Shepherd's Pie


Last time we were in England I watched one of Jamie Oliver's shows where he made this recipe that I could not stop thinking about. It was hard to find online so I had to wing it (I did eventually find it here - my recipe is adapted from his). It made me see Shepherd's Pie a whole new way. Instead of using minced lamb, it used bone-in lamb shoulder (I used the shanks because they are my favorite) slow roasted for a few hours. Jamie made a crust from the mashed potatoes for the bottom and top so it looked like a real pie. He explained that shepherd's pie was originally made this way. If  you don't like that much mash just half the potato portion of the recipe. My photo above actually has mash on the top and bottom but there was so much lamb spilling out it covered the bottom layer of mash.

Shepherd's Pie is perfect for a Sunday dinner. Matt loves it so much he will eat it every night the rest of the week until it's gone. This is a hearty and comforting dish, perfect for a cold winter night.

For the lamb filling

  • 4 lbs bone-in lamb shanks
  • olive oil
  • 4 red onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 medium rutabaga (optional)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

For the potatoes

  • 6 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  • salt and pepper

For the gravy

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups strained lamb drippings from roasting the lamb (you can combine chicken broth with the drippings to equal 3 cups liquid)

Preheat the oven to 325F. Rub the shanks with olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Place the shanks in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan with 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 red onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, 4 tomatoes, 1 head of garlic sliced horizontally (unpeeled, you will strain this out later) and one sprig of rosemary. Roast for 4 hours.

When the meat is tender and falling off the bone, strain the liquid and reserve for the gravy and the filling. After the meat has cooled, shred from the bone and set aside. Chop the remaining onion, celery, carrot, garlic and rosemary and the peeled rutabaga and saute in the roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and shredded lamb. Pour in 3 cups of the lamb drippings (what's left will be for the gravy), 3 cups of chicken stock and the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for about 40 minutes, or until you've got a loose, stew-like consistency. Stir occasionally. 

Peel and quarter the potatoes and add them to boiling water until you can put a fork through them easily, about 10-12 minutes. Strain and add the butter, the milk, salt to taste and mash well. If you have a stand mixer you can use it here to take away all of the hard work of mashing by hand. Add more butter or milk to your desired consistency. Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a casserole dish, press the mashed potatoes a handful at a time onto the bottom and the sides of the dish. When the bottom and sides are fully covered, about 1/2 inch thick, use a slotted spoon to carefully spoon your lamb mixture on top of the mashed potatoes then cover the lamb mixture with the remaining mashed potatoes. Cover with grated cheese and bread crumbs and bake for 1 hour or until crisp and golden.

When the pie is done, allow to cool for 20 minutes while you make the gravy. To make the gravy, heat 3 tbsp of butter with the flour and stir over medium heat to toast. Don't step away because it can burn very quickly. When it starts to get golden and smells nutty whisk in your lamb dripping/chicken broth. Whisk until you have a smooth semi thick gravy, add a little flour or liquid to your desired thickness.

Slice the pie and top with gravy. Ketchup optional :)