This all-in-one meal has a savory layer of richly seasoned ground lamb and vegetables topped with creamy mashed potatoes. This internationally loved comfort food makes a tasty, hearty family dinner!
I didn’t grow up eating lamb. In fact, I don’t recall ever a time as a child having tried it. As an adult, though, I find the earthy, pungent flavors of lamb irresistible.
One of my favorite and simplest ways to prepare lamp is in a shepherd’s pie, which came about from a centuries-old dish known as cottage pie from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Back in the day, cottage pie was a way for people to put leftovers, usually beef or mutton, to use in a delicious and cost-saving way. Recipes varied, yet they all had the same basic structure: minced meat cooked in gravy with onions, carrots, and celery, and a crust made of either mashed potatoes or pastry.
Over time, shepherd’s pie became known as the dish prepared using lamb or mutton, while cottage pie kept its name and today refers to the dish made with beef. I admittedly use these names interchangeably, though my son’s England born and bred girlfriend is quick to give me a friendly reminder of the differences.
Regardless of the name, I’m a huge fan of this dish. It gives me a chance to use up my leftovers, especially Creamy Mashed Potatoes. And like everything else, I have fun trying out different seasonings and vegetables.
This recipe offers an incredibly diverse experience — all brilliantly wonderful — depending on how you prepare it. Look for some suggested alternatives in your Helping Hands section below. As the British friends may say…
- A large casserole baking dish is a must for this recipe. My Pyrex Glass Bakeware does a wonderful job in the oven and fits perfectly in my Arthur Court Casserole Server. Another good option is a Ceramic Rectangular Baking Dish, which also produces delicious results.
- Give your dinner guests a marvelous dining experience they won’t soon forget with their own personal casserole using a Mini Glass Baking Dish. These go from oven to table perfectly, plus the included lid helps to keep the dish warm until ready to eat.
- Impress family and guests when you use Large Piping Tips and Bag to create a fancy display of the mashed potato topping.
- You don’t really need to serve anything alongside this all-in-one dish. However, if you’re like me, a meal isn’t complete without a little variety and some extra veggies. A small side salad and basket of dinner rolls make the perfect addition to this meal.
- This recipe makes a large 9″ × 13″ casserole, which may mean leftovers. Place cooled leftovers in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months. When you’re ready to serve again, warm in 30-second increments in the microwave until thoroughly heated. Or, if you prefer, place in a baking dish then toss into a preheated 375° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Go from oven to table in the most stunning way using an artisan quality Arthur Court Casserole Server. I use mine all the time and it makes a beautiful display on the dining table, especially for the holidays and special dinners.
- This dish freezes well for up to three months. You can easily cover the leftovers right in the baking dish using a layer of cellophane storage wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. However, I prefer and recommend transferring leftovers to an airtight container before tossing into the freezer. When ready, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the oven or microwave.
- Individual casserole dishes make a unique and impressive presentation on the dinner table.
- Red meat means red wine, right? Yes, of course, I found that to be true; however, my favorite red cabernets are often too heavy for this dish. Instead, I recommend a medium-bodied red wine like a Josh Cellars Pinot Noir or the award-winning Crystal Basin Cellars Syrah. Both offer a delightful contrast to the savory flavors in this shepherd’s pie.
- If you’re a die-hard white wine drinker, fear not. A chardonnay offers an especially good balance with the flavors of the mashed potato topping. A glass of Toasted Head Chardonnay is a good, inexpensive choice.
- Beer lovers rejoice. This hearty dish pairs quite well with beer — some may say even better than with wine. A Guinness, stout, or porter will pair exceptionally well with shepherd’s pie, particularly if you’re using the same in the recipe. Be sure to serve your beer in style using a proper Craft Stout Glass or Freeze Cooling Pint Glass. Très chic!
- Easily substitute the ground lamb with other meat choices to create an equally fabulous dish. Use ground beef for an authentic Cottage Pie or try other meats like turkey, chicken, or pork. You can use already cooked or fresh meats either ground or cubed.
- Some excellent leftover meat choices include roast beef, pot roast, Braised Chuck Roast, hamburger patties, roast leg of lamb, and lamb chops.
- There are no rules that say you can’t add or substitute veggies. Mushrooms, celery, or green beans are all good options that add terrific flavors to the dish. While these veggies aren’t traditional, they’re still fantastically delicious.
- Red wine gives this dish a little extra burst of earthy flavors. I offer a couple of good choices under Drink Pairings above. Whichever wine you choose to cook with, I recommend that you serve that same wine with dinner to ensure the best complementary flavors for your drink pairing.
- For an Irish flair, try using Guinness beer instead of wine in this recipe. A stout or porter works well, too. Be sure to serve the same with dinner for the most balanced and flavorful drink pairing. If you prefer to prepare a non-alcohol version of this dish, skip the wine and beer altogether.
- For those who are not fans of tomato paste, ketchup works just as well and adds a little sweetness. You can certainly omit altogether; however, I found the flavor a bit lacking when I tried it that way.
- I use Amazing Creamy Mashed Potatoes to top my pie, which is easy to prepare — a day or two ahead of time, if needed. There are also some excellent pre-made mashed potato options in the refrigerator and freezer sections of your local market. In a pinch, you can easily use store bought mashed potatoes or instant mashed potatoes.
- If you want to try something other than mashed potatoes, use sliced potatoes topped with sprinkles of shredded cheese and smoked paprika instead. You’ll need to cook a bit longer to ensure the potatoes are tender.
- At the recommendation of my son’s girlfriend, I add a little shredded cheese to the top before popping into the oven. Yummy!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a comment and star rating below. It’s always refreshing to hear how others like a recipe, find success with it, or tweak to suit. I’d love to hear from you!