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.
For the Colcannon Topping:
For the Irish Shepherd’s Pie filling:
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.