Shepherd’s pie is an English staple, and consists of a layer of lamb (if you’re using beef then it’s a cottage pie) and vegetables topped with a layer of fluffy mashed potato on top, then baked in the oven. It’s classic English comfort food at its best, and it’s economical for feeding a group or a family.
In our house we tend to do a couple of things to stretch our shepherd’s pie a bit further: lamb is expensive in America (relatively speaking) as it’s less popular than meat like beef. So in order to bulk out the meat and vegetable mixture I add some French green lentils (brown lentils work here, too) to keep the lamb flavour but add a little heft to the filling. If you are a vegetarian you can use vegetarian mincemeat or just lentils alone, if you wish. I also season my lamb with kamounet, a spice typically used in kibbeh dishes, but it complements the pie perfectly and gives depth of flavour to a sometimes under-spiced dish.
You’ll start by boiling your potatoes for the mash (I peel Russet / Maris Piper potatoes and cut into 2″ (5cm) square pieces) until a fork glides in effortlessly and they are floury and crumbly; and boiling your lentils as well. I also peel my carrots and throw them in with the potatoes as well. While your potatoes, carrots, and lentils are cooking you want to make your meat mixture. I saute a medium onion, diced small, in olive oil until it’s caramelised (about 20 minutes), then add seasonings and ground lamb. Once the lamb is cooked thoroughly, sprinkle your flour (or potato starch if you are gluten free) on to the mixture, and add your beef or lamb broth, fresh thyme, pomegranate molasses, and tomato paste. Finally add your lentils. Once it’s well-combined pour it into an oven-proof baking dish (I used a cast iron oven, but a 11×7″ (28x18cm) Pyrex baking dish is good, too) and chop your carrots into small pieces, and add your frozen peas (still frozen is fine, no need to cook or defrost). Mix these in, and make your mashed potatoes.
Once your potatoes are cooked, drain them and heat your non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened, unflavoured oat milk) and vegan butter or margarine (if meat and dairy mixing are not an issue, you can use regular milk and butter if you’d like) until the butter has melted. Pour this over the potatoes, add salt and pepper, and then the egg yolks, and mash everything together with a potato masher. Spread the mashed potatoes on top, or pipe them if you want to get really fancy, and then bake in the oven at Using a spatula, scoop the potato mash on top, leveling it and going to the edges to prevent the insides from bubbling up at the sides. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for 30 minutes, or until the top of the potatoes gets a little golden.
Once it’s pulled from the oven it’s ready to serve. It’s certainly not a flashy, exciting dish – though it’s not meant to be. It’s the sort of thing you want to eat on a cool autumn or winter evening, with your family. My notoriously picky daughter loves this meal, and sometimes it’s nice to be able to eat dinner without an argument as to how many vegetables one has to eat. The kamounet and the pomegranate molasses add a little something extra to the dish and give it some depth – don’t be afraid that you’re using too much spice – the creaminess of the potatoes is a counter-balance to the warm spices of the meat and vegetable mixture.
You can absolutely replace the meat in this recipe either with a meat analogue (Impossible ground ‘beef’ would go amazingly in this recipe!) or more lentils. Use vegetable or vegan ‘beef’ broth. You can omit the egg yolks from the potatoes as well, without issue. I have made this the vegan way and it’s equally delicious.
Mediterranean Shepherd’s Pie
- 11×7" (28x18cm) Pyrex baking dish
- Stockpot, saucepan
- Potato Masher
For the Mash:
- 1½ lbs Russet or Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" (5cm) pieces (680g)
- ¼ cup non-dairy milk (I used Oatly oat milk, plain)
- 4 Tbsp vegan butter
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 egg yolks
For the Meat Filling:
- ½ cup French green (or brown) lentils (100g)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled
- 1 pound ground lamb (450g)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp kamounet seasoning (or 1 Tbsp ground cumin, 1 tsp black pepper, ½ tsp dried marjoram or oregano, ½ tsp spearmint, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice)
- 2 Tbsp flour (or potato starch if you are gluten-free)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 cup beef or lamb broth (235ml)
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- ½ cup frozen peas (75g)
For the Potatoes:
- Peel and cut your potatoes into 2" (5cm) pieces, and boil for 15-20 minutes along with the peeled carrots, until very soft and almost crumbling.
- In a saucepan or heatproof measuring cup warm your non-dairy milk and vegan butter until the butter is fully melted. Pour this over the potatoes, add the salt and pepper, and the egg yolks. Mash thoroughly with a potato masher until well combined. Chop your now cooked carrot into small diced pieces.
For the Lentils:
- Cook your lentils in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes, or until soft. Drain, and set aside.
For the Meat Filling:
- In a pan, heat your olive oil over medium heat. Add your onion and saute for 20 minutes, or until caramelized. Add your lamb and continue cooking until cooked through. Sprinkle in your seasonings, then your flour – mixing to combine.
- Add your broth, tomato paste, and pomegranate molasses, and cook until well-combined. Add your lentils and carrots, then pour into the baking dish. Mix in the frozen peas.
- Using a spatula, scoop the potato mash on top, leveling it and going to the edges to prevent the insides from bubbling up at the sides. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for 30 minutes and serve.