Shepherd's and Cottage Pie

Shepherd’s pie has plenty of variations. Try this one with roots and greens for a warm winter meal. 

Although technically a shepherd’s pie is a lamb or mutton meat pie with a mashed potato topping, often one made with beef is called that as well. Technically, though, that is cottage pie. Interestingly, the cottage was originally a reference to the potato topping, affordable even to the poor cottage dweller. Also, the term cottage pie preceded shepherd’s pie by at least fifty years, and they were used interchangeably in the beginning. Now a distinction is made by some, but a hundred and fifty years ago, none was made.

I had ground lamb to use for mine, though I also have vegetarians to cook for. A vegetarian or vegan pie is sometimes called a shepherdess pie. I used homemade vegetarian taco meat in mine. Although I used white button mushrooms and cashews in what I made (I often like to follow a recipe exactly the first time), now that I’ve made it I can see it working well with shiitake mushrooms and pecans - both of which can be found locally.

I think of shepherd’s pie as being made with peas or green beans. Unless you have some preserved, though, neither is to be found in winter. Root vegetables are an excellent and hearty substitute, and fresh herbs and greens add a touch of color.  

Although at first I thought adding bacon seemed a bit over the top, bacon’s flavor helped balance lamb’s strong flavor. Although I kept my pie pretty basic, stronger-flavored roots such as celeriac and fennel would go well with this dish.

Despite not eating white, “Irish” potatoes, I really wanted to make a shepherd’s pie! The internet came to my rescue again with various topping options including cauliflower, white sweet potato, turnip, and tropical roots such as yuca. Cheri Miller of Harvest Home, one source of lamb at the market, recommends parsnip as well. I wanted my topping to be a local option so the yuca was out. And, as much as I like mashed cauliflower, I wanted some starchiness. Sweet potato is too sweet, though, so I decided to do a mix of vegetables. It was a good option, though in the future I plan to cook them separately and play around with the mixture a little more to get the right balance of sweet (potato) and savory (turnip and/or cauli).

I’m happy that I’ve expanded my definition of what makes a shepherd’s pie so I can make one any time of the year.


ShepHerd's Pie

Photos by Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

RECIPE: Shepherd’s Pie

Inspired by: Joy-Filled NourishmentGutsy by Nature; and Whole Life, Full Soul 

Meat layer:
2 thick cut or 4 thin cut slices bacon
1 lb ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Small bunch of fresh thyme
A couple handfuls of arugula
Salt and pepper to taste

Potato layer:
1 white sweet potato
1 turnip
1 small head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter, plus a little more, melted, for topping
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cook ingredients for potato layer by your preferred method, I boiled in a small amount of water. Cook separately or all together. If you cook them separately you have the option to combine them to taste. Mash or blend with immersion blender with butter, season to taste and set aside.
  2. Fry bacon in large skillet, drain fat, and set bacon aside. Brown lamb in the same skillet, drain fat (separately from bacon fat if you want to use the bacon fat later), and set lamb aside with bacon. Add preferred fat (bacon, lamb, butter, oil) to the skillet, enough to sauté the onions. Cook onions until they are translucent; then add garlic, carrots, and celery. When vegetable are tender, add arugula and thyme and stir. Add reserved bacon and lamb. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. If you are using an oven proof skillet you can top the meat mixture with the potato mixture and bake in that. If not, transfer the meat mixture to a baking dish and top with the potato mixture. To help the potato mixture brown you can drizzle or brush with melted butter before baking.
  4. Bake pie for 25 minutes at 350°. Brown briefly under the broiler, if desired, but watch it carefully so it does not burn.


  1. Use ground beef for a cottage pie.
  2. For a vegetarian or vegan shepherdess pie, use this recipe for Vegetarian Taco Meat. Leave out the water, lime juice, and taco sauce. Use desired spices in place of taco seasoning. Use local mushrooms and nuts when available. Or use your favorite ground meat substitute. Use a butter substitute in place of the butter.
  3. Use different root vegetables when available, such as fennel, parsnips, or celeriac.
  4. Use different greens and/or fresh herbs, as desired and available.
  5. Change up the ratio of vegetables in the topping, or use different white roots altogether, such as parsnips or white potatoes.

Printable recipe here

Victoria Capdevielle