True Irish Shepherd’s Pie

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The summer after I graduated high school, I spent nearly two weeks in Europe (England, Ireland, and Wales) with my best friend, Liz.  A week of that time was spent in Ireland.  It was everything I hoped it would be – Tower Bridge, The Tower or London, Parliament, castles, cathedrals, beaches, mountains, a gi-normous Ferris wheel, and rainy weather.  What I didn’t expect to knock my socks off was the FOOD, especially in Ireland.  I should have known better, seeing as they are such meat and potatoes people. I had so many wonderful things to eat, all of which just down-right warmed your soul: leek and potato soup (broth-based, not cream based like we make it here), thick and hearty stews, wonderful seafood (especially in Galway), and above all, shepherd’s pie.  

Now most of us here in the US just think of shepherd’s pie as some meat and veggies in a gravy and topped with potatoes.  But you are so wrong.  Really good, authentic Irish shepherd’s pie is so much more.  It’s hard to explain – their gravy is so much more flavorful and thick.  I have tried about a billion different shepherd’s pie recipes looking for one that I deemed to be equal to what I ate while in Ireland.  And after combining bits and pieces of various recipes, I think I’m as close as I’m going to get.  It is still a work in progress, so I’ll update if I have any new ideas or changes.

I hope you enjoy this authentic taste of Ireland.  Keep it bookmarked for next St. Patty’s Day.  Forget the corned beef and cabbage (and stinking up the house), this is truly the type of food that Ireland if known for. Don’t let the ingredient list scare you off – this recipe is very simple and inexpensive.  Besides, you can drink the rest of the red wine and use any leftover Guinness to make car bomb cupcakes :)

One year ago: Game Day chili
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Shepherd’s Pie
a PLFF original recipe

For the meat mixture:
1 1/2 lbs lamb or beef (cubed or ground is fine)
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried sage
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
salt and pepper

For the potatoes:
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into equal sized pieces
4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup chives, chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. 

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain well and return to pot to remove any excess moisture.

Meanwhile, brown beef or lamb in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Drain off any excess fat.  Add onions, carrots and garlic, and sauté until softened.  Add butter, stir until melted.  Sprinkle flour over meat and veggies, stirring to coat.  Cook 1 minute.  Deglaze pan with Guinness, red wine, and beef broth.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low.  Add Worcestershire sauce and spices, simmer about 15 minutes, or until carrots are tender.  Add peas, and season mixture to taste with salt and pepper.  Simmer until mixture has thickened.

Once potatoes are drained, stir in butter and milk and mash until consistency is smooth (add a little more milk if necessary).  Stir in cheese, parsley and chives.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Pour thickened meat mixture into greased casserole dish (I used an oval one, smaller than a 9×13).  Spoon potatoes gently over the top of the meat mixture, making irregular peaks with the back of your spoon.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and edges are bubbly.

Enjoy!  and Slainte!

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12 thoughts on “True Irish Shepherd’s Pie

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  3. This was far above my expectations. We really enjoyed this. Thanks.I used Trader Joe’s Meritage 2009 Red Wine for the wine called for, add added a tad of brown sugar to decrease bitterness of the stout. YUM!

  4. Looks like a good recipe, thanks for sharing. I lived in The U.K. for three years and have to say that Authentic Shepherd’s Pie does not have cheese – that is a truly American ‘obsession’…. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese (I live in the US now) but not in or on every dish – kinda gross! Lol. I will certainly try your recipe. :-)

  5. Ive been to a lot of Irish restaurants throughout Manhattan and this is by far the most authentic and delicious of them all. thank you. you don’t even need to change a thing. having used homemade beef stock and my favorite bottle of red wine.

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  7. Living in the uk, you wouldn’t get a decent shepherd’s pie, you have to go to ireland for that…… I’m Irish, born and raised, and I do put cheese on my shepherd’s pie, just sprinkled on top for the last 10 minutes in oven… No garlic though….or guinness and for my mash, the simpler, the better, i just add butter milk salt and black pepper to the potatoes and mash to the death. Also, use juices from meat and fresh veg for stock to mix with gravy :-) But the recipe changes in every county you go to in Ireland so will never get th same recipe from say Meath, that you would in Galway….. This is making me hungry now ;-)

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