Easy Irish Shepherd’s Pie

March 17, 2018

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, friends!  I love this wonderful Spring holiday, not only because it brings me back to my Irish roots, but it also gives me a chance to share my favorite, authentic recipes from cooking school in Shanagarry, Ireland.  I like playing around with the presentation of some of the really simple recipes to elevate them a bit for a casual dinner party or cocktail hour. Little individual servings are fun takes on an Irish favorite and let’s be honest — nothing beats an authentic Shepherd’s Pie on a chilly evening, or to go with a good pint of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day.

The original recipe I learned at Ballymaloe was even simpler than the one I’ve created below with a few little tweaks and additions of my own, but both are way too easy, and (from what I’ve heard from a recent taste tester) way too delicious to keep at the back of the recipe book.

In Ireland, Shepherd’s Pie was a simple leftover dish created to make the most of Sunday or Holiday roasts.  Extra lamb from the previous meal was minced up and cooked with leftover gravy to create a thick stew.  Topped with leftover mashed potato, baked until golden brown and bubbly, and finished with an indulgent nob of garlic butter to melt down the top, this peasant dish has flavor fit for kings.  In my recipe below, I’ve added a little extra tomato paste and a few splashes of Guinness for a slightly richer flavor in my opinion.  I also adapted the recipe so that you can make this anytime (not just with leftovers), so feel free to cut some corners with decent store bought gravy and fresh ground lamb.  I add an egg to my mashed potatoes to help them brown better when in the oven (a great trick I learned at Ballymaloe!). You can also substitute ground beef which would make this a Cottage Pie!

For St. Patrick’s Day parties, I like to make little individual Shepherd’s pies in tiny ramekins with demi spoons.  Make everything the same as below, just divide into smaller dishes.  You can also do larger, individual ramekins for a casual dinner party entree for pretty presentation.

The best part about this recipe?  You can make all of this way ahead – it’s a leftover dish, so feel free to cook the lamb and/or create the filling a day or two in advance (as well as the mashed potatoes!). It will all cook down into an amazing golden brown casserole, so nothing needs to be made just before serving – I think the flavor is best when you bake it off the next day anyway.

STRAWBERRY BANKE SHEPHERD’S PIE | Adapted from original Ballymaloe Recipe

1 lb ground lamb (or a combination of ground lamb and tenderloin or diced lamb shoulder)

2 T butter

1 cup onion, diced

¼ cup flour

2 T tomato paste

1 ½ cup mushroom gravy (I use Pacific Foods Organic Mushroom Gravy – you can find at Whole Foods)

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

½ cup beef stock

3-4 splashes of Guinness (or ¼ cup or so)

Salt and pepper to taste (season near end)



1.5- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes

½ cup cream simmered with ½ cup milk and 3 Tbsp Irish butter

Throw in mixer on low and stream in hot milk/cream until light and fluffy (not too liquidey)

Good amount of salt and pepper – to taste!

Mix in 1 beaten egg so the potato will brown in oven


  1. Preheat oven 10 350 F.
  2. In a large pan, melt the butter and add the onions. Cover with parchment paper and sweat until soft, but not brown.
  3. Add the ground meat and cook until browned.
  4. Add the flour, stir and cook until slightly brown.
  5. Add the stock and gravy and bring to the boil.
  6. Add the tomato puree, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 mins.
  7. Add the Guinness and let the mixture reduce over low to medium heat until thickened.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a pie dish. Cover with mashed potato and score with a fork (at this point you can let cool and refrigerate until you are ready to bake off and serve).
  9. Bake at 350 F for about 30 mins. Serve with some fresh chopped parsely, garlic butter (butter, minced garlic, minced parsley) and a perfectly poured pint of Guinness!


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