Close up of spoon scooping Shepherd's Pie out of a white baking dish, fresh out of the oven
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4.92 from 46 votes

Shepherd's Pie

Recipe video above. Shepherd’s Pie is one of those foods that brings a smile to everyone’s face – especially when you get seconds! While it's traditionally made with lamb, this is equally delicious made with beef (and makes it a Cottage Pie!) Terrific make ahead! GF option in Note 4.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Australian, British, Western
Keyword: Shepherd's Pie
Servings: 5 - 6 people
Calories: 678kcal
Author: Nagi

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 onion , finely chopped
  • 1 carrot , finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery , finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp each dried thyme and rosemary (or 2 sprigs fresh thyme + 1 sprig rosemary)
  • 750 g / 1.5 lb ground lamb (mince) OR beef
  • ¼ cup / 35g flour , plain/all purpose
  • ¼ cup / 55g tomato paste
  • 2 cups / 500 ml beef stock / broth
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml red wine (or water)
  • 1 beef bouillon cube , crumbled
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Mashed Potato

  • 1.2 kg / 2.2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes
  • 2/3 cup / 165 ml milk (whole or low fat)
  • 2 tbsp / 30g butter

Crust

  • 2 – 3 tbsp grated parmesan , optional
  • 2 tbsp / 30g butter , melted
  • Fresh thyme leaves, optional garnish

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add carrots, celery, thyme and rosemary. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened and sweet.
  • Turn heat up to high. Add lamb and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.
  • Add flour and mix in. Add tomato paste, broth, red wine, bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir well.
  • Bring to simmer, then turn down heat so it is simmering rapidly - I have it on medium. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces down to a thick gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video).
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Transfer Filling to 1.5 litre / quart pie baking dish. Stir through peas. Cover, then refrigerate to cool for 1 - 2 hours or overnight (optional, Note 2)

Assemble:

  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  • Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off stove. Allow to steam dry for 30 seconds or so (Note 3).
  • Add butter and mash until melted, then add milk, salt and pepper. Mash until it's soft and smooth (ie spreadable, but not sloppy), adjusting with a touch more milk if required.
  • Spread mash onto pie, use a fork to draw squiggles over the surface. Sprinkle with parmesan, drizzle with butter.
  • Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until deep golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
  • Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh thyme leaves if desired.

Notes

* Carrots and celery are used to make a truly great mirepoix / soffrritto flavour base for this pie. However, they can be omitted, but add 1 tsp of sugar instead.
1. Whatever the thickness of the sauce when you pour it into the dish, that's what it will be once baked - no steam escapes while baking to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until it's the consistency you want - you don't want it too runny otherwise it's like lamb soup! 
2. Cooling the filling ensures that the potato doesn't weep into the filling and makes it much easier to spread. If you are in a rush - as I often am - pop it in the freezer while you make the potato. That works pretty well.
3. Watery potatoes drops excess liquid into the filling which makes the sauce watery and can make the potatoes weep into the filling. So don't skip the step of steam drying the potatoes! Also, make sure the mash is hot when spreading onto the pie. Cold mash is hard and impossible to spread.
4. Variations: If I'm making this for company or am on a calorie-blow-out mission, I add a big handful of cheese into the potato (cheddar, tasty, gruyere, Monterey Jack). It doesn't need it, it's a bonus. 🙂
For the filling, sometimes I reduce the amount of lamb and add chopped veggies like zucchini and spinach (frozen thawed or fresh).
GLUTEN FREE OPTION: Skip the flour. Use 2 tbsp of cornflour / cornstarch, mix with a splash of water. Stir into the sauce at step 4, it will thicken as it heats.
5. Make ahead instructions: Fabulous for making ahead. Assemble pie but don't bake it. Once cool, then either refrigerate or freeze. Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe.
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 6 servings.

Nutrition

Calories: 678kcal