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 He explained that shepherd's pie was originally made this way.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 :)

Chicken & Mushroom Pie


The last time we flew to England, Matt and I binge watched Heston Blumenthal's show Heston's Great British Food on the plane. He is an amazing  Michelin-starred English chef who is like a mad scientist in the kitchen. He has wacky ideas like reimagining fish and chips into a dessert using green frozen yogurt instead of mushy peas and chocolate pieces cut to look like real chips. He once sent a potato into space to see if he could change the flavor.

In one episode, he explained the history of pies. Originally, the crust of a pie was not edible, it was more like a paper mache made of flour and water. The crust was only used as a portable vessel for meat and the juices to stay fresh. You could think of the crust acting like a modern day plastic lidded container. Many years later, fat was added to the flour and water mixture and pastry was born. You can find savory pies everywhere in England and they come with hundreds of different fillings.  Chicken and mushroom pie happens to be one of Matt's favorites.

I had never eaten a chicken and mushroom pie but I assumed it was somewhat like a chicken pot pie. I used creme fraiche instead of milk which makes this pie sinfully rich. I also used puff pastry instead of pie dough for some crunch to contrast the creamy filling. You can make one big pie or four 8oz ramekins. I prefer the ramekins so we each get a nice piece of the crispy top :)


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 8 green onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 20 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8oz of button mushrooms
  • 1/4 of a whole nutmeg, microplaned
  • 8oz of creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 box of frozen puff pastry
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg

Take your puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to defrost for about 45 minutes. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy bottom pan. Sear the pieces of chicken for 5 minutes, but do not cook them all the way through. Take them out of the pan and set aside. Dice celery, carrots, and green onion and toss them in pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the leaves from the thyme sprigs and minced rosemary. Coarsely chop the garlic and parsley and add to the mixture once the vegetables are mostly cooked but still have a little bite to them. Add the chicken back into the mixture, sliced mushrooms, creme fraiche, chicken stock, 2 tbsp of flour and allow it to reduce. If your mixture looks too thick, add a splash more chicken stock and let it cook on medium low. If your mixture is too thin, add 1/2 tablespoon of flour and cook for a few minutes. Repeat until your desired thickness.

Once the puff pastry has thawed, roll it out and gently place it in the pie pan. Trim the edges. Line it with parchment paper and then add rice or lentils to weigh the pastry down while you blind bake it for 10 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. The lentils/rice will keep the pastry from puffing, and the blind baking will keep the crust on the bottom from being under cooked or soggy later.

Remove the pie shell from the oven. Carefully add the chicken and mushroom filling to the pie pan. Roll out the top layer for the crust and place it on top of the filling. Seal the edges of the raw dough with the edge of the pie dish with a fork. Brush the top of the pie with an egg wash. Make sure your pie has a little slit in the top crust as a vent. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed to perfection.