Shepherd{ette} Pies

11 Feb 2011

I have a confession. It was not until I moved to Ireland that I tasted or even heard of Shepherds’ Pie. And really, I never attempted to make it until I had a bambino and it seemed to be the dinner of choice amongst many in the mummy set because of its ease, nutritional value + the fact that it’s basically mushy yummy goodness that all bubbies go ga-ga over.

The history of this gorgeous potato-crusted meat pie dates back to the late 1700’s to early 1800’s and most accounts claim that the pie was created by frugal housewives looking for different ways to serve leftover meat to their families on the British Isles and throughout Ireland {some things never change}. It is also generally agreed that the term “Shepherd’s Pie” originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep. If you prepare the pie with minced beef, it is then referred to as Cottage Pie.

Back home, I grew up on casseroles and hot dishes {there is now even a fabulous restaurant dedicated to hot dishes only, appropriately named Haute Dish}, but Shepherd’s Pie or it’s beef version, Cottage Pie, were definitely not de rigueur at the time. Of course, now everyone from Rachel Ray to the Barefoot Contessa has their own version of Shepherd’s Pie in America.

While I love a traditional recipe like this one from Darina Allen or Donal Skehan’s lovely roasted garlic version, I like to experiment a little and tailor the recipe to the flavours that we prefer in our home.

In all of my pies, I try to spice it up with a sprinkle of fennel seeds perhaps, or maybe a few generous pinches of herbes de Provence, Moroccan seasoning or just simply a shake of chili powder….depending on the mood (and the weather!) that day.

Pie #1 (Top) I’ve used mashed cauliflower instead of potato, giving it a subtle flavour difference and a significant carb cut down. Also, since lamb mince is not readily available in most American supermarkets, I substituted ground round steak on this pie.

Pie #2 (Middle) For a veggie version, you can replace the lamb or beef with Quorn or another type of veggie mince and it is just as protein packed and tasty!

Pie #3 (Bottom) Traditional Shepherd’s Pie made with lamb mince and whipped potato topping. Perfection.

I find that it’s nice to make individual ramekins, or “shepherdettes” as I have affectionately named them so you can freeze and take out one at a time as needed for a quick meal for one (or five) after a busy day.


Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell in all-natural Irish light. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell.

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