Two reasons to love Shepherd’s Pie: First, it does not involve rolling out a pie crust; and second, it does involve mashed potatoes. This spring-inspired shepherd’s pie is adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe for a very classic version. For a lighter touch, the potatoes are mashed with yogurt and olive oil. (For a dairy free version, you could omit the yogurt and double down on the olive oil.) While fresh peas are a lovely spring touch, frozen works in a pinch.
Browning the lamb in batches, as describe, is crucial, don’t rush it. You’ll notice that in the first few minutes, the lamb will release moisture and turn kind of gray as it cooks. Keep cooking, and the moisture will cook off and the lamb will brown and crisp up. It really makes a difference in the pie.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet that can go from stovetop to oven, don’t worry. Simply cook the filling in any pan you have, then transfer it to a casserole dish before topping with the mashed potatoes.
SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH PEAS & MINT
- 1 Tablespoon beef tallow or extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 lbs ground lamb
- 3 large leeks, white part only, chopped
- 2 large carrots, diced fine
- 1 Tablespoon flour
- 1.5 cups lamb stock
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- ¾ teaspoon salt + 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped fine
- 3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into even chunks
- ¼ cup whole milk yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper, to taste
MAKE THE LAMB FILLING
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and add the tallow/olive oil. When hot, add half the ground lamb to the pan and fry until brown and crisp. It takes a while, but it’s worth it. With a slotted spoon, remove the lamb to a bowl and set aside. Repeat with remaining lamb.
Turn the heat down to medium. You can drain off some of the fat, if you like, but keep at least 3 tablespoons in the skillet. Add the leeks and carrots to the pan and cook until they begin to soften.
Sprinkle the flour into the pan, and stir well until it is absorbed. Add the stock, tomato paste and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine while scraping the bottom of the skillet.
Add the cooked lamb back to the pan. Cover, adjust the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. (Meanwhile you can prepare the potatoes.)
After 45 minutes, lift the lid and stir in the mint and peas. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
MAKE THE MASHED POTATO CRUST
Place potatoes in a clean pot and cover with cold water. Add a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until very tender, this may take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how small you cut the potatoes.
Drain the potatoes, then put them back in the empty pot and return to low heat. Let all the water evaporate so your potatoes are nice and dry. Remove from heat.
Mash the potatoes with the yogurt and olive oil. Give it a taste — the mashed potatoes should taste good enough to eat on their own — and add more salt and/or olive oil if needed.
ASSEMBLE & BAKE YOUR PIE
Preheat oven to 350℉. Smooth the lamb filling into an even layer in the skillet. Cover it with the mashed potatoes and use a spatula to spread an even top layer.
Use a fork to dig furrows into the potato layer. This will help crisp the crust.
Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden. If you want the potato crust really crispy, set the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes.
Let cool slightly before cutting slices. Serve with a big green salad or spring asparagus.