Blog posts

Shepherd’s Pie from An Echo in the Bone

Shepherd’s Pie from An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone

He passed the Free North Church and half-smiled at it, thinking of Mrs. Ogilvy and Mrs. MacNeil.  They’d be back, he knew, if he didn’t do something about it.  He knew their brand of determined kindliness.  Dear God, if they heard that Bree had gone to work and — to their way of thinking — abandoned him with two small children, they’d be running shepherd’s pies and hot stovies out to him in relays.  That mightn’t be such a bad thing, he thought, meditatively licking his lips — save that they’d stay to poke their noses into the workings of his household, and letting them into Brianna’s kitchen would be not merely playing with dynamite but deliberately throwing a bottle of nitroglycerin into the midst of his marriage.

“Catholics don’t believe in divorce,” Bree had informed him once.  “We do believe in murder.  There’s always Confession, after all.”

Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone (Chapter 16 – Unarmed Conflict)

Is it just me, or is Roger perpetually navigating his way through one potential disaster or another?  It seems the time bomb in question always involves Bree, at least one other woman and some question of Roger’s manhood…no matter what century they’re in.

It’s no wonder the Church ladies want to make him a meal or two…all that worrying can take the weight off a man!

And nothing quiets a growling wame faster than a hearty Shepherd’s Pie.

yolks-shepherd's pie

Gordon Ramsay.  Hmphmmm.  While he may not be everyone’s favourite Scot, he is a Chef, and he makes pretty much the best Shepherd’s Pie I’ve ever tasted.  Gordo’s French culinary training has transformed this Scottish basic into something spectacular.

His addition of red wine is definitely French, as is the tomato paste, which both add colour and flavour to the lamb.  But the biggest difference is in the potatoes that top his Shepherd’s Pie — this isn’t any old mash — instead, Gordon uses Duchesse potatoes:  made golden with yolks, rich with butter, cheesy with Parmesan and crisp and light due to the lack of milk or cream.

However, like most Chefs with several human and mechanical dishwashers at his disposal, Mr. Ramsay takes too many steps and uses too many pots and pans.  My version simplifies things a bit and gets rid of a few dishes.

shepherd's pie

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Shepherd’s Pie

An update on the Scottish lamb and potatoes classic — this is not your Mom’s Shepherd’s Pie.

Yield:  serves 6-8

  • Ground Lamb – 2 lbs (see notes)
  • Fresh Rosemary, minced – 1 Tble
  • Fresh Thyme, minced – 1 Tble
  • Salt – 1 tsp.
  • Pepper – ½ tsp.
  • Onions, peeled and grated – 2 medium
  • Carrots, peeled and grated – 2 large
  • Garlic, peeled and grated – 3 cloves
  • Mushrooms, thinly sliced – 6 large
  • Red wine – ½ Cup (optional)
  • Tomato Paste – 2 Tble
  • Chicken stock – 1 Cup
  • Worcestershire Sauce – 1 Tble (or 1 minced anchovy)
  • Potatoes, peeled and quartered – 2 lb
  • Butter – ¼ Cup
  • Egg Yolks – 3
  • Parmesan Cheese, shredded – 1 Cup, divided
  • Salt and pepper – to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Heat an extra large frying pan or saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the lamb, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, gently breaking up the lamb to cover the surface of the pan.  Cook the meat, using the back of a wooden spoon to break up the meat and stirring occasionally. When the mince is no longer pink, add the onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for approx 5 minutes or until softened.  Drain off excess fat.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Pour in the red wine and reduce until almost dry, then add the stock and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the meat cooks, cover the potatoes with cold water and add 1 tsp salt to the pot.  Boil the potatoes and cook for about 20 minutes until fork tender. Drain and return to the pan.  Allow them to sit for 1 minute to steam ‘dry’, tossing gently once or twice.  Add the butter and egg yolks and mash thoroughly until smooth.  Add half of the parmesan into the potato and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the meat mixture into an ovenproof serving dish, then spoon the potatoes over the meat, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, and bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)

Notes:

  • No lamb?  Substitute regular ground beef…now you have a Cottage Pie.
  • I don’t have a terribly green thumb, but I do have a small plot for herbs.  Fresh herbs can also be grown in pots on a deck/balcony and have a powerful flavour impact on everything from scrambled eggs to Sunday dinner.
  • Because there are only 2 of us, I use 2 loaf-size pans and freeze one for dinner down the road.
  • Yellow potatoes result in a slightly creamier mash, but if russets are all you have, by all means, use them.

63 Comments

  1. Lesley
    April 16, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Hi Theresa
    Shepherds/cottage pie is one of our weekly favourites here. I always throw in loads of grated veg, including courgettes, peppers, always the carrots and onions, sometimes red lentils as well. I’ve not tried the red wine though and that duchesse potatoe topping looks great.
    I will be trying your version this week.
    🙂

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Love the red lentil idea, Lesley! They melt down nicely and would add really heartiness. I think I’ll try that next! 🙂

  2. Kathy C
    April 16, 2012 at 4:20 am

    Looks wonderful. I was wondering what to make for supper tonight and I think I’ve found the answer.

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Hope you like it, Kathy!

  3. Ms. Aaron Brown
    April 16, 2012 at 8:08 am

    I just read that part, Poor, Poor Roger, he cant seem to catch a brake. I hope he gets it together before Bree gets ahold of him. This looks yummy and will give it a try.

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Enjoy Echo, Aaron! You’ll join the rest of us in the waiting section soon enough. :/

  4. sinkitty
    April 16, 2012 at 8:08 am

    looks delish!

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks, Sinkitty!

  5. The Mom Chef
    April 16, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Chefs do seem to like to muck up the kitchen with lots of extra pots and pans. I’ll bet if they had to clean up after themselves once in a while, that would stop. We also love shepherd’s pie in this house, though we are paupers and have to make it with ground beef, not lamb. I like the idea of incorporating the carrot in with the meat, though I’d do a fine chop so Dudette doesn’t realize what’s going on. It looks divine.

    (My personal opinion is that Bree wasn’t spanked enough as a child and Roger put up with an awful lot he shouldn’t have.)

    • Lindsey
      April 16, 2012 at 9:13 am

      Rog should give her a spanking every now and then, I think. Do them both some good. 😉

    • Theresa
      April 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Jenny and Ian would certainly agree, Lindsey…

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      You’re not kidding! 😉

  6. StrikesMyHeart
    April 16, 2012 at 9:43 am

    I’ll be cooking this meal Tuesday night along with some homemade bread. Was planning on a honey French bread but will have to look at your past posts to see if anything catches my eye.

  7. bullrem
    April 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Not sure I will try this…..!! What is the long drawn out challenge here…. ???
    haa haa
    Helen in Ark.

    • Theresa
      April 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      No…this is much less experimental and a whole lot easier than Salt Rising Bread…I’ll give you that!

  8. lionartcreation
    April 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

    YUM! And you’ve paired it with my favorite beer!

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Isn’t it the best beer in the whole wide world? LOL

  9. Kiri W.
    April 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Now that looks like the perfect pie – the filling looks so rich and just… I want one now. Well done!

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Go make one, Kiri! You’re quite the cook yourself, after all… 🙂

  10. dearli13
    April 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    that looks delicious!!! i love the backstories and photos you include with each recipe.

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks so much, dearli! I love what I’m doing…

  11. Donna R.
    April 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    That’s definitely going on my list of things to make. I hope I can get some ground lamb at a decent price! It looks absolutely delicious Theresa!!!

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      Finding affordable lamb is a problem I didn’t even think of! :/ Ground beef is good too, though!

  12. Lindsey
    April 16, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I just want everyone to know that this is freaking delicious! Thanks, Theresa!

    • Theresa
      April 16, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      You’re welcome!

  13. Charlene
    April 16, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    I love Shepard’s pie, I make it quite often, but I use ground beef instead.

    • Theresa
      April 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      That’s great, Charlene! Technically, a pie with ground beef is called a cottage pie, as I put in the notes below the recipe. 🙂

  14. Karin Thomas
    April 17, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I will try the your variation of the potato topping – I have always just used mashed and then top with shredded cheddar, because that’s usually around in my fridge. It sounds like a delicious variation! Never tried the garlic, but I use a sweet onion and peas along with the red wine and tomato paste, and I use ground beef, lamb is reserved “special” days – it’s so very expensive (but oh so good!) I know what I’m making for dinner tonight!

  15. Karin Thomas
    April 17, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I will try the variation of the potato topping – I have always just used mashed and then top with shredded cheddar, because that’s usually around in my fridge. It sounds like a delicious variation! Never tried the garlic, but I use a sweet onion and peas along with the red wine and tomato paste, and I use ground beef, lamb is reserved “special” days – it’s so very expensive (but oh so good!) I know what I’m making for dinner tonight!

    • Theresa
      April 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Let me know how you like the potatoes done this way, Karin! Such a shame that ground lamb is so expensive…I’m lucky. We have a local supply of lamb here on our little island. 🙂

  16. ruaTimeTraveler2
    April 24, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I’m so making this!!! Better yet I will get my friend Sandy to make it!!!

  17. Judi Nadreau
    April 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I wonder where the Shepherd’s Pie creation I grew up with in my area originated from. It is made with a layer of ground beef, a layer of cream corn, and a layer of mashed potatoes. Of course they are all cooked with their own spices and additions. Your recipe sounds delicious!

    • Theresa
      April 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Your regional variation sounds delicious, Judi, and very similar to the one my mom made in my childhood.

  18. Julie
    June 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Wouldn’t you know it, smack in the middle of making this I discover I’m out of tomato paste!! Are you kidding? Well, I had to carry on without it, or, put out cereal and bowls. It was delicious and I’m looking forward to making it again, WITH tomato paste. LOL. Thanks so much for this great recipe!

    • Theresa
      June 17, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Great news, Julie! Glad you went on with it…recipes are just guidelines, after all! 🙂

  19. Debbie Michaels
    October 31, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I make a version of this, and use whatever I have handy for the meat: ground chicken, turkey, lamb or beef. I vary the vegetables, again depending on what I have handy, and every pie is different & absolutely delicious! I think the chicken version is my favorite just now!

  20. Elaine
    February 10, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    What is the purpose of 3 egg yolks in the mashed potatoes? Cream, sour cream, or milk I can understand. Never heard of putting egg yolks in mashed potatoes and I was taught to cook by 2 country cooks.

    • Theresa
      February 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Adding eggs is another way of incorporating richness into the mashed potatoes. As I explained in the post, this is an updated version of Shepherd’s Pie, using techniques that our mothers probably didn’t use. The addition of yolks to mashed potatoes is a French technique that results in light, fluffy potatoes that crisp nicely on top in the oven. Delicious!

      I’ve been cooking my whole life, taught by cooks and chefs of all sorts, and I’m happy to say that my food ramblings and research leads me to learn something new about cooking almost everyday. New and different food is a good thing.

  21. Lu
    June 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Teresa, I made this for #WorldOutlanderDay….smells and looks scrumptious!

  22. Jennifer
    August 4, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Teresa, what size dish do you recommend baking it in if not splitting between loaf pans? I’m making this for the Outlander premiere on Sat. Thanks!

    • Theresa
      August 5, 2014 at 9:22 am

      A 10 or 11 inch round dish or a 13×9 inch pan is perfect…just make sure it’s at least 2 inches deep.

  23. Rebecca Feldermann
    August 5, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I plan on making this for a premiere as well:) question–can you make ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate to cook later for the show? Trying to prep as much as possible as my sister is coming from out of town for the premiere! 🙂

    Thanks!

    • Theresa
      August 6, 2014 at 7:25 am

      I wouldn’t freeze this, but you can make it up to 3 days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Enjoy!

  24. Kristen
    August 6, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Making this on Saturday for the Starz premiere! Can’t wait (the picture makes me hungry lol)! I will also be trying a few other recipes for the festivities — so many it’s hard to decide!

    • Theresa
      August 6, 2014 at 7:26 am

      Have fun choosing! And enjoy the premiere. 🙂

    • Theresa
      August 6, 2014 at 7:26 am

      Have fun choosing! And enjoy the premiere. 🙂

  25. Jessica
    August 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Love it! Do you bake and then freeze?

    • Theresa
      August 6, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      No need to bake it before freezing. Defrost in the fridge overnight.

  26. Tish Webber
    August 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Hi. I grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. I grew up eating a different version of Shepherd’s Pie. Corned beef from a can, heat it up until it is soft, and easy to spread for the meat layer. Then creamed corn in the middle, and mashed potatoes on top. My husband eats it plain, and I add ketchup. (I add ketchup to all Shepherd’s pie versions that cross my plate.)
    We were given some ground moose meat 2 years ago, and I got brave when my parents were visiting us in our new mini home for the first time. So I tackled what I ended up calling Bullwinkle Pie. I used Guiness in with the meat, onion also. I can’t remember if there were mushrooms or not. They would have been good if on hand. Guiness to make the gravy with the meat. I sliced tiny slices from baby carrots, and topped it off with mashed potatoes. My mom was doubtful as she watched me empty the beer can into the meat, but all 4 of us had 2 pieces each, and loved it! It was something I would make again, if I ever was given more moose meat! 🙂 I may try this, but I am not sure I will like the lamb. I might have to use the beef.

  27. Joanna
    August 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I just made this tonight and WOW. Delicious! We all loved this recipe even my picky daughter! I did add a shredded four cheese blend to the potatoes and on top as well and left out the wine and mushrooms. Lovely. Simple lovely.

  28. Jennifer
    September 14, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Just made this tonight. I only used a pound of lamb and added a pound I’d ground Turkey. I also added frozen peas for color and used a cheddar Colby blend instead of the parmesan. The family loves it! Hubby is threatening to take the smaller of the two casseroles to work tonight. 🙂

  29. Elizabeth Monticue
    October 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    We avoid onions in our house. What can I use to make up for the missing volume if I delete the onions? No bell peppers either, I’m afraid…

    Thank you for your research and work and mouth-watering recipes!

  30. Donna Hays
    October 19, 2014 at 9:14 am

    I adore and am inspired by everything you do! You bridge the special cravings I get when I read Outlander with the possibility of creating dishes for my family. Thank you so much and don’t ever stop!

  31. Molly
    October 19, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    This recipe (and the post and pictures) looks amazing. Oh how I would love to have someone to cook this for who would actually eat it. Your comment “New and different food is a good thing” is something forbidden in my household. The older my dearest becomes, the more stubborn about Food Rules he becomes. My inner chef lives vicariously through your posts. Keep up the good work!

  32. Kristin Peturson-Laprise
    October 20, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I love your comments about simplifying the recipe; I married a chef so I can attest to the fact that they do use lots of dishes!
    One variation we sometimes use is to substitute sweet potatoes for some of the regular potatoes. It offers a bit of colour and a bit of sweetness, a nice change from the usual, if your family is the least bit adventurous 🙂

    • Theresa
      October 21, 2014 at 5:50 am

      Once the chef has to do his/her own dishes, as I do, they quickly learn to do more with fewer bowls and pans. Lol

  33. Erica
    October 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I have a question Theresa (and you may have already answered it, if so I apologize) but I was wonder what red wine would you suggest? I’ve never been much of a drinker, but between Outlander Kitchen and Inn at the Crossroads I’ve become more and more interested in expanding my culinary knowledge and skills.

  34. Katherine
    June 24, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    My husband and I liked this so much! He ate half a full batch by himself.

  35. Kim
    March 12, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    We usually add veggies to make it a one pot meal. Depending on what is on hand, it could be carrots, green beans and/or corn. We do Cottage Pie and have started using Bisto Granules for a rich gravy, but I’m going to try this variation

  36. Davina Jeffrey-Barron
    May 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    This was the first meal my Dad taught me how to cook. His version always had tomatoes in it for flavor and he always told me no one recipe is the same, it all depends on what veggies you like.

    He always makes his as I do with sweetcorn, peas, carrots and onions.

    He never fried his, it was boiled on the stove with the veggies with just wee bit of salt, until the meat was cooked and then the water drained, except for a little bit. Because then he would add some Bisto gravy powder 🙂

    Then it was time to pack it, put the mashed potatoes on top and bake it.

    I made a veggie only variation too. When I make big pot of veggies and lentil soup, I reduce down the leftovers, throw some mashed potatoes on top and bake it. Yum.

Comments are closed.