Irish Shepherd's Pie



In honor of my Irish ancestors, here is a fun alternative to corned beef and cabbage for St Patrick's Day. Or serve it for dinner on March 14 (Pi Day), which is what we did!

This is an easy dish to make. In preparation for quick dinners, I cook up a big package of unseasoned ground beef, and freeze it in small baggies. I can make tacos, sloppy joes, or a Shepherd's Pie with the frozen meat. (Although technically, if you substitute Ground Beef instead of Lamb, you should call it a "Cottage Pie.") Having the meat ready in the freezer gives me more flexibility with last-minute dinners.

This meal takes about an hour to prepare, start to finish (30 minutes baking time). If you can corral some help with peeling & chopping the potatoes, you can cut off quite a bit of time.

Irish Shepherd's Pie

Meat Mixture
2 Tb olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 pound lean ground lamb (or ground beef)
3 Tb flour 
1 tsp beef bouillon powder if using ground beef
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp dry)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tb ketchup
1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove, minced
1-1/4 cups water, or as needed
1/2 (12 ounce) package frozen peas and carrots
Potato Topping
6-8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
1 Tb butter
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
2 oz cream cheese
2 oz Irish cheese (or cheddar), shredded
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk, if needed

Preheat the oven to 375.

Peel and chop the potatoes. Place the potatoes into a pot, and cover with water. Add about a tsp of salt to the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water out of the pot, leaving the potatoes in the pot.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Stir in onion and ground lamb; brown the meat, breaking it up as it cooks. If you have fresh rosemary and garlic, chop these while the meat is cooking.

When the meat is no longer pink inside, stir in the flour. The mixture will look dry. Mix in salt, black pepper, optional bouillon powder, rosemary, paprika, cinnamon, ketchup, and garlic; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the water and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of pan. Add the frozen peas and carrots and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring mixture to a simmer; cook and stir until thick, about 5-6 minutes.

Spread lamb mixture into the bottom of a 2.5qt baking dish (about 10 inch diameter) and set aside.
For the potato topping, add butter, cayenne pepper, cream cheese, and Irish cheese into the potatoes. Mash until combined and potatoes are smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Whisk together egg yolk and milk in a small bowl; stir into the mashed potato mixture.

Drop large spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes all over the meat mixture, and then spread carefully into a layer.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling up around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Allow the Shepherd's pie to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
If you need to hold dinner, you can open the oven for a couple of minutes to let out some of the heat and then hold the Shepherd's pie on warm (180°) for another hour or so if needed.
Serves 6-8.

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