minerals, and quite tasty.
Ingredients & Equipment:
Full recipe amounts listed first, with half-recipe amounts in parenthesis
- Mashed potato topping:
- 1 – 2 (1) baking potatoes
- 2 – 3 (2) Tbsp butter, softened
- 2 – 4 (2 – 2½) Tbsp cream
- unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a few leaves of fresh thyme, chopped (optional)
- paprika (optional)
- Pie filling
- 3 (1½) cups cubed roast leftovers (¼” cube)
- 1 (½) yellow onion or 1 – 1½ (½ – 1) leek
- 1 (½) cup diced raw carrot
- 1 (½) cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1-2 (¾ – 1) Tbsp ghee, lard, bacon fat, or coconut oil
- 1 (½) Tbsp unbleached white flour
- 1 – 2 (½ – ¾) cups beef stock (chicken stock can also be used with lamb)
- leftover sauce from the roast
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ⅛ tsp (pinch) dried thyme leaves
- 2- (1-)quart saucepan
- cast iron skillet
- 8-cup ovenproof casserole dish as in photo above (or 4-cup ovenproof casserole dish for half-recipe, as in photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
- Mashed potatoes: Fill saucepan with 1″ filtered water; add salt (½ tsp unrefined sea salt per cup filtered water) and bring to a boil. Add whole potatoes and return to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow boil, and cook until done, 20 – 25 minutes. (Alternately, you can steam them until done, about 30 minutes, but I don’t think they mash as well when steamed).
- Off heat; remove potatoes (retain water in pan for later), and let cool enough to handle.
- Remove peel and save for Potato Peel Broth (for another time).
- Mash potatoes (or rice them) in medium bowl, enough to make 2 – 3 cups; add butter and cream (2 – 3 Tbsp softened butter and 3 – 4 Tbsp cream), whipping with a fork; add more cream if necessary to make it easier to spread over the casserole. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and some chopped thyme.
- Meat and Veggies: While potatoes are cooling, preheat oven to 3500F.
- Cube the roast and place in casserole dish.
- Slice the onion, dice the carrot, and shell peas (or remove frozen peas from freezer), placing each in separate bowls for separate use.
- Melt 1 Tbsp lard or other fat in skillet. Add sliced onions and cook over medium heat until golden (lower heat if necessary, to keep from burning). Add more lard/fat if necessary. If use butter as in original recipe, cook over medium-low heat; ghee (clarified butter) is better to use because the butter’s protein (that would smoke and burn) has been removed.
- Stir flour into onion and cook over low heat for 2 minutes or so, then add broth and sauce from roast. I like to add about 2 cups broth/sauce and increase thickener accordingly (1 Tbsp flour per cup liquid). Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until gravy thickens. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme. If too thick, add a bit of the cooking water from the potatoes, to thin.
- Cook diced carrots in the potato water about 8 minutes, then using slotted spoon, remove from water and add to meat in the casserole dish. Add peas, then pour gravy over, and stir to combine.
- Assemble and bake: Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the meat and veggies in the casserole dish. Dot top with more butter, and sprinkle a bit of paprika over, if desired.
- Bake in preheated oven 35 minutes. Serve.
- Use the mineral-rich water from cooking the potatoes and carrots to make potato peel broth for later use. You can freeze it in jars, if you don’t have an immediate use.
Assembly or Serving ideas
- Garnish each serving with chopped fresh parsley.
- If desired, grate some cheddar or other cheese over the mashed potatoes about 5 minutes before the casserole is done, then return to the oven and cook until the cheese melts. I like to use Kerry Gold brand cheese — it’s from Ireland and made from the cream of grass-fed cows.
- Irish Heritage Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson