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Lamb Pie

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 2 hrs 20 min
  • Cook Time: 40 min
  • Calories: 608
lamb shepherd's pie with puff pastry peas and carrots.

This classic shepherd’s pie is packed with hearty ground lamb and veggies, then capped with buttery mashed potatoes, flaky puff pastry, and Gruyère. It’s a feast all by itself.

Pie: It’s What’s for Dinner

As we stare out the window on another drizzly winter’s day here in the Pacific Northwest there’s no question what’s for dinner. Tonight, we’re having pie. Mind you, not the berry-packed beauties of a sunny summertime dessert, but a hearty, meaty, savory lamb pie so comforting it comes wrapped in its very own buttery blanket of warmth. Won’t you join us?

Filling for lamb shepherd's pie, ground lamb, onion, carrots and peas in a cast iron pan with a wooden spoon
4 ramekins filled with puff pastry mashed potatoes and lamb shepherds pie filling in a pan

What Is Shepherd’s Pie?

This lamb pie—or “shepherd’s pie” as it’s called across the U.K. and Ireland—is a savory casserole made of ground meat and peas and carrots cooked in a rich gravy and topped with a mountain of mashed potatoes—or puff pastry—or both (as we do here), and sometimes cheese (yup, we do that, too). It’s the kind of food that feeds the body and nourishes the soul, especially in the winter doldrums when it’s dreary outside and dark by 4 pm.

Cottage Pie vs. Shepherd’s Pie

But isn’t shepherd’s pie also called “cottage pie”? Well, yes. And no. The shepherd's pie origin story is murky at best, because people have been making some version of this recipe for a long, long time. But, most food historians agree that shepherd’s pie was traditionally made with lamb (named for the shepherds that tended sheep—get it?), and it’s thought to be of Irish origin, while cottage pie was traditionally made in Britain with leftover beef, and named for the cottage-dwelling peasants that created it. In both cases, the dishes were thought to have originated in the 18th century as a way for people to make use of a week’s leftover roast by putting it all in a pie with a potato crust. These days, though, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

5 cocettes filled with lamb shepherd's pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese
5 cocettes filled with lamb shepherd's pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese out of oven.

Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients

Alright—let’s get down to business! What’s in shepherd’s pie? Here’s a quick rundown of what makes our shepherd’s pie so, so good:

  • Ground lamb. Lamb is classic, and we love its hearty flavor. But, you can use ground beef or even ground turkey here, too, if you prefer.
  • Onions + carrots + peas. We basically keep a bag of peas in the freezer at all times so we can make lamb shepherd’s pie whenever the craving strikes. We recommend you do the same.
  • Garlic + thyme. The only two seasonings you’ll need.
  • Beef broth + stout beer. We love the added layer of complexity the beer brings to the overall dish. That said, you can always substitute an equal amount of beef broth for the beer.
  • Mashed potatoes + puff pastry + Gruyère. Our meat pie gets not one, not two, but three different toppers. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
5 cocettes filled with lamb pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese on a baking sheet

How to Make Shepherd’s Pie

Our shepherd’s pie recipe perfect for a lazy afternoon of cooking—it’s not fast, but it is supremely satisfying sometimes to just slow down and spend a day in the kitchen. We like to imagine the (admittedly long-ish) process in three steps:

  • Brown the meat. Browing your meat before roasting creates what’s called the Maillard reaction, which is basically a chemical reaction of turning the amino acids on the surface of the meat into caramelized sugars. Which is why it always makes meat taste better than if you hadn’t browned it.
  • Soften veggies, add liquids, then roast with meat in the oven until super tender and moist. You can do homemade shepherd’s pie on the stovetop and just broil at the end, but we really love the texture and flavor of a dish that’s been slow-roasted.
  • Distribute into coquettes, top with potatoes, puff pastry, and cheese, and return to bake until almost blistery. Make sure your potatoes have cooled before you assemble your dishes—otherwise there’s a chance your pastry won’t puff.
cocettes with llamb shepherd's pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese  with parsley
a lamb pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese with peas and carrots

Tools to Make Our Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb

  • Large saute pan (with lid) or Dutch oven. Use something heavy so it’ll both retain heat and help the roast cook evenly.
  • Slotted spoon. A slotted spoon really is the easiest way to scoop out the browned meat before you soften your veggies.
  • Mini coquettes. Or, you can use mini disposable pie tins, but we’ll really take any excuse to bust out the coquettes.

Want Other Inexpensive, Easy-to-Make Main Courses?

While we love feeding our family, we especially love it when the recipes we favor are budget-friendly, too:

cocettes with llamb shepherd's pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese  with parsley
cocettes with llamb shepherd's pie with puff pastry and mashed potatoes sprinkled with gruyere cheese  with parsley on a fork

Pie Face

How much did you and your crew love our lamb pie? Show us your meaty pie tins and tag us @themodernproper and #themodernproper

Lamb Pie

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 2 hrs 20 min
  • Cook Time: 40 min
  • Calories: 608

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Ground lamb
  • 3 Onions, diced
  • 2 Carrots, small dice
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp Fresh thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups Beef stock
  • 1 (12 oz.) bottle stout
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 3 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1 cup Frozen peas
  • 2 Sheets puff pastry

Potato Topping

  • 4 Large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup Heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp salt Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Finely grated gruyere cheese

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 8 (4") disposable pie tins (found in the baking isle of your local grocery store), or eight oven proof cocottes.
  2. Prepare filling by heating a large sauté pan and browning the ground lamb. Once all the meat is browned, use a slotted spoon to set the meat aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Sauté onions and carrots until onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute longer. Add the meat back in with the onion mixture. Add to dish, thyme, stout and stock and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
  3. Mix cornstarch and 4 tablespoons of water to form a paste. Stir through meat mixture until fully combined. Add the peas then return dish to oven for 30 more minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling pies, or pastry will become soggy.
  4. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  5. To prepare the topping, boil potatoes in salted water. Drain and add cream, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until completely smooth and set aside.
  6. On a floured surface, roll out pastry to ⅛ in thick, using a sharp knife to cut into 8 squares. Avoid stretching the dough, or edges will not puff. Ease pastry into prepared tin. You should have four corners hanging over the edge of each tin.
  7. Fill lined tins with meat mixture to the rim. Using a spoon or pastry bag, spread potatoes on top of the filling and fold overhanging corners on top of the mash to create a tight seal. Using a pastry brush paint the top of the pies with the egg wash and sprinkle with cheese. Place the pies on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

*This recipe was inspired by the cookbook of a small cafe in New Zealand, Little and Friday.