My take on a traditional Shepherd’s pie with lamb mince, root vegetables and real ale, and topped with creamy mashed potato.
One thing I love about cooking is discovering new flavours that go together, especially when it’s flavours that you wouldn’t necessarily think to put together and today’s recipe is one of those creations.
I’ve been trying to perfect my shepherd’s pie for a while, but I’ve always found that it was lacking a little something – it had meatiness from the lamb, sweetness from the vegetables and saltiness from the stock but it needed just a hint of bitterness. A few weeks ago on a whim (figuring that beef and ale go well) I decided to add some real ale to my shepherd’s pie and the problem was solved – it is delicious.
If you’re reading this and thinking “hmmmm, I’m not really a real ale drinker, would I like this pie?” then stop! I’m not really a beer drinker. I prefer drinks that are sweeter but for cooking it’s perfect. Whilst you can taste the flavour of the beer, it compliments the lamb rather than overpowering it.
This shepherds pie is the sort of thing I make if I’m having friends or family over for dinner as it can be made in advance. All you need to do is shove it into the oven, leaving you time to actually enjoy yourself with your visitors rather than being stuck in the kitchen. It’s also great for making a big batch to cook later and you can freeze the mash and the meat filling so it’s there if you need it (just defrost it thoroughly in the fridge before baking the pie).
How to make really smooth mashed potato
Before I share the recipe with you I also wanted to give you a quick tip for really smooth mash. I’m a bit of a Masterchef fan, but in the past whenever I watched it I always knew that they’d complain about my mash because it was a bit lumpy. Just after Christmas I decided to treat myself to a potato ricer and my mash has been transformed.
You simply spoon in the potatoes, give it a squeeze and it mashes the potato up perfectly – absolutely no lumps. I’m not normally a fan of kitchen gadgets that only have one purpose (unless it’s something I use all the time like the kettle), but I have no regrets about getting one of these. If you want smoother mash then I’d definitely recommend it.
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Lamb and Ale Pie (Real Ale Shepherd's Pie)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 500 g lamb mince
- 1 onion - red or white - you can also use frozen if you have it
- Half a small swede - about 250g
- 3 carrots - about 250g
- 1 lamb stock cube - lamb is best for this, but you can also use beef or chicken if you don't have lamb available.
- 1 tbsp tomato purée - heaped
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp dried thyme - or a few sprigs of fresh thyme - remember to remove the stalks before adding the meat mixture to the pie
- 250 ml ale
- 500 g potatoes
- 75 ml milk
- 30 g butter
- 40 g cheddar cheese
- To keep the instructions clear I've separated the lamb filling and the mash potato into two sections. However you should complete these two sections simultaneously so the potatoes are cooking at the same time as the lamb filling.
Make the lamb filling
- Chop the vegetables - peel the carrots (3) and swede (½) and chop them into small chunks. Finely chop the onion.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the lamb mince (500g) and fry it until it browns, stirring regularly to ensure it browns evenly. Once it's browned, remove it from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the carrots and swede and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Return the lamb to the pan and add the chopped tomatoes (1 can), tomato purée (1 heaped tbsp), dried mint (1 tsp), dried thyme (1 tsp), lamb stock cube and ale (250ml).
- Bring it to the boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes until the liquid has reduced. Season with salt to taste (Personally I don't add any extra salt at this stage as I find there's enough in the stock to give it the flavour I want).
- While the lamb filling is cooking, cook the potatoes for the mash.
Make the mashed potato
- Peel and chop the potatoes (500g).
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the potatoes and cook them for about 20 minutes until soft.
- Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan. Add the milk (75ml) and butter (30g) and mash until smooth.
- Season with salt.
Make the pie
- Pre-heat your oven to 220ºC/200ºC fan.
- Grate the cheese (40g).
- Fill the base of an over proof dish with the lamb filling and spread it evenly.
- Evenly spread the mashed potato onto the lamb filling.
- Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
- Cook for 25 minutes, then serve.
Any nutritional information provided is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you would like to learn more about how this is calculated.
Free From/Suitable For…
The ingredients for this recipe are easily available free from all these allergens. However, please ensure you double-check allergen information for all ingredients.