Shepherd’s Pie

Posted By Kerri


As regular readers will know, lamb features regularly on the Dinner Diary menu. We’re both big fans and it’s a versatile meat. Simply fried with rosemary and garlic and served with sauteed potatoes, it’s a quick mid-week meal. Shoulder, cooked long and slow in a casserole is a wonderful treat on a wintery Sunday. Lamb mince however doesn’t fill me with such culinary joy.

We went through a phase of eating a lot of lamb kofte, trying different spice mixes until we got the seasoning just as we wanted. However, one fatal evening these lovingly prepared Turkish treats found their way from the freezer and into what was supposed to be an Italian style dish of (beef) meatballs with spaghetti and tomato sauce. The shock of tasting lamb when I was expecting beef and the clash of flavours put me off them completely and I haven’t eaten them since.

However, we recently had lunch at the Hinds Head in Bray which is owned by Heston Blumenthal. We were pretty certain that we would both enjoy the food (the famous triple cooked chips definitely lived up to their reputation as the best chips in the world) but neither of us expected to find a dish that would rank as one of the best we’ve ever eaten and, had I given it any thought beforehand, I wouldn’t have expected that dish to be Shepherd’s Pie. It was a joy to taste (sadly Stephen had ordered it while I opted for the steak so he got the lion’s share), the different cuts of lamb all leant different textures and the sauce was thick and full of sweet, earthy flavours.

Trying to create something similar at home was no easy task: lamb belly is hard to find and lamb shoulder generally comes in large pieces. We were almost lucky with the sweetbreads, the butcher assured us he had some but on arriving at the shop he realised they had already been saved for some other lucky shopper. So, what we ended up with was some lamb mince, neck fillet and kidney:


We started by seasoning the mince with salt and pepper. We then cut the lamb neck fillets into cubes, then skinned and cored the kidneys before cutting them into small cubes and then coating them and the neck fillet cubes in seasoned flour. We browned the meat in batches and then removing it from the pan. We deglazed the pan with some red wine and reserved those juices. Next in went the onion which we sweated off before adding the celery and carrot, last in was the garlic. When that was all cooked through, we returned the meat to the pan and added the rest of the ingredients.

The pan simmered away on a low heat for two and a half hours before we spooned it into an oven dish and topped with mustardy mashed potato. Into the oven so the potato could brown and served with a selection of vegetables.


I had some reservations about trying to re-create something that was so delicious and wondered if it would be best consigned to memory, I’m really glad we did though because this was a real triumph. Not exactly the same as the Hind’s Head version but rich and sweet and lamby nonetheless. We loved it.

Serves Four

500g lamb mince
150g lamb’s kidney, diced and dusted with seasoned flour
250g lamb neck fillet, diced
1 onion, finely diceed
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
250ml red wine
Tablespoon tomato puree
500ml lamb stock
Tablespoon worcester sauce
100ml milk
1kg potatoes
Butter, to taste
Milk, to taste
1 tablespoon mustard


Jan 17th, 2009

10 Comments to 'Shepherd’s Pie'

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  1. Sylvie said,

    Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favourite winter comfort foods. I don’t make it as often as I used to since I live on my own, but I I crave some badly!

    Sylvie’s last blog post..Simple Carrot and Coriander Soup – Eating with the Season

  2. Niamh said,

    Wow! Good effort. This sounds delicious.

  3. Neil said,

    This looks lovely and rich, never used kidney before – may have to consider it in the future.

  4. Katie said,

    I love the idea of using all those different cuts of meat to add texture. My boyfriend would never go for that but I could use your approach and sneak it into a mince dish, trick him into trying it. Haha!

    Katie xox

    Katie’s last blog post..Whiskers on kittens…

  5. Lizzie said,

    Great effort! that potato crust looks delicious.

    Lizzie’s last blog post..New Tayyabs

  6. Helen said,

    The kidneys in there are an absolute stroke of genius in my opinion! Thank you for putting that idea in my head, I bet they really added richness and depth. Gorgeous.

  7. Stephen said,

    Thanks for all your comments everyone 🙂

    As we said in the post, our original plan was to use sweetbreads as they did at the Hinds Head, but when we couldn’t get them we used kidneys instead. I think it was a very good substitution though; they give that bit extra flavour. We didn’t put enough in to make it into a lamby version of a steak and kidney pie, just enough to add a bit of something different in the flavour and texture. We are keen to try it again with the sweetbreads though.

    And the diced lamb was good too – we used neck fillets because that’s what we had, but diced leg or shoulder would be good, possibly better.

    Lamb stock can be hard to find, but we found a jar of good quality stock in a local butcher and I think that made a big difference.

  8. Yum! I’ve always loved shepherds pie but have never made it. In fact, I’ve only just started cooking with meat this weekend, as my husband’s vegetarian and does all the cooking at home. I may have to make a mini version of this!

  9. Kerri said,

    Thanks Helen. It would be quite a lot of effort for one I think but would freeze very well if you have space!

  10. Penny said,

    OMG that looks amazing, I still use the recipe my Mum taught me which is her mum’s one but I may deviate and try to fancy it up a bit like this, it looks and sounds amazing.

    Penny’s last blog post..Our Time for Old Friends (and new)

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