Shepherds Pie…For The First Time

Is there a dish you have heard about your whole life but somehow never tried. For me, it was shepherds pie. Over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, many people said that they were making this dish to celebrate the holiday. I decided it was time for me to make an Irish Shepherds Pie topped with Colcannon. Where has this tasty dish been all my life?

Irish Shepherds Pie Topped With Colcannon

You would think that as a wee lass, my mother would have fed this to me often…but no. Maybe it was because I was brought up in Texas where everything is about steak, BBQ and Tex-Mex. Perhaps it was the fact that my father was a very picky eater and never wanted to eat something as “strange” as lamb.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I decided to make shepherds pie…it is delicious. The idea for this dish started when I made colcannon to go with corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day.  I thought that colcannon topped shepherds pie would be a perfect combo. This is a dish that most people will probably have made many times and don’t even need a recipe. But if you are like me and have never had shepherds pie or don’t have a good recipe, I think you will like my version of this classic Irish dish. The recipe can be made with beef but I urge you to try making it with lamb to really appreciate the great taste of the dish. It is so good that you don’t need to wait for a holiday to make this recipe.

Irish Shepherds Pie Topped With Colcannon

  • 1 lb. ground lamb (you can use beef, then it’s called Cottage Pie)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • 1/2 c. mushroom broth (made from soaking dried porcini mushrooms in hot water and strained through a coffee filter)
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 2 Tbsp. of flour mixed in 1/4 c. water (this will prevent lumps)
  • 3 c. colcannon (see link for recipe or you can use buttered mashed potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a skillet, brown the lamb and then use a slotted spoon and remove to a bowl. Drain all the fat, leaving just enough to coat the skillet. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the lamb back to the skillet and season with the salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients (except the colcannon) and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture has become thick. Remove the bay leaf and taste for more seasonings. Place the lamb mixture in a ovenproof dish and top with the colcannon or potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes or until the potatoes become golden. You can put the casserole under the broil for a couple of minutes it you wish it to become browner.

Since this is a brown dish, I served petite peas and pearl onions braised in a little butter to bring color and freshness to the plate. This isn’t a pretty dish, so there won’t be compliments in that department. But it is delicious and all the plates at the table will be clean at the end of the meal. Especially is you have some nice bread to soak up some of the juices. I’ve had shepherds pie for the first time but it certainly won’t be the last.

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152 thoughts on “Shepherds Pie…For The First Time

  1. This looks great. I think the reason many Texans don’t eat lamb is a cultural one, stemming from the range wars between the cattle ranches and the sheep ranchers. Driving cattle requires open range and freedom to graze, whereas sheep ranching results in close-cropped grasslands and miles of fences. The cattle ranchers won, in the end.

    1. Hi Goddess, I think you are right. There were many stories about this when I was growing up. I grew up on a ranch but I think we didn’t eat lamb because my father was very particular about what he would eat and what he wouldn’t. I tried to cook chorizo once and he told me I would have to buy my own pan because it wasn’t going in any pan in his kitchen.

  2. Oh my, I love Shepard’s Pie and Cottage Pie but alas my hubby is not much of a fan. You took such a beautiful picture of something that I find extremely difficult to photograph.
    🙂 Mandy

    1. Thank you Mandy for the nice compliment. Getting a good photo of something that is mostly brown isn’t easy. I loved the shepherds pie and can’t wait to make it again.

  3. It is amazing that you’ve never had it before, but that is the marvellous thing about food – there’s always something new! I like to make shepherds pie with a mixture of chopped leftover roast lamb and beef mince 😉

    1. Hi Mad Dog, Never had it but I’m so glad I made it. Thank you for the suggestion of using leftover roast lamb and beef mince together. Whenever I roast a leg of lamb I have lots left over.

  4. Like Shepherds pie – we made cakes out of this traditional dish .. had them on the menu many times with a tomato & apple chutney. Very popular plus the staff loved them too and that’s always a good sign. I have looked back on the recipe, but no photo on the spec. for some reason. Have never thought of having a colcannon or any other flavored mash as topping, very clever.

    1. Hi Viveka, Thank you for your nice compliment. I thought I would take two traditional dishes and turn them into one. I really liked the result. Making cakes out of it sounds good…especially with the chutney.

    1. You are right, Tanya. It certainly isn’t a pretty dish to make but I agree…food fit for the Gods. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  5. Who needs pretty when you bite into something this delcious? Love, love, love shepard’s pie. I must try it with Colcannon, as I’d never heard of it before. Your comforting dish still looks good in the pic. 🙂

    1. Hi BJ, I always want my photos to look as good as the taste of the dish. This dish turned out great and I’m glad that you think it looks good since you are a shepherds pie lover. Thanks.

  6. Love, love, love Shepard’s Pie. What a great idea to use colcannon! I’ll have to do that next time I make it. I’ve never understood people who won’t eat lamb but I’m half Greek so I grew up with it. Luckily my husband is a very unpicky eater and will try anything so now he loves it too!

    1. Hi Delicio, I’m glad you like the idea of using colcannon for the topping. The end result was great. Lamb is so much a part of the Greek cuisine…I’m sure you have great ways of preparing it.

  7. Awww, takes me back to our trip to Scotland where Master Bliss enjoyed this treat a couple of times. I have never made it or ordered it for myself. I usually take a bite of his. Maybe I will surprise him with this meal in the future. Looks tasty! ~~Bliss

    1. Hi Bliss, Take it from someone how had never had it, this dish is delicious. I’m sure what your husband had in Scotland was very good. If the two of you like lamb, be sure to use it instead of beef.

  8. Lovely! Like you, I grew up and have lived a good deal of my life in Texas and came to love Shepher’s Pie late. My youngest son makes individual pies for him and his wife and has several variations. I realized not long ago that a dish I made often years ago was very similar, just made with ground beef and tagged “One Dish Skillet Meal.”

    1. Hi Mary Ann, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your comment. You are right…I don’t even remember shepherds pie in the school lunch room in Texas where so many others say they started eating this dish. Nice to meet another person who grew up in Texas. Stop by again.

  9. As always your dish sounds yummy. Speaking of shepherd’s pie, have you ever eaten at restaurant by that name in Rockport? Among other things their shepherds pie is quite good .

    1. Hi Jenny, Yes a glass of red wine accompanied this meal and was perfect. You are the second to suggest left over lamb…that is how I will prepare it next time.

    1. Thank you Eri for your nice compliment. Up until now, I had heard of it but never made it either. I’m so glad I did as it is not only simple but delicious. Have a lovely weekend as well.

  10. Looks awesome! I will probably try it with the beef (Cottage Pie) mostly because I don’t eat anything that isn’t full grown (a throw back to my vegetarian days). Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  11. That does look delicious and is also a dish I have yet to make. I sure I would do the cottage pie version since DH isn’t fond of lamb unless it’s lamb chops on the grill. Saving your recipe!

    1. Hi Susan, Thank you for the nice compliment. It is nice to know that I’m not the only one that hadn’t made this dish before. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

  12. This is not a dish I tasted as a child — far too little pasta in it. I have enjoyed it as an adult, although not with colcannon, and have never tried to make it. With our temperatures, though still high, returning closer to normal, this might be the perfect time to make my first shepherd’s pie. I’ll let you know …

    Oh! Pretty is vastly over-rated when it comes to comfort foods. 🙂

    1. Thanks John, It appears us comfort food lovers enjoy a dish no matter what it looks like. It is cooling off here as well, starting tomorrow we will have lows in the 30’s again. If you try the recipe, I hope you will enjoy it. Have a great weekend.

    1. Hi Eva, If my mother made the dish when I was young, I might not have liked it very well either. I think as you grow up you acquire different tastes. A lot of people don’t care for lamb…that is why is suggested beef for those who don’t. The seasons make a big difference also…if not well seasoned it could be bland.

  13. Growing up here in the UK shepherds and cottage pie was often on the menu as it was a cheap dish that could be made to go further by adding extra mash and veg but I love the idea of of your topping! Something else we usually do is grate cheese on top of the mash and grill it till just before the cheese crisps up! Yum! Fab photos too – made me hungry! Nikki

    1. Nice to have you drop by, Nikki. I thought about a nice bit of cheddar on top but since I had the colcannon I thought it might be too many flavors. Thank you for your comment.

  14. I think you did a great job with this shepherds pie. I know I haven’t had this dish in quite sometime. I think I may consider making this with my mom when we have mommy/daughter day :). Yes we still have that even though I’m grown 🙂

    1. Hi Kay, I think a mommy/daughter day is a good thing and you never get too old to enjoy it. Thank you for your compliment and I hope the two of you will enjoy the meal.

    1. Thank you Cher, for your nice compliment. My husband who has had it before said it was the best he had ever had. That was good enough for me and I really liked it.

  15. I have a love/hate relationship with cabbage so the colcannon topping isn’t happening any time soon but a shepherd’s pie sounds like a very tasty dish topped with a mashed potato crust. 🙂 I find the addition of mushroom (porcini) broth a bit strange … I’d probably save the broth from these pricey darlings for a risotto.

    1. Hi Boleyn, The shepherds pie would be good with buttered mashed potatoes. The mushroom broth adds a wonderful depth of flavor and is one of the reasons this dish is outstanding. I buy my porcini mushrooms in a large bag. There are always small broken pieces in the bottom. I like to use them to make the broth…and it doesn’t take much. I would say the pieces might equal one regular slice. I steep the pieces in boiling water for thirty minutes for a lovely broth when strained. I also grind up small pieces of porcini in a spice grinder to create porcini powder. It only takes a little porcini to change a recipe into something special.

    1. Thank you Sawsan. I thought the colcannon was a nice way to top the shepherd’s pie. I’m like you, I love cabbage and it is so good for you.

  16. Nothing like hitting a home run in your first at bat. It looks delicious and I really like the idea of using colcannon on top. The peas and onions make for a pretty presentaion as well as a tasty side.

    1. Thank you Larry, for your very nice compliment. I guess it was a home run…my husband really loved it and said it was the best he ever had. The peas and onions not only look pretty on the plate which is important to me but really complements the shepherds pie.

  17. Karen, In regards to your question on my recipe for pork braised in milk, the milk does curdle(large clods) but it smooths back out in the blender. This is a delicious recipe. I’m glad you are going to give it a try.Blessings…Mary

    1. Hi Mary, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and answering my question regarding your recipe. It is always nice to know what to expect from a recipe before you make the dish. I really appreciate the clarification and I’m going to make it over the weekend. I hope you have a lovely weekend as well.

    1. Hi Conor, What can I say but that you have made my day and more. I am really flattered that you would be happy to have my shepherds pie grace your beautiful Irish table. Many thanks over, Karen

    1. Thanks Smidge, It was a fun making this dish. I just love taking a recipe and seeing what I can do to make it memorable. In this recipe, I combined two traditional Irish dishes and then added a twist with the porcini broth. I love the way it came out. Thank you as always for your nice compliment.

  18. Shepherd’s pie is a fave, but I’ve never had it with lamb and colcannon…how could that not be good? It sure looks like you’ve made shepherd’s pie before, Karen. It looks delicious!

    1. Hi Betsy, Thank you for your nice compliment. No…never made it before. Maybe the next time I will prepare it with beef and mashed potatoes for a taste comparison, although my husband says he thinks lamb has more flavor.

  19. With a Scottish grandmother I’ve had a lot of Shepherd’s Pie in my life, Karen, but she didn’t write out any recipe! Your recipe includes a lot of detail I don’t think she managed, but to me this is the original comfort food. The colcannon may be so entirely Irish that it never even occurred to her. I know we never ate it, but it is appealing to me. Hers was with the mashed potatoes. I’m really glad to have your recipe to try. Debra

    1. Hi Debra, I really enjoyed your comment about your Scottish grandmother and your memories of shepherds pie. I know that my recipe will be entirely different but I hope you will enjoy it none the less.

  20. I am like you on this one Karen – never tried it and have never made it. I do think I will use your recipe when I do make it though. I’ve been meaning to make it for some time. It fits well with our cooking around the world thing. And I’m certain Mr. N and Mike would love the lamb version. I have no doubt they could eat the whole thing themselves. 😉

    1. Hi Kristy, Isn’t it funny that there are popular dishes that we never try. After seeing so many people’s posts about shepherds pie for St. Patrick’s day, I decided to make this comfort meal. I’m glad it did. I hope you and your family enjoy it.

  21. Karen, this shepherd’s pie looks so delicious! I love your modification. Actually I have never tasted shepherd’s pie (nor made it of course), so it’s even more interesting to see how it can be twisted when I finally make it one day. First I have to make colcannon of course!
    Talking about the dishes I keep on reading and hearing about, there are so many American staples like… meatloaf! The first time I saw it I thought it looked gorgeous and was so surprised for many Americans it means an awful, lower grade meal! Anyway, with all the wonderful blogs I follow and cookery books I am addicted to there are tons of dishes I have been planning to make for long years.

    1. Hi Sissi, I think one of the nicest things about blogs from around the world is the inspiration we get for meals that we prepare. I’m one of the people who love meatloaf and make it often. Now I’m happy that I tried shepherds pie. Thank you for your nice comment and have a lovely weekend.

  22. I have never made this recipe either. However, after seeing how cozy this dish looks with the gravy and the crunchy top bit of the potatoes and the peas. You have me sold. I love one dish meals as I am about saving up on clean up time. Have a great weekend Karen.Take Care, BAM

    1. Hi Bam, It is nice to know that there are more people than I thought who have never had shepherds pie. Now that I have tried it, I can see why it is popular. Have a great weekend as well.

  23. For me it’s Salisbury steak. I’ve been seeing several Shepard’s Pies … tis the season. I’ve never made one and they look just wonderful. Savory comfort food is always top on my list.

    1. Hi Lea Ann, I was like you…seeing shepherds pie mentioned so many times. I’ve eaten Salisbury steak when I was young but another recipe I have never made.

  24. Looks delicious! I too tackled Shepard’s Pie for the first time only a couple months ago. I make a traditional one and then tried a “healthier” version that substituted the whipped potato topping for more vegetables and this interesting cheese mixture and used bison as a lean meat. You did a great job with the photography on this one as well. (Your whole site it filled with great pictures!) Also, thanks for stopping by my blog and for the like!

    1. Hi CJ, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. We spend summer’s in Maine and there is a bison farm that we go to sometimes. I’ll have to try using that…it should be tasty.

  25. I made it for the first time 6-8 months ago and loved it. Yours looks much more authentic (I used beef broth.) I’m no expert, but it also looks incredible, too! 🙂

    1. Hi Sharyn, Yes the coffee filter does catch all the grit…there seems to be a lot in the dried porcini. I’m glad you like the tip.

  26. Looks delicious. My dad was from Ireland, and I have come to love Shepherd’s pie over the years. Yes, I’m a meat & potatoes gal. 🙂

    Your recipe is similar to mine, but probably more authentic than what I throw together when I get a hankering for it. I hope you had a wonderful St Patrick’s day!

    1. Hi Sheila, Thank you for your nice comment. I don’t know about authentic…since it was my first time at preparing the dish but it was good. Our recipes are very similar. I did have a nice St. Patrick’s day, I hope you did as well.

  27. Your dish is most perfectly presented – I have seen lots of shepherds pies at shops and they do not even compare 😀
    Nice one!

    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Colossal Caramel Peanut Monster Cookies

  28. I grew up with shepherd’s pie, correction cottage pie( but I just learned that because we called it shepherd’s pie in error). I love that you changed the topping to the cabbage mashed potato mix, it’s a nice touch.

    1. Thank you France. After reading a lot of recipes and seeing the dish on menus, I think a lot of people call the dish shepherds pie when it it made with beef. It does make sense that shepherds would be caring for lamb hence the name shepherds pie. I guess the name stayed the same even when made with beef. I’m glad that you liked the colcannon topping. I thought is was good and thought that would be what the Irish would use if they had leftover colcannon.

  29. You know? That makes sense. I didn’t realize that Shepherd’s Pie = lamb. I thought it was supposed to beef all along. We started making Shepherd’s Pie after living in England for a year. Back then I was a vegetarian so we modified it with mince … it was called mince (mince soy product). Now we use lean ground beef. This is the recipe we followed: Although we normally modify it by adding peas and corn.

    1. I really appreciate your comment. Isn’t it funny that most people seem to be making shepherds pie with beef. I don’t know if people use beef because it is readily available, they are afraid to try lamb or don’t like lamb. I think even if you use lean ground beef instead of lamb and regular mashed potatoes that you should really try how I prepared this dish. There is so much flavor from ingredients that are lacking in the other recipe. Seasoning equals flavor. If you try it, I would love to hear what you think.

  30. Well I grew up in NZ where there is an abundance of sheep so yes, this is something we ate on an almost weekly basis. But isn’t it a fabulous mid-week family meal! It combines so many vegetables and there’s protein so it’s a really good meal. I love the way you plated yours and served it with peas – we always had ours with peas too! xx

    1. Hi Charlie, Thank you so much for your nice comment. New Zealand lamb is considered some of the best in the world. I’m glad that you liked the way I plated the dish with peas. I thought ist was a good complement to the dish besides adding color.

    1. Thank you so much Daisy, for your very nice compliment. I just thought it would be good to take two famous Irish dishes and combine them. I’m sure that many an Irish housewife has done this for years using leftovers. I’m glad you liked the idea.

  31. This looks beautiful and really delicious. I’ve never tried it either but this makes me want to 🙂

    1. Hi Zoe, I thought that most people would just look at the recipe and say “what’s the big deal, I make this all the time”. I’m glad that there are a lot of others like myself who have never tried this dish and that you want to try it. I thought it was so good.

  32. This is a great idea for St. Patty’s Day. My half Irish hubby will not eat corned beef…but I’m going to make cottage pie for him next year. I’ve made it from a Knorr package mix…but homemade would be so much better 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration (we’ll see if my brain remembers this by the time March rolls around again!).

    1. Hi Liz, Thank you for your nice comment. Not only is this a perfect dish for St. Patrick’s Day but it is so good that I will be making it several times a year. Homemade will definitely be better than a Knorr package mix. I think both you and your husband will enjoy the dish.

  33. Great idea Karen! I will have to remember this one for sure! I made Shepherds Pie many, many years ago – but only once! Not sure why because I know my son would love it. He’s a real meat and potatoes lover!

  34. I can’t believe you’d never tried this before!! I love this – I grew up with cottage pie, but I love them both, they’re so delicious. I never tried them topped with colcannon – will need to give that a try. I like to put my peas inside the pie itself – I think it gives a lovely colourful pop to the dish 🙂

    1. Hi Charles, I don’t know why I never had this dish as well, especially after discovering how good it is. I know many people put the pies inside the dish but I really wanted something with color on the plate. I also thought that the peas would end up too mushy. They were very tiny, petite peas.

  35. I have never had Shepherd’s Pie (or Cottage Pie). My mom would have no idea what it is, but I’m surprised my dad never made it for us since my grandmother is quite proud of her Scotch-Irish ancestry. I did have a Tex-Mex version once upon a time at a work pot luck, though (Does that count?). It had beef flavored with taco seasoning and was topped with cornbread instead of mashed potatoes. ~Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth, Your comment made me laugh…I don’t think your Tex-Mex version counts. Sorry, but I would call what you had tamale pie with the taco seasonings and a cornbread topping. See what I mean…people in certain parts of the country haven’t really eaten shepherds pie. Maybe there just aren’t enough shepherds around. Haha.

      1. I think you are right. Lots of cowboys in Texas and beef is reasonably priced. More shepherds and the price of lamb really might go down some.

  36. Oh how I love Shepard’s pie – and while nobody in my family is Irish – we had this at least once a week growing up – but it was a working mom’s version..browned ground beef, can of creamed corn, mash on top with paprika. simple but yummy. So glad you tried it and it is very delicious and traditional with lamb. But you can really mix it up and do it with ground turkey or even sausage as I did in a posting ..
    also love your colcannon topping – will have to try.
    I did once see a TV cook use mashed carrot on top to mix things up and if you really wanted to “pretty” things up you could break out a pastry bag and piping tip for the mashed topping!
    PS simple shep’s pie with mash topping freezes great and can be reheated straight from the freezer for those nights the hubby is on his own!

  37. I love love LOVE shepherds pie. Or any kind of pie really, but this one has so many memories attached to it. Shepherds pie for me reminds me of childhood. I must make it again sometime..

  38. Oh wow, your first sheperds pie.Your recipe looks delicious, as a child we would have this all the time.

  39. I dont know if my last comment registered Karen , but your Shepards pie looks delicious. We had this all the time growing up. Its very tiring trying to comment twice on everyones blog….. I wonder if this is happening on mine?

    1. Hi Tania, I found your comment. It was kicked over to spam but I don’t know why. I’m happy that you took the time to comment again. It is nice to remember food from your past.

    1. Thank you Amy. I feel better that there are a lot of us “late bloomers” out there when it comes to trying well known dishes for the first time. Thank you for your nice comment.

  40. As much as I like colcannon it never occurred to me to use it as the topper for shepherds pie. My goodness, that sounds delicious. We enjoyed our corned beef so much that I’m ready to cook another one. I agree with you about using lamb for this dish, Karen. Can’t wait to try your version of one of our favorite dishes.

    1. Hi Cathy, I’m glad you like my idea of using colcannon as the topping on the shepherds pie. Since I’ve never had the dish before, I don’t have any idea what it tastes like with beef but I really think lamb must give shepherds pie much more flavor.

  41. I’ve never heard of celebrating St Patricks with Shepherd’s Pie before, but whatever the reason it’s a lovely dish, and I’m glad you liked it. We ate it a lot at home, usually leftover lamb and gravy from the roast was used, but not always, sometimes it was mince from the butchers. Either way I’m now hungry!!

    1. Hi Claire, We always have corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Many people say that is not a true Irish meal. A lot of bloggers said that shepherds pie would be a traditional meal and that is what they made. I am happy that their talking about the dish inspired me to try this recipe. You are the third person that has mentioned using leftover lamb. I’m going to try that the next time we have leg of lamb as we always have leftover meat and gravy.

    1. Thank you Chris, I appreciate your nice compliment. I’m glad you liked the addition of colcannon…it just seemed like a good idea to combine two Irish recipes into one meal.

  42. Karen, I’m so behind on my reading! I saw this post a while ago and it caught my eye. I love Shepard’s pie and I make it often for my clients. Actually, three of my regular clients request this often. However, I’ve never put Colcannon over the top. Brilliant! Your pie looks absolutely delicious!

    1. Thank you Karista, Don’t feel bad about your reading. It seems like I get further behind as well. I thought the colcannon topping worked great. Thank you for your nice comment.

  43. I’ve been living in England for many years now and I’ve had this so many times. Yours looks very authentic and inviting. I’ve never made it myself but you’ve inspired me now 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

  44. I loved reading your recipe for shepherds pie – everyone has a slightly different version. I remember it was made on a Tuesday with the last remaining bits of the Sunday lamb joint.

    1. Hi Maria, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice comment. Yes, I agree with you…I think there are many versions of this dish. Interesting that it was made on a certain day but it does make sense.

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