In anticipation of Pi Day and St. Patrick’s Day, this Irish Pub Shepherd’s Pie is perfect for both! Tender lamb bathing in deep, rich red wine gravy with veggies blanketed in creamy, cheesy potatoes is simply heavenly. Shepherd's pie is make-ahead comfort food at it's finest and especially when you're looking to warm up in a hearty way.
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A bit of quick history...
This ubiquitous dish has been around forever. In the US, it's often made with beef instead of lamb. In that case, it's really 'cottage' pie. Not trying to be overly definitional and police recipe names, but shepherds oversaw sheep, so pie named that should really only be called 'shepherd's' pie if it's made with lamb.
The name 'cottage' was given to meat pie around the time potatoes were introduced in the UK because they were affordable for peasants, many of whom lived in cottages. This may not come up on Jeopardy, but now you'll know the difference and the question/answer if it does.
You can go about preparing this dish in a Dutch oven or a large ovenproof skillet. I used a Dutch oven because I wanted to use these adorable little Staub ramekins to serve the pies in. But if I were to stick to one big pie, my 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet would've done the trick.
To get things started, diced, flour-coated lamb stew meat is browned (I didn't use ground lamb, but you can). An atypical mirepoix (meer-pwah) of leeks, celery and carrots go into the pot next. While onions are the heart of traditional mirepoix, leeks are milder and won’t make you cry when chopping. Bonus!
You can use either red wine or stout to deglaze the bottom of the pot depending on your flavor preference. That along with chicken or beef broth serve as the liquid that will become a thick delicious gravy as the stew simmers.
Plus it can be made ahead! Just let the filling cool and refrigerate, and those flavors will be even richer the next day. But if you're ready to dig in, start on the potatoes while the stew is simmering to keep your waiting time to a minimum.
And to spruce up those spuds with extra flavor, toss a couple garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary and thyme in the water along with a squeeze of lemon juice. So easy and so delish.
How to Assemble
Once the filling is ready, scoop into lightly greased ramekins, or into 13x9 casserole dish, or leave in your ovenproof skillet. Then when the potatoes are mashed or whipped to your liking, spread them over the lamb filling, top with a bit more cheese, and pop in the oven. Talk about heaven on earth.
In 15 minutes you'll have bubbling shepherd's pie with a creamy, dreamy golden topping. A true crowd-pleaser you’ll want on standby for March Madness or whenever you’re craving nothing-like-home comfort food. Definitely on the menu when my son is home in a few weeks for spring break. Hope you enjoy! xx, Kim
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Irish Pub Shepherd’s Pie
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 lbs boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut in ½ - ¾ inch pieces
- ⅓ cup flour
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ½ cups leeks, chopped, white and pale green parts only
- 1 ½ cups diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine or stout beer
- 2 cups chicken or beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons butter, room temperature or melted
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat.
- In a medium bowl, combine lamb and flour. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add coated lamb to pot and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. With a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a clean bowl. Cover with foil to keep warm. Set aside.
- Heat remaining tablespoon olive oil in the pot. Add leeks, celery, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato paste. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring frequently.
- Add red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot by scraping with a wooden spoon and cook 2-3 minutes.
- Return lamb to the pot. Stir in chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce.
- Tie thyme and rosemary sprigs together with kitchen twine. Toss the bundle and bay leaf in the pot.
- Bring mixture to a boil; reduce to simmer. Partially cover, and simmer 45 minutes. Lamb should be tender and gravy thickened.
- Remove bay leaf and thyme/rosemary bundle. Stir in peas and corn. Remove from heat.
- Lamb mixture should be thick like a stew. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.)
- Place potatoes in a large pot and cover by 1-inch with tap water.
- Toss in thyme, rosemary and garlic. Squeeze in lemon juice.
- Generously season the water with salt and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to a gentle boil and cook potatoes until they are fork tender, about 15 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.
- Warm the milk in the microwave and add to the drained potatoes. Add the butter and cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper. Mash or whip until desired creaminess.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Transfer lamb stew into a lightly greased ramekins for individual portions or leave in an ovenproof skillet.
- Top with mashed potatoes. Place prepared dishes on a rimmed baking pan in case any of the stew bubbles over. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Turn on broiler toward the end of baking, and broil 2-3 minutes so potatoes get golden brown. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
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