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Some things are just not about looks. And Shepherd’s Pie is one of those things.
When this Irish Shepherd’s Pie came out of the oven, those bubbly edges and almost-charred snaggles on top, along with the smatter of spatters along the edges almost made me want to skip photographing it altogether.
Which got me thinking: why do I feel the need to tidy up those little things, those browned and brooding parts, the bits that show how this dish was made. How this dish made itself, really.
We all have this tendency to edit. To spruce up and hide the evidence of struggle or time or anything less than perfect.
And I’m not just talking about Irish Shepherd’s Pie here.
Maybe those little bits of burnish and bubbles, heat and expansion, progress and becoming… are as important as the finished dish, the final part of the process that I share with the world?
So I didn’t wipe the dish clean before popping it down in front of my camera. I left the gaps and burned on bits. And I made sure to capture it all it’s naked, unadorned glory before I indulged my urge to sprinkle and style and primp the dish.
And at the end, I realized. My favorite photo wasn’t the one with all the garnishes or prettifying pieces. Just the dish, as it was supposed to be. Maybe the same could be true of all of us?
Maybe it’s time to stop cleaning up our edges for the sake of others.
I dubbed this Irish Shepherd’s Pie because it’s got a little twist on the topping, which is made from my nightshade free take on classic Irish tater dish, Colcannon.
My version is a Spring-y take, studded with leeks, cabbage and green onions and using it to top a Shepherd’s pie is a lovely way to sneak in a few more veggies to this comforting dish.
This is definitely a more time consuming dish, so I very often make a double batch of my Parsnip Colcannon at the weekend and use the leftovers to make this dish during the week.
Looking for more Shepherd’s Pie recipes? Try my Classic Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip Mash or my Spiced Shepherd’s Pie with Coconut Lime Sweet Potato Topping.Print
Irish Shepherd’s Pie with Colcannon
Up your comfort food game with this Irish Shepherd’s pie, a fun twist with extra hidden veggies in the mash up top & a rich, meaty filling underneath.
If you’re making it all at once, it’s definitely a weekend dish. Or you can make a double batch of my Parsnip Colcannon over the weekend and then use the leftovers to make this during the week.
- Prep Time: 50 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 - 6 1x
- Category: comfort food
- Method: oven, stovetop
- Cuisine: Irish
For the Colcannon Topping:
- 1 lb / 454 g parsnips
- 3/4 lb / 340 g cauliflower florets
- 5 tbsp / 75 ml oil or cooking fat of your choice, divided, see notes
- 1 medium-large leek
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 packed cups / 100 g shredded Savoy cabbage, about 1/4 head
- 2 large green onions, sliced finely
- liberal amounts of salt & pepper, to taste, omit pepper for AIP
For the Irish Shepherd’s Pie filling:
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml avocado oil
- 1 ½ lbs / 680 g lean ground lamb
- 1 tsp / 5 g fine sea salt
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lb / 225 g finely grated carrots, about 3 medium
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml coconut aminos, see notes
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ cups / 360 ml beef broth
CHOP: Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Peel the parsnips, discard their tops and slice them in half. Chop each half into quarters so that you can get to the woody inner cores. Carefully cut out and discard the cores from the parsnips, then chop them into about 1/2 inch / 1.25 cm pieces.
BOIL: Add the chopped parsnips to the salted water, bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the cauliflower florets to the pan, topping off with extra boiling water from the kettle if needed to cover. Simmer until the cauliflower and parsnip are both fork tender, about another 10 minutes or so. Remove from the heat.
DRAIN: Pour the vegetables into a large colander to drain and let them sit in the colander while they release steam. Wipe the pot clean of any residue and save it for later.
SOFTEN: While the vegetables are boiling, trim the leeks of their dark green tops (you can save those for broth or other meals) and cut them in half through the root end. Carefully wash them under running water to get out all of the hidden dirt between layers. Slice the leeks thinly and add 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the oil or fat to a skillet over low medium heat. Once the fat has melted, add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened and just barely beginning to brown at the edges, about ten minutes.
WILT: Add the minced garlic to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the shredded cabbage to the pan and cook until just wilted and beginning to soften, but still retaining a little bite if not crunch, 2 – 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
DRY: While the leeks and cabbage are softening, tip the parsnips & cauliflower from the colander back into their original cooking pot. Pop them on the stove over low medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often, so that any surface moisture left behind evaporates, but the vegetables don’t begin to brown. Add the remaining oil or cooking fat and warm until melted and liquid. Remove from the heat.
MASH: How smooth or coarse you like your mash is up to you, but I like to use a potato masher to get things started, then use an immersion blender right in the pan to smooth things out & break up any of the tougher parsnip fibers left behind without making the Colcannon so smooth that it can become pasty.
COMBINE: Once the mash is the texture you like, stir in the softened leek, garlic and cabbage mixture. Add the sliced green onions, too. At this point, you’ll want to taste and season – more aggressively than you might think! – with plenty of salt and pepper, if using. I also like to add about 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic at this point, which gives an extra depth to the flavors, but that’s up to you. Reserve the Colcannon topping for later.
BROWN: While the vegetables for the topping are cooking, brown the lamb. Preheat a skillet on the stove top over medium heat. Add the avocado oil and, when hot, add about half of the lamb, along with half of the salt. Cook until browned on both sides, turning a few times and breaking up with the back of a spoon or spatula as it cooks. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl, using a slotted spoon to leave the fat behind in the pan, then repeat with the rest of the meat and remaining salt. Transfer the cooked beef to the bowl and reserve for later.
SOFTEN: Pour off any excess fat or liquid from the meat into a heat proof dish, leaving behind just enough fat to coat the skillet. Reduce the heat and add the onions and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring a few times, until translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the grated carrots, browned meat, red wine vinegar, coconut aminos, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf to the skillet and stir to combine.
THICKEN: Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Add the broth to a blender, along with 1 cup / 240 g of the Colcannon topping mixture. Blend until smooth to thicken the gravy. Add the gravy to the skillet and cook until the liquid warms through and reduces a little, about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
BAKE: Remove and discard the bay leaf. Spoon the meat & gravy mixture into a baking dish and pat the meat layer down with a spatula so that it’s level.Working a little at a time, spoon the Colcannon mixture around the edges first, smoothing to make a seal all the way around the baking dish. Spoon the rest of the Colcannon on top so that it completely covers the Irish Shepherd’s pie filling and fluff it up with a fork a little. Place the baking dish onto a baking sheet and then into the oven. Bake until heated through, bubbly & a little browned on top, about 30 – 35 minutes.
If you’re in the elimination phase of the AIP, avoid butter or ghee. You can use the fat or oil of your choice here, but make sure it’s one that you like the flavor of, since it will come through the flavor of the vegetables. Try lard, rendered bacon fat for a smoky flavor, avocado oil or even a mild flavored olive oil.
To make this completely coconut free, you can omit the coconut aminos, or substitute 1 tsp / 5 ml of gluten free fish sauce instead.