Growing up, my Mother often cooked shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes for dinner. And I have to admit that it wasn’t until I had a family of my own that I started to cook it.
I found that it was something quick and easy to whip together, especially if I was looking for something last minute due to a hectic day.
There are so many variations of the Shepherd’s Pie recipe, and I am going to add one more to the mix.
What is the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie?
There is a difference between the two dishes; Shepherds pie is an Irish dish that contains lamb or even mutton. And Cottage Pie is an English dish that has beef.
Both dishes have mashed potatoes on the top, so it is easy to confuse the two meals.
Now when you go searching for shepherds pie recipes, it is quite common to find ones that are cooked with ground beef, instead of lamb.
And for my recipe I use beef, but you can use lamb instead if you want to stick to the tradition of the shepherd’s pie.
Adding The Mashed Potatoes On The Top Of Your Shepherd’s Pie.
A common issue that some people have when it comes to adding the mashed potatoes on the top is the potato sinking into the meat mixture.
There are three things you can do to avoid this from happing;
- How hot the beef mixture is. It is better to let the filling of your shepherd’s pie cool before topping with your mashed potatoes. The meat mixture will then be able to thicken more and be able to hold the weight of the potatoes.
- The constancy of the filling. If your beef mixture is too watery, it will not hold together, and it can also cause the potatoes to soak up the liquid. This problem can also cause the potato to combine with the filling slowly.
- Sloppy mashed potatoes. It would be best if you had your mashed potatoes a firm, thick consistency when adding them to the top of your shepherd’s pie mixture, as this will help it to hold its shape.
If your potatoes are too sloppy or watery, they may end up blending with the mixture below instead of staying on the top.
- How you put the potatoes on top of your meat mixture can also contribute to it sinking. You need to take some care when placing the potato on top.
Simply spooning the mixture from the bowl and allowing it to just fall on top will not do. You need to carefully spoon the mashed potatoes on the top in small amounts, before smoothing it out.
When it comes to adding your mashed potatoes, there are two ways you can do this.
The first way I mentioned before, spooning it on in small amounts.
When spooning your potatoes onto the top of your meat mixture, you can use a serving spoon to add the potato carefully. It is good to start from one side of the baking dish and work your way to the other side.
Once all the potato is on, you can use the back of the spoon to lightly smooth the mashed potato so that it covers all the meat. Then with the tip of the fork (the prongs) lightly create lines through the potato to make some decorative texture.
Another way is to pipe on the potato. For this, I recommend that you whip the potatoes so that you get a smooth consistency and avoid any potato from getting stuck in the piping tip.
Piping the potato on can be a little more time-consuming. Still, the outcome is fantastic, and it makes the dish appeal appetizing.
If you are unsure what are the best potatoes to use on the top of your shepherd’s pie, I have a great potato guide with a few of the different potato varieties that you can use.
What is an alternative to having mashed potatoes on the shepherd’s pie?
We all know the potatoes are high in carbohydrates and there may be a few of you out there that do not eat shepherd’s pie or cottage pie because mashed potatoes are what goes on the top.
But there is a healthier option. Adding mashed cauliflower on the top instead of potatoes is just as delicious and more nutritious if you are watching your carb intake.
It is not just for those that are being careful about what they consume; it’s also just a great way to change it up now and again.
If you want to try it with cauliflower, here is what you need to do.
Cut a full head of a large cauliflower up into small pieces and steam until soft and tender.
Once the cauliflower is ready, place in a bowl and mash.
Drain any excess liquid once it is mashed and add ½ a cup of grated cheese. Re-mash and mix to combine the cheese.
Scoop the mixture onto of the shepherd’s pie filling and top with another ½ cup of grated cheese.
Place in a preheated oven of 160°C (320°F) for fan-forced or 180°C (356°F) for conventional for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese has melted and turned a golden brown.
Mashed Potato vs Mashed Cauliflower Calorie Difference.
There is quite a big difference in the calories when you use mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, which is excellent for those that are looking for a lower calories option.
Below is the comparison of the nutritional facts so you can compare the two.
The nutritional facts are based on my shepherd’s pie recipe with the potato and with the cauliflower. If you use other shepherd’s pie recipes or change the beef to lamb, remember the numbers will change.
With Cauliflower On Top
With Potatoes On Top
No-Fuss Way To Serve Shepherd’s Pie.
Although shepherd’s pie is usually cooked in one big baking dish and then served onto a plate with sides, there is a no-fuss way I sometimes love to do, and my kids get a kick out of it also.
I use mini round baking dishes that are about 12 cm (8 inches) in diameter and 6 cm (2.5 inches) high. You will need four to six of these, depending on how much of the meat mixture you want to put in. I usually leave about one and ½ to 2 cm clear to add my potatoes on the top.
Then serve your sides on a separate plate or bowl.
Can you make Shepherd’s Pie ahead of time?
This recipe is defiantly one that you can make ahead of time if you need to.
You can make it up as early as the day before without putting it in the oven and store it in the fridge covered overnight, so it is ready to cook the next day.
Remember to full it out of the fridge a few hours before so you can bring the dish up to room temperature before cooking. The last thing you want is your dish to break in the oven.
Alternatively, you can put the dish straight in the oven and then turn your oven on, which will allow your dish and food to warm up while your oven preheats slowly.
Once the oven has preheated, then start your timer.
Suppose you want to make it ahead of time and freeze for individual meals later in the week. When you want to freeze it make sure you cook it in the oven first, that way you only need to defrost it and then reheat it in the oven or microwave when needed.
When storing leftovers, make sure you place them in an air-tight container for if you want to put them in a refrigerator or freezer.
In the fridge shepherd’s pie will keep for up to 3 to 5 days, but if you want to freeze, you can keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
What Do You Serve with Shepherd’s Pie?
There are a range of foods that you can serve with your shepherd’s pie, especially if you are looking to have this dish as a main meal.
Suppose you are having your shepherd’s pie as a lunch or wanting something light to serve with it. You can’t go wrong with a lovely garden salad.
However, suppose you are serving at dinner time. In that case, you can cook vegetables such as baby carrots, broccoli, squash, cabbage and peas. And if you are not topping it with mashed cauliflower, you can steam some to add to the other vegetables.
Bread rolls and sliced up breadsticks are also great to go with your shepherd’s pie. My kids love to dip their bread rolls into the sauce and I, from time to time, will scoop some onto the bread roll or a slice of bread and eat it.
How To Make Easy Shepherd’s Pie With Mashed Potatoes.
With my shepherd’s pie recipe, the sky is the limit with what you can add to suit your taste.
Ground Lamb is traditional, but ground beef is quite common to cook with instead.
With having children that have autism and fussy eaters, I find shepherd’s pie is a great way to add certain ingredients that they need to eat more of, but won’t eat if they are on there own.
And by including both fresh spinach and mushrooms along with the ground beef, my children get a good dose of iron.
Other vegetable ideas to use in your shepherd’s pie are:
- Grated fresh carrot, zucchini, turnip and swede.
- A cup or two of some diced fresh or frozen veggies of your choice.
I also find having grated cheddar cheese in the mashed potato or even the cauliflower before adding it to the top gives more flavour. You could even mix it up and add some mozzarella or parmesan or even a combination.
Or if you want to do something different, top it off with some mashed sweet potato instead.
Garnishes look great but also add some extra flavour.
Of course, adding the cheese on top to melt is excellent. But you can also use an egg wash on top instead to help it go golden brown.
Chives are my favourite to put on top as they go so well with cheese, but you could use some chopped parsley or spring onion also.
Easy Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Potatoes
- 4 Large Potatoes
- 2 tsp Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion finely chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves crushed
- 500 g Mince Beef (ground beef)
- 1 tbsp Plain Flour (all-purpose flour)
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- ½ cup water
- 1 Beef Stock Cube
- ½ cup Spinach Finley chopped
- 100 g Mushrooms chopped
- 1 cup Grated Cheese
- Chop onion, mushrooms, spinach and crush garlic and put aside.
- Peel and chop potatoes. Place in a saucepan with water and cook till soft and tender.
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the finely chopped onion, chopped mushrooms and crushed garlic and cook until the onion and mushrooms are tender.
- Add the minced beef and turn the heat up to high, and brown. Remember to break up any lumps in the meat.
- Add the flour and stir until well incorporated.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, water, beef stock and spinach and stir through.
- Reduce the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture is thick in consistancy
- Place the meat mixture into a baking dish and set aside to cool a little before adding the potatoes.
- Preheat your oven to 160°C or 320°F for fan-forced or 180°C or 356°F for conventional.
- When the potatoes are ready, drain and mash. Feel free to add some butter and milk if you wish to.Add ½ cup of cheese to the potatoes and continue mashing until all the cheese is well incorporated into the potatoes.
- Place the mashed potatoes on top, and sprinkle the last ½ cup of cheese.
- Place the baking dish into the oven uncovered and cook or 30 to 35 minutes, or until cheese is melted on top and going a golden brown.