Easy Shepherd’s Pie – Traditional with Ground Lamb

Rich layers of vegetables, ground lamb and creamy mashed potatoes will warm you heart and soul. This easy shepherd’s pie recipe with ground lamb is an easy way to make week day dinner anytime!

I love making delicious food. I get a lot of satisfaction from kitchen successes, truly. When the Frenchman came to stay with us for a while, I had to kick my skills up a notch. Not that he would have complained or made a fuss over anything I made, but he clearly loves his food.

Shepherd's pie
Photo by Jeanie Beales

My hubby is famous for his shepherd’s pie. He loves to create the layers of vegetables, ground lamb and rich gravy. It’s the only thing he can cook well, but at least he has this, right? He and the Frenchman got together one day and decided that they needed to create the perfect shepherd’s pie, with ground lamb to be fully proper and all.

When shepherd’s pie was first made in Northern England and Scotland in the early 1700’s, they used lamb or mutton (older sheep) for the meat. It was a common dish among sheep herders in that area.

Back then, shepherd’s pie had a pastry crust that topped the meat and vegetables instead of mashed potatoes.

It actually wasn’t really named until the mid 1800’s and then became known as “Shepherd’s Pie”. When you make this dish using lamb, it’s a proper shepherd’s pie recipe. When you use any other type of meat;  ground beef, turkey, or chicken, it is then properly called “cottage pie.”

Most of the time, shepherd’s pie has onions, garlic and peas in the casserole. Some will replace those with green beans, or add carrots. Tater tots have been seen to top this dish, replacing the mashed potatoes as well. One of the best things about cooking on the homestead is creating a dish with ingredients you have on hand, that your family will love.

This is such a dish. Hubby and the Frenchman opted for traditional ground lamb, peas, carrots, onions and a rich lamb broth. When hubby is following a strict paleo diet, he will sub out the white mashed potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes or even roasted radishes on the top. The Frenchman loves his starchy foods, so uber traditional they went.

Serving of Shepherd's Pie
Photo by Jeanie Beales

It’s the Ultimate Comfort Food

First, in a heavy bottomed skillet, they browned the ground lamb with chopped onions and garlic. This was sautéed for about 10 minutes until the lamb was browned through and the vegetables began to sweat.

Then, they added in sliced carrots and frozen peas, and stirred to combine.

When I do this dish for the family, I prefer to grate the carrots, as kids will sort out the slices of carrot, but when they are grated they tend not to do the whole, “Let’s sort through and pick out anything that remotely resembles a vegetable” thing.

The Frenchman loves adding lots of herbs and spices (see the note at the end of the ingredients list). They then heated the mixture on the stove top for about 5 minutes, then removed from the heat and set aside.

The lamb broth was made in advance (you can see how we make it here with beef broth with beef bones-same concept, just use lamb bones from your butcher).

Next they made a roux. The traditional roux is made by melting 2 tablespoons of butter, and adding 2 tablespoons of freshly milled flour. You stir to combine, and allow the roux to cook for 2-3 minutes to remove the “raw” flour taste and to add another layer of flavor. before adding the broth a little at a time, and stirring to make sure the roux does not get lumpy.

The roux thickens the gravy, with a white or blonde roux like this one, having the most thickening power. If the roux is made with oil as in Cajun cooking it is taken to a darker color by cooking it longer, but it loses its thickening ability.

A blonde roux is made with butter which can’t take high heat for long so it needs to be cooked quickly on a medium temperature. With oil being able to take a higher heat you can get a darker roux, and you be able to cook it for longer, being careful not to let it burn.

Next, they combined the roux (gravy) with the ground lamb and vegetables and stirred them together. They then layered the mixture in the bottom of ramekin dishes, filling about ⅔ full. (if you want, you can also use a 9×13 baking dish to make one larger Shepherd’s Pie instead of 6 smaller ones.)

Now, they had to deal with the mashed potatoes. They had some golden Yukon potatoes bubbling on the stove while they were browning the lamb and other vegetables. Hubby drained the water, added 4 Tablespoons butter, ½ cup of milk, and 1 Tablespoon of sour cream. Of course, don’t forget the salt and pepper, even on this layer!

The potatoes, butter, milk and sour cream were placed in a stand mixer with the flat blade attached. Hubby whipped them until they were light and fluffy.

You can also do it by hand – mash the mixture first, then use a hand whisk to whip them up to a perfect creamy fluffiness. Each casserole dish was then topped with ½ cup or so of the creamy mashed potatoes.

The casseroles were then placed in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes to fully heat through and to ensure the mashed potato topping had some crispy edges. The topping should be gold, not brown – so watch it carefully.

Shepherd's pie

Easy Shepherd’s Pie – Traditional with Ground Lamb

Rich layers of vegetables, ground lamb and hearty mashed potatoes will warm you heart and soul. This easy shepherd’s pie recipe with ground lamb is an easy to make week-night dinner any time of the year.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Cuisine American, homestyle
Servings 6 servings of 2 cups each
Calories 460 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 onion medium, chopped
  • 3 minced cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots large, grated
  • 8 ounces frozen peas or freshly shucked peas from the garden
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh milled flour
  • 2 cups lamb or beef broth
  • 6 potatoes medium-sized
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional Spices

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs

Instructions
 

  • Add 6 quarts of water to a deep pot and place potatoes in water, and bring to a boil.
  • In a heavy bottomed skillet, brown the lamb with chopped onions and garlic.
    onion and garlic ready to sautee
  • Sautee for about 10 minutes until the lamb is browned through and the vegetables begin to sweat.
    ground lamb, spices and onions
  • Add in grated carrots and frozen (or fresh) peas, and stir to combine.
  • Heat on the stove top for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
    starting the roux
  • To make the roux: In a separate pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 2 Tablespoons fresh milled flour.
  • Stir to combine and allow the roux to cook for 2-3 minutes to remove the “raw” flour taste and to add another layer of flavor.
  • Add 2 cups of broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly and allow to thicken slightly.
  • Combine the gravy with the ground lamb and vegetables and stir together.
    adding roux to meat mixture
  • Layer the mixture in the bottom of ramekin dishes, filling about ⅔ full. (if you want, you can also use a 9×13 baking dish to make one larger casserole instead of 6 smaller ones.)
    Shepherd's Pie ready for topping
  • Drain the water from the potatoes.
  • Add 4 Tablespoons butter, ½ cup milk, and 1 Tablespoon sour cream.
  • Place potatoes, butter, milk, and sour cream in a stand mixer with the flat blade attached.
  • Whip until fluffy.
  • Top each of the ramekin dishes with ½ cup or so of the creamy mashed potatoes, if using ramekins, or spread evenly across the 9×13 dish.
  • Place in the oven for 20 minutes to heat through and let the mashed potatoes on top become slightly crispy and golden. Keep an eye on them so the mashed potato topping doesn’t burn.
  • Allow to cool slightly before serving.
    Shepherd's Pie fresh out of the oven

Notes

Feel free to use the spices you like for ground lamb – mint and oregano would go well.

The Frenchman insists on crispy edges for most of his food. The only exception would be ice cream, but that’s another story. They allowed the shepherd’s pie to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Once it cooled slightly, we were able to dig in and enjoy this! So filling, and satisfying! Even in summer, this is a must make dish, at least once a month. The only accompaniment you need is a fresh salad.

Now, if you prefer, a small glass of red wine would be very tasty with this. Lamb and other red meat pair well with red wines. I would personally choose something a bit more on the sweeter side to balance out the stronger flavors of the lamb, but even a dry red wine would be very palatable. 

Of course, if you don’t drink alcohol, then water, tea or even grape juice would go down well. Maybe a tall cold glass of kombucha? See here how to make it for yourself!

I hope you enjoy this shepherd’s pie recipe as much as the Frenchman and my husband enjoyed making it! Be sure to pin this for later, too!

last update: May 4th 2021 by Jeanie Beales

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16 thoughts on “Easy Shepherd’s Pie – Traditional with Ground Lamb”

  1. This looks so satisfying! Are you grinding you own lamb or asking the butcher — I’ve only worked with lamb roasts before.

  2. Carol Little R.H. @studiobotanica

    THE ultimate comfort food! This recipe looks and sounds SO good! Easy too. Thanks!!

  3. Emily @ Recipes to Nourish

    Shepherd’s Pie truly is some serious comfort food. My husband LOVES it, it’s one of his favorites. Your version sounds great!

  4. Yum! I love using lamb for shepherds pie, I didn’t realize the others were called cottage pie! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Katie Walsh Beck

    I am not a lamb fan, but I would so do this with ground beef. Looks like a great comfort dish 🙂

  6. I’m going to make this after Thanksgiving is over. I found some ground Lamb at a local grocery, Aldi. I’ve enjoyed mutton stew out on the Navajo Reservation and am anxious to see how this lamb tastes in a Shepherds pie! Thanks!

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