blog, Irish, main dish, savoury/savory
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Traditional Irish Dish with a Twist: Shepherd’s Pie

“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness. The angels, who know no hunger, have never been as satisfied.”

– Eli Brown

With St Patrick’s Day, also known as Paddy’s Day, (the Irish word for Patrick is Padraig which is shortened to Paddy) but never Patty’s Day (Patty is short for Patricia), around the corner, here is my twist on an Irish/British Classic: Shepherd’s Pie.

Shepherd’s pie is one of my all time favourite comfort foods along with the Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta Bake I shared a while back. It’s filling, tasty and a nice make ahead meal. I always loved when I’d come home from school or work and realise that the amazing smell that was wafting all through the house was Shepherd’s Pie. However, I firmly believe my Mam NEVER made enough as I think it was a rare day if we had leftovers. And, even if we did, they’d still be gone before the night was out. Although, Shepherd’s Pie (also known as Cottage Pie) would make you think that the main meat ingredient was lamb; in fact it wasn’t always the case. Instead, the same name was used interchangeably whether it was lamb or beef. It’s only in more recent years that Shepherd’s Pie has been relegated for the dish made with lamb and Cottage Pie for the version with beef (source: wikipedia).

My version is always made with minced/ground beef and, in any case, this is just one version of Shepherd’s Pie – one that was made on a one-ring stove and in a teensy tiny toaster oven. It’s gotten the stamp of approval from my friends, including one who is Irish-British. When I made it for my friends during my two week vacation, I also threw in some slow cooked balsamic carmalised onions and it really deepened the dish. I had leftovers, so I included the carmalised onions in the recipe below. However, you can leave them out if you don’t have any.

Also, here are some other recipes to get you inspired to turn “Green for a day”

Maggie’s Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 6

(this fills three 200x150x35mm oven proof dishes)



  • 10 medium potatoes, peeled, washed and chopped
  • splash of milk
  • knob of butter
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Meat Mixture

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup kohlrabi, peeled, washed and finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 carrot, peeled, washed and finely diced
  • 1-2 onions, finely diced*
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, washed and  finely diced
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced (optional)
  • 500g minced beef
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup button mushrooms (optional), diced
  • 2 cup cooked peas
  • 1.5 cup cooked green beans
  • 1 cup balsamic carmalised onions (optional)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • ¼ tsp dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp dried sage
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 cup boiling water


  • Cheddar cheese, sliced thinly


  1. Preheat an oven to 190°C
  2. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and place on high heat.
  3. Bring to the boil and continue boiling until tender.
  4. Drain and mash (with a fork or potato masher) with the remaining ingredients of milk, butter, salt and pepper. You can use as much as you like – I generally use around a tbsp of milk and the same of butter, but I adjust according to taste and texture. Cover and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil.
  6. Once the oil is hot, add the kohlrabi, herbs, chili flakes as well as some salt and pepper. Saute for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the carrots, onions and celery, if using. Saute for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the minced beef and garlic continuing to cook until the meat is mostly browned, stirring occasionally.
  9. Add the mushrooms, if using, peas and beans. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is completely browned and all the vegetables are tender.
  10. Meanwhile, boil some water and mix with the bouillon cube. Set aside.
  11. Place a small saucepan over medium heat with the butter. Melt the butter.
  12. Once melted, add the flour and herbs and cook for around 5 minutes.
  13. Add the beef stock and continue to stir until a gravy is formed. If you want a thinner gravy, add more water.
  14. Add the gravy to the meat mixture and let cook for a few minutes to absorb all the flavours.
  15. Put the meat mixture into an oven proof dish, top with potatoes, and then slices of cheddar cheese.
  16. Pop in the oven for around 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. If you want you can leave it in a little longer to brown the cheese further.

I would suggest using a normal sized casserole dish to make this – I do all my oven cooking in Korea in a toaster oven so adjustments have to be made! I prefer a slightly thicker layer of potato than I am typically able to get into my oven – hence it being spread out over three dishes!

*If you want to stretch the dish, add a second onion. Otherwise one is sufficient.


Make ahead: You can make the entire meal or either the meat base or the potatoes ahead of time. However, using cold potatoes will lengthen the time in the oven – up to around 45 or so minutes.

Make it your own: Shepherd’s pie is a very forgiving dish, so if you leftover vegetables do add some like corn (my mam does this and it’s amazing), turnip/swede, parsnip all work well as do lentils.

Serving Suggestion;  Serve with a side of baked beans or as suggested by, The Rebel Kitchen in her post Comforting Baked Bean Shepherd’s Pie, add the baked beans to the pie itself. I have tried this and it’s great.


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