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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15 Responses to “Shepherd{ette} Pies”

  1. Amanda says:

    Aha…How clever (and delicious) to do the cauliflower topping. I haven’t yet tried my daughter Lucy (2 1/2) on shepherd’s pie, but it’s definitely time. Such beautiful posts. I’m so enjoying getting to know your site.

  2. Aoife Mc says:

    GORGEOUS. I love Shepard’s/Cottage Pies and your alternatives sound amazing. Definitely going to start adding to spices to my own. Beautiful pictures as always. Yum!

  3. vickscakes says:

    Individual Shepard(ette) pies are vey cute & great portion control, its one of those dinners you always want seconds – reminds me of coming home from swimming lessons to hot shepards pie – nothing better. I’m not massive fan of cauliflower but my friend did try to convince me “suprise mash” was our answer…em until i realised its cauliflower!! But might try Claire’s suggestion of mixing it with sweet potato, sounds good. Vick

  4. Clare says:

    I’m with you on the cauliflower. I usually do a cauli/sweet potato mix mash to top shep or cottage pies because I find the all-white-potato too filling. Still, it’s great on a cold Irish day!!

    I guess my American childhood equivalent would be the tuna casserole, which I adore! My dad used to make one with chunks of cheddar cheese, which would melt into globs of goo in the pasta mix. Nom!

    • imen says:

      Clare, love the idea of mixing cauli with sweet potato, yumsters! I love tuna casserole….ours was probably tater tot =) But now I am craving tuna casserole!! xx

  5. I never knew that Shepherds Pie was traditionally made with lamb. Duh! It makes total sense. But every time I’ve seen it here in the US its always made with beef. Silly Americans! Thanks for the recipe!

  6. PlantDrEMB says:

    Nice! hadn’t thought of cauliflower. Southern girl myself and I make one out of leftover pork roast, a touch of BBQ sauce and top with sweet potatoes. Also if there will be leftovers I can’t stand over cooked English peas so I leave them out, then cook the peas separately and garnish/stir in at serving each time.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Irish Fireside Corey, Caroline Pointer, Terry-Jo Lewis, Erin Kirkland, imenm and others. imenm said: Farm Fresh Post: Sweet Little Shepherdette Pies. […]

  8. Cottage pie is one of my favorite dinners! You’ve made me crave it, I’m going to make it tomorrow! Great photos too.

  9. Krista says:

    I absolutely LOVE your idea of mashed cauliflower on top! 🙂 I adore Shepherd’s Pie and that slight change is truly inspired. 🙂

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