Traditional Shepherd’s Pie
This Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is a British comfort food classic loved by all. This classic recipe uses ground lamb cooked with vegetables, along with flavor boosting Guinness, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth or beef stock for an extra boost of flavor. This ground meat mixture is topped with fluffy mashed potato and baked. The same recipe, when using ground beef, is called Cottage Pie.
Everyone who knows and is a fan of British food, and this is probably the most widely known recipe from the United Kingdom.
What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?
Real shepherd’s is made with ground lamb (lamb mince) and not ground beef (beef mince). The name makes sense if you think about it. Lamb is a sheep and a shepherd is a person who tends to sheep, hence the name. In addition, don’t forget there’s a comma in there: shepherd’s not shepherds pie.
Make Ahead Shepherd’s Pie
To make this easy shepherd’s pie recipe ahead, prepare up to the point of baking, but don’t bake it. Allow the dish to cool, cover it, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C and bake for 25 minutes until the top is browned.
Why is it called a shepherd’s pie?
The pie made with beef is traditionally called cottage pie, made by the poorer people who lived in cottages from leftover beef and lamb. Both pies date back to the 18th Century, but as time has gone by, beef has become increasingly popular and more widely used than lamb.
Meat filling flavor additions
I like to add Guinness to my classic shepherd’s pie recipe (which you could call a traditional Irish shepherd’s pie and would be perfect for St Patrick’s Day. Over the years of making this, I’ve found that the rich flavor of the beer gives it that extra depth you just cannot get without it and really does make for the best shepherd’s pie beef mixture.
You can omit the Guinness if you are cooking for children and substitute with more beef stock or beef broth. If you’re not a beer fan, red wine is also delicious which is use in Minced Beef and Dumplings.
Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, if you want to elevate this great recipe, you could top it with Irish Colcannon, which is mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage.
Shepherd’s pie mash topping
The classic layer of creamy mashed potatoes is made with Yukon gold potatoes, as they make for soft and creamy mashed potatoes. I have been known to add a small rutabaga to the mash, which takes it to a new flavor level if you would like to try. As an extra bonus, the dish makes a rich gravy as it cooks, so you can reserve it and use it for spooning over the top when serving.
I like to make this recipe in a 10-inch (25 cm) cast iron skillet (or oven-proof sauté pan) that be transferred to the oven. If you don’t have a cast iron or oven-proof skillet, you can start this recipe on the stovetop in whatever pan you have that will work then transfer to a casserole dish or deep baking dish of about the same size to finish in the oven.
Freezing unbaked Shepherd’s Pie
You can freeze before baking (just allow to cool) and cover tightly. It will keep frozen for up to 2 months. When you are ready to make, defrost in the fridge overnight then bake as per the recipe instructions.
Freezing cooked Shepherd’s Pie
You can freeze an entire, fully baked recipe. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a 350°F/177°C oven until warmed through. I also like to portion out leftovers and freeze individually. Defrost and reheat the same way.
If you’ve tried this Traditional Shepherd’s Pie or any other recipe on the blog then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it turned out in the comments below, or ask a question. I love to hear from my readers!