If you’re looking for a great ground lamb dish, try this shepherd’s pie recipe, made with cheddar garlic mashed potatoes on top! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Spring is nearly here, but the weather has been a bit schizophrenic. It’s crazy cold in the morning with a misty rain and with me regretting not bringing a scarf with me. Then, in the afternoon, it turns warm and sunny, with me shedding my coat and wondering why I’m wearing such a heavy sweater. It’s been messing with my meal planning as well. I have every intention of eating a lighter meal, but then I find myself shopping for comfort food ingredients.
That’s what happened when I found ground lamb for sale at the store. I’m not quite ready to give up on warm rich comfort food just yet. I grabbed a package and decided on classic shepherd’s pie! It’s the ultimate comfort food for me. I love the rich meaty dish in a casserole dish with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes on top. And though my version looks a bit fancy pants because I piped the mashed potatoes over the filling, I promise there’s a method to the madness. The piped edges of the mashed potatoes have more surface area, meaning more surface to crisp up in the oven. Crispy means flavor!
So while the Spring time is just around the corner, I’m not ready to put away my heavy sweaters, despite the warmer weather. I know it’s just mother nature playing tricks with me. I’m going to stick with my heavier clothes for the moment and make dishes like this Shepherd’s Pie for a little bit longer.
You can make any of the components of this dish ahead of time if you’d like. The mashed potatoes can be made up to 2 days ahead. Just cover and store them in the fridge. The filling can also be made ahead. Brown the ground meat and cook the vegetables as directed and store them in the fridge up to 24 hours. You can even make and assemble the entire casserole ahead of time, again up to 24 hours, and store covered in the refrigerator. Just bake as directed, allowing for an additional 10 minutes cook time in the oven.
Substituting ground lamb or make it vegetarian
Ground lamb is the traditional meat for Shepard’s pie. But if you don’t like lamb, or can’t source, you can use an equal amounts of ground beef (a dish commonly called Cottage Pie), ground bison (which I love) or even ground turkey or chicken. Keep in mind turkey or chicken will lead to a more dry filling, so you might want add a tablespoon or two of melted butter to the filling.
You can even make this vegetarian, which is sometimes called Shepherdess Pie! Omit the ground meat and increase the mushrooms to 2 pound. Or use a mix of wild mushrooms in place of the meat! You can even use a ground meatless substitute, like Beyond Meat Beefy Meatless Crumbles or Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Ground.
How to make the filling extra tasty! And what is umami?
I used ground thyme as a seasoning but you can substitute 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves if you wish. I also use mushrooms in the filling, which add an extra layer of texture and umami flavor. Umami is an savory flavor that adds to the meatiness. Think tomato paste, parmesan cheese, and mushrooms. Not only does the mushrooms boost the rich savory flavor in the filling, I add a secret weapon, Marmite to the filling! Marmite is a British yeast extract that can be found at upscale grocery stores and online. Vegemite is a popular Australian version of it. A little bit goes a long way but it really adds depth and dimension to stews and fillings in casseroles. But if you don’t feel like getting another specialty ingredient, you can leave it out, or substitute 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to help boost the umami!
No you don’t need to pipe the mashed potatoes!
Yeah, I got all fancy and piped the mashed potatoes because it’s pretty and because I wanted to get the extra crispy top. But if you don’t feel like getting a pastry bag out (or you’re like IRVIN, NO ONE HAS TIME FOR THAT) feel free to just spoon the mashed potatoes on top. I’d go the extra step though, and maybe swirl or indent the mashed potatoes with the back of the spoon. It gives the top a little more texture and surface to help with the crispy topping. But that’s totally up to you!
Want more Ground Lamb recipes?
Shepherd’s Pie, a savory ground lamb casserole with cheddar garlic mashed potatoes
Mashed Potato Topping
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes or another yellow potato
- 6 large cloves garlic peeled
- 1 cup grated white cheddar or regular medium yellow cheddar
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley otherwise known as Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 3/4 pounds ground lamb see note above
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 pound cremini mushrooms quartered
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 4 large carrots chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic chopped
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Marmite see headnote above
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried ground thyme
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh, frozen or canned
- 1 cup frozen peas
Make the mashed potato topping by peeling and chopping the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Add the potatoes and garlic to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or until a fork inserted into a potato cube enters easily.
Drain the potatoes in a colander, and then return them to the still warm pot. This will help dry them out. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Add the melted butter and mix until incorporated. Add the cheese and repeat. Mix in the salt and pepper, then add the parsley and cream. Mix and adjust seasoning to taste. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make the filling by placing the ground lamb in a large saute pan. Brown the meat, stirring frequently, until cooked fully, about 10 minutes on medium heat. Pour the meat and any pan juices into a heatproof bowl.
Do not wipe out the pan. Place the oil, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and garlic in the pan. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently until the onions start to look translucent and the mushrooms start to soften. Add back the cooked ground meat, along with any juices that have accumulated at the bottom of the bowl back into the pan.
Pour in the chicken stock then add the tomato paste and sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Add the marmite and the salt, pepper, ground thyme and corn. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until the filling has thickened. Stir in the frozen peas to the hot filling.
Pour the entire filling into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish or an oval 3-quart capacity dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, then pipe the mashed potatoes over the filling in strips. Or spoon the mashed potatoes over the filling and then use the back of the spoon to indent and create ridges in the mashed potatoes. You want to create as much surface area as possible so the mashed potatoes can crisp.
Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills) and then place in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbling up around the edges and the top of the mashed potatoes are golden brown.
Let cool 10 minutes before serving warm.