This Classic Shepherd’s Pie Recipe uses leftover Roast Lamb, as is traditional, and is the most simple and basic form of this classic dish.
When I was a kid growing up in England, Roast Lamb was a very popular Sunday dinner. In many households, that Sunday dinner would invariably be followed, sometime later in the week, by that old leftovers stand-by, Shepherd’s pie.
Nowadays, of course, many people use ground Beef instead of Lamb but, strictly speaking, that is a Cottage Pie. The basic pie traditionally consists simply of ground cooked Lamb, usually with added Onion, baked under a topping of mashed Potato. Naturally, there are endless permutations on the theme, but the recipe here represents the most basic form of this classic dish.
Above you can see the leftovers from a roast leg of Lamb. You can certainly cop the meat by hand, but, really, a meat-grinder, either electric or hand-powered, is all but essential for the proper grind.
In this case, the chunks of Lamb shown here ended up producing 7 cups of ground meat. That is more than the 5 cups called for in the Recipe Card below, but the remainder went to making a good-sized batch of dumplings.
First, put the meat and onion in a large bowl and add the flour, mixing until all the meat and onion pieces are individually coated. Next, add the Sage, Thyme, Salt, and Pepper, followed by a few Tablespoons of water so as to produce a slightly damp mix.
Transfer the meat mixture to a suitable baking dish and flatten it down compactly, ensuring there is enough space in the dish for the layer of mashed Potatoes which will go over it. At this point, it helps to cool and refrigerate the mix before proceeding as laying the topping is much easier that way.
Next, boil the Potatoes in salted water until tender, then drain and mash them with the Butter and a few pinches of Salt to taste. Stir in enough Cream to make a nice smooth blend, reserving a tablespoon or two of the cream for the final assembly.
The three large Potatoes called for in the Recipe Card will give a pretty thick topping (which I like). If you prefer it thinner, you can probably get away with only two good-sized Potatoes.
While the mashed Potatoes are still warm, spread them over the meat mixture and smooth it out, brushing the surface with a little cream to help browning. If desired, you can score the top with the tines of a fork as shown above.
Finally, bake your Classic Shepherd’s Pie in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 45 minutes covered with foil. Remove the foil and then finish uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes to let the surface brown nicely. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Your Recipe Card:
Classic Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- 5 cups of ground leftover Lamb
- 1 ½ cups of onion chopped medium fine
- 1 ½ Tbsp. Flour
- 2 tbsp. Sage
- 1 – 2 tsp. Thyme
- 1 tbsp. Salt
- 1 tbsp. ground Black Pepper
- 3 Large Potatoes
- 3 tbsp. Butter
- ¼ to ½ cup Cream
- Salt to taste for the Potatoes
- Mix the ground cooked Lamb with the Onion, the Flour and the seasonings, then stir in two or three Tablespoons of Water to make a slightly damp mixture.
- Transfer the mixture to a suitable baking dish and briefly chill.
- Boil and mash the Potatoes with the Butter, Salt and Cream, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the Cream for later.
- Spread the mashed Potatoes over the meat mixture evenly and smooth the surface. Brush with the remaining Cream and score the top with the tines of a fork if desired.
- Bake at 375-degrees Fahrenheit covered with foil for 45 minutes, then bake uncovered for a further 15 minutes to brown the top.
- Allow to rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then serve.