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Lamb Pie

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  2 hrs 20 min
  • Cook Time:  40 min
  • Calories: 616
    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: 616

    Ingredients

    • 2 pounds ground lamb
    • 2 large onions, diced
    • 2 medium carrots, diced
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
    • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
    • 1 (12 ounce) bottle stout beer
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 cup finely grated gruyere cheese

    Potato Topping

    • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • 3 teaspoons sea salt
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

    Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F with a rack in the center position. Grease 8 (4-inch) disposable pie tins (found in the baking isle of your local grocery store), or eight oven proof cocottes.

    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the lamb, breaking it up with a spoon until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Stir in the onions and carrots, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Add the meat back to the pan along with the thyme, stock, beer, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 1 hour.

    3. In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch into 4 tablespoons of cold water until dissolved. Remove the meat mixture from the oven and stir in the cornstarch mixture until combined. Stir in the peas then return the dish to the oven until the sauce has thickened, about 30 more minutes. Remove the meat mixture from the oven and let it cool completely before filling the pies (to prevent the pastry from becoming soggy).

    4. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and season with 2 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until just fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

    5. In the pot used for the potatoes, combine the cream and butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes over the hot butter mixture (Alternatively, mash the potatoes directly in the liquid, taking care to not overwork them). Season with remaining salt and pepper.

    6. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.

    7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry to ⅛ inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 squares (avoid stretching the dough to prevent the edges from not puffing). Ease the pastry squares into the prepared pie tins. The four corners of each pastry square will hang over the edge of each tin.

    8. Fill the pastry lined tins with the meat mixture up to the rim. Using a spoon or a pastry bag, spread the potatoes on top of the meat filling and fold the overhanging pastry corners on top of the mashed potatoes. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the pies with the egg and sprinkle evenly with the cheese.

    9. Place the pies on a baking sheet and bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.


    To make 1 large pie in a 9x13 pan.


    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F with a rack in the center position. Grease a 9x13 pan.

    2. Follow steps 1-5 above, increasing the russet potatoes to 5, the butter to ⅓ a cup, and the heavy cream to ¾ a cup (to ensure you have enough potato topping).

    3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastries 1/8 inch-thick and place the two pieces in the prepared pan slightly overlapping each other, slightly hanging off the sides of the pan.

    4. Fill the pastry lined baking dish with the meat mixture and top with the mashed potatoes. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the pies with the egg and sprinkle evenly with the cheese.

    5. Bake the pie until the pastry is golden brown, about 45-50 minutes.



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

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    Nutrition Info

    • Per Serving
    • Amount
    • Calories616
    • Protein32 g
    • Carbohydrates43 g
    • Total Fat34 g
    • Dietary Fiber3 g
    • Cholesterol49 mg
    • sodium977 mg
    • Total Sugars4 g

    Lamb Pie

    Questions & Reviews

    Join the discussion below.

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    • katharine black

      what size baking pan would I use to make this as a whole, rather than in 8 small bowls? What other changes would I need to make?
      Many thanks.

      We've never tasted it this way before but we can have our recipe tester see how it works. We will update the post accordingly. Stay tuned! If you try it out before us, let us know how it goes!

    • John C

      Are there any substitutes you suggest for the egg wash at the end? (Allergic to eggs)

      You can try milk, cream or butter instead.

    • Jenn

      This recipe is more time intensive than my usuals but so worth it, it was so delicious!

      Thanks Jenn, so glad you liked it!