Savory Irish shepherds pie with lamb is a hearty feast that will become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition! The creamy mashed potato topping is irresistible.
When you think of comfort food what comes to mind? For me, anything with mashed potatoes! Every year I ask my hubby Jason what he wants me to make for Saint Patrick’s day (he’s half Irish), and luckily the verdict this year is… Shepherds pie!
How could I deny him of a rich and flavorful stew topped with creamy mashed potatoes? I decided to go with a shepherd’s pie with lamb instead of ground beef, to make the dish a little heartier. Not to mention, we definitely like our lamb recipes at the Gavin household!
I feel like we can’t have an actual Irish feast without some rendition of meat and potatoes, am I right? I like the idea of combining all of those wonderfully simple ingredients into one fabulous casserole dish.
I like to start by browning pieces of lamb shoulder for the filling to develop a rich flavor. I also simmer the meat with lots of hearty root vegetables. I added butternut squash, onions, carrots and peas to the stew. Thyme and garlic give a nice earthy aroma to the stew. With a little bit of time, the flavors will infuse together for a luscious filling.
As the stew cooks, I make the mashed potatoes and just add butter, cream, and egg to turn those potatoes super rich and decadent. The last step is to fill the casserole dish with all of the excellent lamb and vegetable filling and then pipe the potatoes as the topping for the casserole.
I like to use a piping bag with a star tip to give a beautiful scalloped pattern. As the potatoes cook in the super hot oven, you are in for a surprise! The potatoes rosettes start to lightly brown, and you have a wonderfully crisp and creamy mashed potato topping. I seriously drooled when I took the pie out of the oven, yet it was almost too pretty to eat!
This is the perfect comforting dish, a hot and delicious meal all in one. You’re going to want to keep getting huge scoops of seconds. A nice tall pint of Guinness wouldn’t be a bad idea to help wash down all of the creamy potato and lamb fillings, yum! The meal was extremely hearty and satisfying, and Irish hubby approved!
If you’re looking for more dishes to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, try some delicious Guinness corned beef stew, honey mustard corned beef, Irish soda bread with bacon and cheddar, or some decadent Irish coffee profiteroles with chocolate whiskey sauce, yum!
How do tougher cuts of meat become tender by Stewing?
Stewing tougher cuts of meat like lamb shoulder uses a technique called braising to yield flavorful and tender pieces of protein. The first step is browning the meat in hot oil to create new flavor profiles and color through the Maillard browning reaction. Then a broth or stock is added along with vegetable aromatics to slow-cook the meat over low simmering temperatures. This allows the increased amount of collagen (connective tissue) to soften in the liquid and eventually turn to gelatin and allows the meat fibers to separate more easily. The gelatin also helps to thicken the braising liquid and provide some richness into your stew. What you get is more tenderized and edible pieces of meat. However don’t get impatient and decide to boil your braise, the muscle fibers will become tough, shrink in size and be chewy, no thanks! Keep it low and slow my friends!
Savory Irish Shepherds Pie with Lamb
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed of all fat and sinew, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
- 4 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups beef broth, or stock
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, chopped fresh
- 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped fresh
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the lamb meat
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, plus more for seasoning the lamb meat
- 4 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- Brown the lamb by patting the lamb cubes dry on all sides with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. In a large slope-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Distribute the meat evenly in the bottom of the pan without crowding it and don’t disturb it for several minutes. If you stir the cubes too soon, they will release water and the meat will boil instead of browning. After 3 or 4 minutes, turn the cubes over and brown them on the other side for another 3 or 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.
- Sweat the vegetables by adding the onion, carrots, and celery, stirring with a flat-edged wooden spatula. As the vegetables cook, water will release and deglaze the pan. Use the spatula to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan if any remain. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes. They should be translucent but still a bit firm.
- Cook the stew by stirring in the flour and allow it to brown lightly for about 2 minutes. Add the beef broth or stock, continuing to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the butternut squash, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Return the meat and its collected juices to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat is fork tender.
- Add the peas and simmer until cooked and still bright green, about 5 minutes. Season stew with 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper adjust as needed. Discard the bay leaves. Bring the stew to a light boil over medium heat. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, and then whisk to combine. Gradually add to the stew, stirring until the liquid slightly thickens. Turn off the heat and cover until ready to bake.
- Meanwhile, boil the potatoes for mashing. Place the quartered potatoes in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer uncovered until cooked through, about 40 minutes. To tell if they are cooked, take a piece out and cut it in half to see if it's soft in the center. While the potatoes are cooking, preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot, and stir them over the heat for a couple of minutes. This ensures that they are dry. Rice the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Add the salt and butter, stirring until combined. Next add the cream and egg yolks, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Work quickly while the potatoes are hot so they don't become gummy and starchy. Allow the potatoes to cool. Fit a large pastry bag with a large star tip. Spoon the mashed potatoes into the bag and set aside until ready to pipe. You will not be able to fit all of the potatoes in at once, so refill as you pipe.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set an 8-cup baking dish (I used an 7 x 11.5-inch pan) on the sheet, and fill with 5 to 7 cups of lamb stew. You want to try to spoon out all of the stew pieces, leaving some of the liquid behind if there is not enough room in your pan. Leave about ½ to ¾ inches of space from the top edge of the pan to create space for the potato topping.
- Obtain the pastry bag filled with the potatoes. Moving in one direction, pipe large rosettes of potatoes over the lamb mixture, in a neat row. Pipe rosettes wherever you see any hole, you want to create a good seal.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely browned, and the filling is bubbling. Let the casserole rest for 15 min. Serve warm and enjoy!