Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie


Cary, NC – The snow and ice had me thinking about hearty winter dinners from ingredients I already have lying around the kitchen. Then I remembered Shepherd’s Pie.

Cleaning Out the Refrigerator on a Snowy Day

The weather has been dicey, as you know. At my house, we’ve made fajitas, soup, stews and stir fries between visits to the grocery store.

Then it hit me: Shepherd’s Pie. Me and the missus used to make it before the picky-eaters joined the family.

There is no pie in Shepherd’s Pie, however. No pastry crust whatsoever. Just a bottom layer of meat and vegetables and a top layer of mashed potatoes.

The variations are endless, but the concept is simple. I’ll give you the basic recipe here and you can adapt to whatever’s in your pantry.

Shepherd’s Pie: Ingredients

Serves 6   |   20 minutes prep   |   30 minutes bake

  • 6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce or paste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Shepherd’s Pie: Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Bring the potatoes to boil in a large pot of salted water and cook for about 20 minutes until fork-tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the ground meat, onions, celery, carrots and garlic over a medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper.

More traditional recipes call for ground lamb, but ground beef is okay. So is ground turkey or chicken. Ground deer is fine, too, if you have some in the freezer.

When the meat is cooked and the veggies soft (about 10 minutes), pour off any excess fat. Sprinkle the meat and vegetables with the tablespoon of flour. Season again with salt and pepper. Mix it in and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

Carefully pour in the chicken stock – it will create a cloud of steam when the liquid hits the hot pan. Scrape off the brown bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan and continue to add liquid, stirring and scraping until the bottom of the pan is clear and the juices have thickened into a gravy.

Stir in the tablespoon of tomato sauce or paste. Stir in the peas. Season with salt and pepper and bring everything back to a bubble.

Pull the pan off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and pour the meat and vegetable mix into a 12″ oven-proof baking dish.

Drain the cooked potatoes and mash with milk, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetables, spreading and smoothing to make an even surface that goes all the way to the edges of the baking dish.

Top with the shredded cheese and bake at 375°F for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve Shepherd’s Pie with a salad and fresh or canned fruit like applesauce or pineapple. Goes well with heartier beers like stout, porter and bock.


You can vary the recipe to your own tastes or depending on what you have in the house. Here are a few ideas.

Meat Lovers

Top with bacon. Lots of bacon.

Mashed Vegetables

Cut out three of the potatoes and mash some other vegetables into the mix, like cauliflower, carrots or turnips. Starchy, root vegetables work well, but each may require a different cooking time to become mashable.


Substitute corn starch for the flour as a thickener. Or just leave it out and use a little more tomato paste.

Decorate the Top

Omit the shredded cheese from the recipe and decorate the top of the mashed potatoes with a fork prior to baking.  You can also try a line of fresh tomato slices down the center before putting the dish in the oven.

Or, go buck wild and run out in the yard and collect some wild garlic chives (ubiquitous in Cary). Chop them up and sprinkle on top of the casserole when it comes out of the oven.

Grammatical Note

Why the apostrophe in Shepherd’s Pie? Because the Oxford English Dictionary says so, that’s why.

Of course, Shepherd Pie would suggest a dish made from actual shepherds. And Shepherds’ Pie would imply a dish that is shared amongst a group of shepherds (which seems unlikely, as they are a solitary bunch by trade).

Similarly, Ploughman’s Lunch (a meal of bread, cheese, pickle and salad according to OED) has an apostrophe, preventing any confusion that the repast is made from people.

Just don’t go all wobbly on adjectival nouns, as in sports club, customs duties and writers conference (a conference of writers that does not belong to any individual or group of writers). Adjectival nouns do not get an apostrophe.

Now get back to your Shepherd’s Pie.


Recipe by Hal Goodtree. Photo by Veronique.

1 reply
  1. Katie
    Katie says:

    This makes me smile. Especailly the long list of ingredients. My mother is British. She made Shepherd’s Pie often from leftover Sunday dinner and it was one of our favorite meals, but it was much simpler than recipes you see in cookbooks today. She ground the leftover roast (it was a treat to be allowed to do the grinding!), mixed in the leftover gravy, topped it with the leftover mashed potatoes and bunged it in the oven to heat. Ambrosia! Of course as American kids we tended to smother it with ketchup. :-) I think I’ll go thaw some ground beef…..

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