Allow me to present you with this absolutely delicious take on shepherd’s pie. Also known as cottage pie, shepherd’s pie is the general name for a dish that originated in the United Kingdom and consists of some sort of ground or minced meat sauce topped with mashed potatoes.
My best friend growing up was born in England, and her mom would always make us traditional dinner dishes from the United Kingdom. These were meals you wouldn’t typically find at my house, so I was always so excited to eat them, and shepherd’s pie was my favorite.
When I lived in the Bay Area, there was a restaurant in San Jose that had the most delicious shepherd’s pie, and we had it a few times when we were in England filming NBC’s “The Courtship.” It’s also one of my husband’s favorite dishes. He loves the savory, saucy meat topped with fluffy, cheesy mashed potatoes. Shepherd’s pie is the epitome of comfort food, and it comes together pretty quickly.
For my take on shepherd’s pie, I like to use ground lamb as the meat. Lamb is pretty gamy, but I love the specific flavor lamb brings to any dish. If lamb isn’t your jam, ground beef or bison is a great substitute. I’ve also done a 50/50 mix of ground lamb and ground beef before to try to tame down the gaminess of the lamb if I’m serving it to people that aren’t sure about lamb.
Traditional shepherd’s pie calls for peas, carrots and onions. I hate peas, so you won’t find them in this recipe. Instead I include mushrooms — not really as a substitute, but more for the additional umami flavor the mushrooms bring to the dish. If you want to include peas, add them to the meat sauce before assembling the dish to go into the oven. Peas cook quickly, and don’t need to soften like the rest of the ingredients, so you will want to add them at the last minute.
Fear not, I haven’t omitted a green element altogether. Kale is the secret ingredient for this recipe, and although my husband loves peas, he doesn’t miss them with the addition of the kale and the mushrooms.
I prefer to make this dish in a cast iron skillet. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that my cast iron is my favorite piece of kitchen equipment. For this particular recipe, the cast iron allows me to make the meat sauce and finish off the pie in the oven without having to dirty a separate baking dish.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Mashed potato topping
- 2 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon goat cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 ½ pounds ground lamb
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 4 cremini mushrooms, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning (such as McCormick’s)
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 ½ cups kale, diced
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- Bring 6 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil.
- Add potatoes and cook until fork tender.
- In a cast iron skillet, sauté ground lamb for about 2 minutes over medium heat.
- Add diced onions, carrots and mushrooms to the ground lamb and sauté another 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Add salt, crushed red pepper, thyme, garlic, garlic seasoning, nutmeg and tomato paste.
- Cook until fragrant, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add flour and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add Worcestershire and beef stock. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, stirring stirring. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, goat cheese and egg. Stir to combine.
- Add cooked potatoes and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer or potato masher will work just fine.
- Add the sour cream and egg mixture, and mozzarella, and mix until completely combined.
- Turn on oven to broil.
- Add kale to the meat sauce, toss to combine, and cook for 2 more minutes.
- If using a cast iron, you can continue with the next steps using the cast iron. If not, transfer the meat sauce to a baking dish.
- Add the potato mixture on top of the meat sauce, and spread evenly over top.
- Top with shredded cheddar and a dusting of paprika, if desired.
- Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with minced parsley.