Classic Shepherd's Pie

Tuesday 10 November 2020

I am here today with another classic recipe from my archives.  Shepherd's Pie.  This recipe is a long time family favourite which has been pleasing generations of families for years and years! 

When it comes right down to it that is not surprising. It is simple ingredients put together in a delicious way. You cannot beat the simple things for bringing comfort into a Home Sweet Home.

What you have here is a delicious lamb filling, with tasty lamb in a rich gravy.  Topped with cooked peas and then a thatch of cheesy mash! 

People often confuse Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie, using the terms interchangeably.  In reality, although quite similar, they are actually two very different things, with one using minced lamb and the other minced beef.

The clues are in the names. A Cottage Pie, uses beef, and is so called because of the "thatch" of mashed potatoes on top, which is said to resemble a thatched roof cottage.  

But certainly, there is a "thatch" on both casseroles.

Classic Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie is made using ground lamb.  Lamb was not something I ate a lot of in Canada. It was not all that easy to find although my late FIL raised lamb on his farm.  It is probably the same as it is in most places.

You have a hard time finding things that are actually grown there because it usually gets shipped elsewhere.  That's why we end up eating California berries and BC apples, even though we have really good ones here in Nova Scotia. It's all down to trade agreements.

It is Shepherds who have traditionally cared for the flocks of lambs.  I had not realized just how very complicated that job was until I lived in the UK. Most of the sheep are free range sheep and the caregivers need to be able to cover a huge area to care for their HUGE flocks.

It is not like the old days where you see an old man with a shepherd's hook and a dog.  Nowadays they are more likely to have a land rover and a dog. You see sheep wandering all over the place in rural areas.  It's quite fascinating really.

Classic Shepherd's Pie

I remember the first time I went up to the Horseshoe Pass in Wales. I was amazed at all the sheep. They were everywhere. Dotting the hillsides, on the roads, etc. 

I remember tip toe-ing through the grass trying to avoid their mess, not wanting to step on it.  But there was no getting away from it, and really it doesn't smell anyways.  Not like others.  You just had to give up after a while!

This homey casserole is a real man pleaser.  A family pleaser. Comfort food at its very best.

If you have a husband or family that is fond of meat and potatoes, then they are sure to love this tasty dish with its flavour filled meat and gravy on the bottom.

Classic Shepherd's Pie

I use a bit of carrot in the mix with the meat and onions. This adds a little touch of sweetness and helps to get in a bit of extra veg. You could certainly add some celery if you wished or even grated turnips.  Both would work well.

I also flavour the gravy with Worcestershire Sauce. It adds a lovely touch. You could add a splash of HP sauce as well if you liked, or even Ketchup but it is  not really traditional if you do.

I like to add a layer of frozen peas to the middle and I don't cook them first. I hate over-cooked peas. If you just add a layer of frozen peas they end up perfect at the end.  Nice and green too.

You could certainly also use frozen corn, or even frozen mixed vegetables. All are nice.

Classic Shepherd's Pie


The thatch of potatoes on top is really nice and flavour filled as well. You will want to use a nice floury potato so that your mash is nice and light.  

Don't use new potatoes. Old potatoes work best. New Potatoes don't mash properly. I made that mistake once at Thanksgiving when I was really young and didn't know better.  Are you familiar with the consistency of glue?  haha  Yep, not very appealing in the least!

God bless my family for putting up with rubber chickens and glue-like mash through the years while I was learning and growing my skills. I just have to laugh about it now.

Nobody ever complained though and all of my children are wonderful cooks and love to cook. Their children love to cook also, which is really nice.  I cannot wait to cook with my grandchildren.  They are already putting in their cookie orders!

Classic Shepherd's Pie


I have 20 years of lost time to make up for and I plan on doing just that for the remainder of my days.  Making up for lost time. Building memories for those grands that are much more than a photograph or a face through a screen that they cannot touch! 

That is the silver lining in all that I have been through lately.  Being able to be with family and forge relationships with my grandchildren.  That is the real gift. And I will never take it for granted, not ever.

Classic Shepherd's Pie

 I have sized this recipe down to generously serve just two people. There are quantities in the recipe for both two and four servings. 

The larger servings are in brackets.  I hope that it is easy to understand and not confusing. I tried to make it as easy as possible.

I added a layer of grated cheese to the top of my casserole. I don't know about you, but I think a layer of cheese always adds a lovely touch to the tops of savoury things. 

I prefer a strong cheddar because you don't need as much of it to give you a nice flavour impact. You can just use whatever kind you want to use though.

Classic Shepherd's Pie


The cheese tastes really good and  helps to get a really nice golden brown colour to the finished dish.  I think something which is topped with golden brown anything automatically tastes even better.

We eat with our eyes first.  Enjoy!

Shepherds Pie

Shepherds Pie

Yield: 2 (4)
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 25 Mincook time: 30 Mintotal time: 55 Min
A classic family favourite perfectly sized for two. Ingredient measurements for 4 are in the brackets.


  • 2 tsp sunflower oil (1 TBS)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped (1 medium onion)
  • 1/2 medium carrot peeled and grated (1 medium carrot)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced (1 clove)
  • 1/2 pound lean minced lamb (1 pound)
  • 1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (1 tsp)
  • 2 tsp plain flour (1 TBS)
  • 150ml (generous half cup) lamb or vegetable stock (300ml/1 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (1 TBS)
  • frozen peas (Optional)
  • 1 pound floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (2 pounds)
  • 2 TBS milk (4 TBS)
  • 1 1/2 TBS butter (3 TBS)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 40g (1 1/2 oz) strong white cheddar cheese (50g/2 ounces)


  1. Heat the oil in a skillet. Fry the onion and garlic in it until softened. Add the minced lamb and cook, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon, until browned.
  2. Stir in the carrot and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the flour and herbs. Gradually whisk in the stock and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until it bubbles and begins to thicken. Leave to simmer while you do the mash.
  3. Put the potatoes into a pot and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender, about 12 - 15 minutes. Drain well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5
  5. Return to the pot and shake over the residual heat of the burner to dry out. Mash well with a potato masher. Stir in the butter and milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the lamb mixture. Pour into the bottom of a casserole dish. Cover with a layer of frozen peas. Spoon the mash over top to cover, roughing the surface up with the back of a spoon or a fork. Sprinkle with the cheese.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown. Spoon out onto heated plates to serve.
Did you make this recipe?
Tag @marierayner5530 on instagram and hashtag it #EnglishKitchen
Created using The Recipes Generator
Classic Shepherd's Pie

This was always one of my father's favourite suppers! He is a simple man with simple tastes and not too hard to please so long as it is not too far out of the ordinary!

This content (written and photography) is the sole property of The English Kitchen. Any reposting or misuse is not permitted. If you are reading this elsewhere, please know that it is stolen content and you may report it to me at: mariealicejoan at aol dot com Thanks so much for visiting. Do come again! 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


  1. I love your silver lining thoughts and hope that you and the family have wonderful times sharing and caring for each other as well as cherishing the time you will have together.

    Yum on Shepherd's Pie. We often ate it growing up, as mum used the leftovers from Sunday Leg of Lamb Roasts to make it for Monday's dinner. It was a great way to use up the leftovers and make the meat stretch just that bit more by mincing it up and blending it with veggies, gravy and a mash hat. I like your addition of cheese on top as I love cheese on top of anything, under anything, in anything, on it's own....

    And yes, having been forced to eat overcooked tinned peas as a child, I join you in disliking overcooked peas. Frozen ones are so good these days and really only require a minimum of cooking.

    1. I will miss the lamb Marie. Its not easy to find here I don't think. But I will persevere! I love it! My mom found a big black dead cricket in a tin of peas once. That did it for me. Hated them with a passion after that! Frozen is so much better! xoxo

  2. Lamb is indeed very hard to find many places here in the states. However, I noticed the other day at my butcher shop I recently started patronizing, they have frozen ground lamb. I've only had lamb chops before, and I'm not sure how hubby would react to lamb instead of beef. Guess I'll stick with cottage pie. Yours looks lovely though. Much love

    1. Love the flavour of lamb. I think it is superior to beef Raquel, but maybe I have become a bit biased? I don't know! Love and hugs, xoxo

  3. Cottage pie is a winter favourite with us, and we always have brussel sprouts with it and beef gravy. Yum.

    1. Mmmm. Brussels and gravy sounds wonderful! xoxo

  4. That looks delicious and thanks for sizing it down!

  5. Comfort food !!........we need that once in awhile....or for all of 2020! 😅.
    Looks delish! xo,V

    1. Thanks so much V! You are right I think 2020 will go down as the year of Comfort food for sure! xoxo

  6. Wonderful comfort foods! Ground lamb is a rare find here (NH, USA), but some of the smaller butcher shops carry it. Best wishes in your future endeavors!

    1. Thanks very much! I will have to rethink my focus on the blog naturally. I still want to cook British but perhaps the fo us will be cooking British in North America? We will see! Lamb is hard to find here in NS sometimes as well, but not impossible. When we do find it we stock up! Oxo


Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you so do not be shy!

Did you make the recipe as directed? Recipe results are not guaranteed when changes have been made.

Is this comment helpful to other readers? Rude or hateful comments will not be approved. Remember that this website is run by a real person.

Are you here to complain about ads? Please keep in mind that I develop these recipes and provide them to you for free. Advertising helps to defray my cost of doing so, and allows me to continue to post regular fresh content.

Thanks so much for your understanding! I appreciate you!