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Recipe for a basic Shepherd’s Pie (or Cottage Pie).

Shepherds Pie

I was able to drive to work today with my sunglasses on. You are probably thinking – so what?? Well, for the last long while, it has either a) still been dark outside as I am driving in, or b) the sky has been covered with murky gray clouds, covering any chance of the sun climbing over the mountains. So now, the sun is rising earlier and earlier every morning, giving me a chance the see the sun, and the clouds were gone this morning. It truly feels like Spring is around the corner now!!

But it got me thinking of all of the “comfort food”that I have made this winter that I have not posted about. If the weather continues to be nice, I am going to have to start pumping out some posts so that I am not posting about stick-to-your-bones food when everyone is only thinking of lighter Spring foods!!

My husband rarely requests particular meals. So when he does, I will jump on the opportunity to make something for him that he has a particular craving for. Well, one day, not too long ago, we were both home and watching a rerun of Top Chef. If you are a Top Chef fan, it was the season 3 episode in New York, where Brian made a sort of peasant’s pie. My husband then started talking about how long it had been since he had eaten shepherd’s pie, and how it sounded really good. So it went onto the menu for that night, since I needed to go to the grocery store anyway.

I had never made shepherd’s pie, so I started going through my cookbooks to find a recipe to use. I ended up going with one from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I made up a grocery list, and my husband and I were off to the store.

The original recipe calls for boneless leg of lamb, but since there was no lamb at the store we were shopping at, I asked my husband if he would rather have ground beef, or another cut of beef that I would cut up for the filling. He said that he had only ever had it with ground beef, so that’s what we went with. That was probably our mistake, because next to the recipe, it says:

“As a way of saving preparation time, most recipes for shepherd’s pie call for ground meat in the filling, which leads to mushy texture and flabby flavor. Our filling consists of chunks of braised lamb, cooked with wine and herbs for a rich, hearty flavor. And by cutting the chunks small, the filling doesn’t take that much longer to make than it does when ground meat is used.”

Ooops. Looks like we were going with the “mushy texture and flabby flavor” version.

The only obstacle I ran into while making this was that when I added the butter, milk and egg yolk to the potatoes, it turned into a watery mess. I ended up throwing a couple more potatoes in to make it the correct consistency, which made the potato topping very high. But everything else came together well.

The taste? Not the very best shepherd’s pie we had ever eaten, but it was pretty good. We had to add quite a bit of salt and pepper to our plates, but that is pretty typical for us. It was better the second day, after the flavors had melded in the refrigerator. I would like to try this again sometime, but I will make sure and follow the advice to not use ground beef!!

Shepherd’s Pie
Prep time
Total time
Recipe for a basic Shepherd's Pie (or Cottage Pie).
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced to ¼ inch thick
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ⅛ cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • ⅓ cup milk, hot
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the ground beef. Transfer beef to a bowl.
  2. Add the ½ tablespoon oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrots, and a bit of salt and cook until softened. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the flour; cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, wine and Worcestershire, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the thyme and the reserved ground beef and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce to low and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
  1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pan, and mash. Stir in the butter, then the milk until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the egg yolks.
  1. Heat the oven to 400F. Stir the peas into the beef mixture, then pour into a baking dish. With a large spoon, drop spoonfuls of the potatoes over the filling, then spread them out to the edge of the dish to ensure a tight seal. Bake in the middle of the oven until the top turns a golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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20 Responses to Shepherd’s Pie

  1. breadchick says:

    I so adore shepards pie and was going to make sloppy joes tonight but I just remembered I have some peas and carrots as well as some mashed potatoes that need to get used up. Guess I’m having Shepards Pie! Thanks for the reminder of a classic dish.

  2. Mary says:

    Shepherd’s pie is one of my absolute favorite meals! Truly great comfort food. I’ll have to try your recipe for it!

  3. glamah16 says:

    Yumm Thats some good eating. I see your a Food Buzz memeber now. Have to add you to my friends list.

  4. Emiline says:

    I’ve seen that episode. I remember how green his pie was.
    I’ve never had shepherd’s pie, but I want to. If you put mashed potatoes on top of anything, it would be delicious!
    It would be fun to play around with variations of this.

    Congrats on FB!

  5. Jenny says:

    How good is Shepard pie!!?? This recipe sounds incredible! Shepard’s pie is such a classic, my Mom still makes her variation of Shepard’s pie and we all devour it.

    You had me nervous for a second about Top Chef, I though I missed a new episode!! I look forward to watching the new season, and I remember Brian making a shepard’s pie. Great show!!

  6. RecipeGirl says:

    I’ve never eaten Shepherd’s Pie and I’ve never made it. I don’t believe I’ve ever even seen it! But it does sound very comforting indeed.

  7. Kate / Kajal says:

    oh i feel the same way like you … whenever my hubby makes a request i have to, have to do it for him.I love it when they are flexible though .. cute isn’t it … honey i don’t have this .. will this do ???
    I would’ve done exactly what u did … the pie looks fantastic.

  8. Steph says:

    I love shepards pie, I grew up that dish! I also love your blog very much, and look for a new post every day! It’s so fun and I love your photography! Keep it coming!

  9. Kevin says:

    That Shepard’s pie looks good. I also just realized that Spring is coming and there are a few winter dishes that I want to make.

  10. Shandy says:

    Don’t you just really hate that when you think you have everything thing planned out and then there is the side note! Yeesh! Well, your Shepherd’s Pie looks absolutely delicious and I have to hide your blog because my hubby was talking about it a little while back. I am hiding it because he has been mentioning all kinds of things that he would like to have for dinner lately. He has rediscovered the FoodNetwork channel again when I wasn’t looking.
    I bet your hubby just loved it! Beautiful picture too =).

  11. Allison says:

    That Shepherd’s Pie is making me so hungry! It looks so perfect…
    Guess what? I finally did the meme you tagged me for ages ago! Are you proud?

  12. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I have got to make this for Joao, Deb! He’ll love it.

  13. Cheryl says:

    Wow, that would look like some good comfort food with this cold weather we are having.

  14. Bev and Ollie "O" says:

    I always use beef instead of lamb, my mum always says that it it cottage pie if made with beef, but I still call it shephards pie!

    Your’s looks perfect and that mash looks lovely!

  15. Bellini Valli says:

    Shepherd’s Pie is one of my all time favourite comfort foods. In the winter I usually have a few small portions stashed away in the freezer for when I feel the need for comfort 😀

  16. Chris Bird says:

    In England, where I hail from, Shepherd’s pie was always made with lamb, the same thing made with beef was called cottage pie. We would often make shepherd’s pie out of the leftovers from Sunday lunch. Whether this was pure frugality (post war England) or good food, I really can’t remember. It is, for me, comfort food.

    Because the meet was already cooked (and often som eof the vegetables too), the oven was more of a reheating than cooking tool. Since we had a meat grinder attachment to the stand mixer, we would grind the lamb chunks, and raw onion (used to push the ;ast of the meat through the grinder, and left over carrots into a pile. Put into an oven proof dish. Add some green peas, maybe a little rosemary and the left over gravy. Top with mashed potato, with a little melted butter poured on. Run the tines of a fork lightly across the potato making it look like a plowed field (increases surface area, makes it more crunchy) and bake at around 350 until well browned and heated through.

  17. christos says:

    Linda made this for me. It's utterly eff'n delicious.
    I would long to hear the words 'Shepherd's Pie' if I were to yell out 'what's for dinner' as I came home from work. Sadly, when I yell it, no one hears.

  18. Caine says:

    This looks delicious, but I'd like to know specifically what was adapted from the original recipe, which I can't view because for some reason my login isn't working on the ATK site.

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