When we’re looking for truly authentic Irish dishes to cook for St. Patrick’s Day, there’s nothing more appropriate or crowd pleasing than Shepherd’s Pie. A stew made of minced lamb meat in gravy, topped with mashed potato that’s been browned to crusty perfection, Shepherd’s Pie is Irish comfort food at its best.
According to Darina Allen — head chef at the Ballymaloe cooking school, seat of Ireland’s Farm to Table movement with its emphasis on freshness, seasonality, local availability and simple preparation — Shepherd’s Pie is best made with leftover cooked lamb and gravy. So it’s a great next-day dish after a lamb roast dinner. But if lamb is not available, it’s fine to substitute ground beef, though technically that’s called “Cottage Pie”. If you’d like to top your potato crust with breadcrumbs, that would be called “Cumberland Pie”. Darina Allen’s Shepherd’s Pie is topped with a potato crust that calls for two types of grated cheese: cheddar and parmigiano reggiano.
If you’re hosting a St. Patrick’s Day gathering and wanting to accommodate your guests’ food restrictions, a few tweaks to the traditional recipe will have you covered. Over at Farmette, Imen McDonnell, an American expat living in Ireland, is cooking up three versions of Shepherd’s Pie — original, vegetarian and a third with a cauliflower crust. The cauliflower crust version would be great for your gluten-free guests, so long as you leave out the flour in the gravy as well. (I use a few tablespoons of arrowroot to thicken sauces, in place of flour.) This roundup of 19 sweet potato recipes includes two versions of Shepherd’s Pie that are topped with sweet-potato crust, one a vegetarian version made with lentils.
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(Photo via Farmette)