A savory Irish meal to celebrate St. Patrickā€™s Day

Published by J.R. Williams on

Homemade Shepherd’s Pie in a cast iron skillet with a serving missing
Photo provided by Pixabay

A savory Irish meal to celebrate St. Patrickā€™s Day

St. Patrickā€™s Day is a cultural as well as religious holiday observed by both Irish and non-Irish descendants worldwide. 

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a real man who lived in 400 A.D. Born in Roman Britain, he was the son of a church deacon and grandson of a priest. He was captured by Irish pirates at 16 and was sold into slavery in Ireland. Patrick converted to Christianity during his time as a shepherd in Ireland, returning to England after escaping hapless captivity at 22. After studying Christianity in English schools, he returned to Ireland as a missionary.

Legend says, he introduced Christianity to Ireland, ā€œbanishing the snakesā€ from the island and using the three-leafed shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity. St. Patrickā€™s Day is celebrated every year on the supposed day of his death: March 17.

The Life of St. Patrick book and rosary on antique desk Photo provided by Pixabay

Traditions for this Irish holiday vary widely from simply wearing a few shamrocks pinned to clothing to donning green from head to toe. For some, it is a day of heavy drinking, while others use it as a day to abstain from alcohol. Many Catholicā€™s observe St. Patrickā€™s Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, attending special masses and devoting their day to family. Parades and festivals are common worldwide, and many rural Irish communities organize horse racing events in celebration.

Irish fare is another traditional way to celebrate St. Patrickā€™s Day. Shepherdā€™s Pie first came into written record in England in the late 1700s, showing up in Scottish and Irish cookbooks 40 years later. It finally crossed the Atlantic, showing up in American cookbooks around 1920. The dish was popularized by frugal housewives looking for appetizing ways to redress leftovers.

Recipes vary by regions and traditions, but all have the same basic structure: minced lamb, pan fried and layered under herbed vegetables covered with mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown.

Sheppardā€™s pie, traditionally made with lamb or mutton, and cottage pie, traditionally made with beef, are often discussed interchangeably. Both are hearty and nutritious comfort meals made for Celtic celebrations. Blending flavors is important in the success of any dish, so the herbs used will be dictated by the meat selected.

Sheppardā€™s pie is a dish traditionally served with dark red wine or stout beer.

Below are two variations of a Sheppardā€™s pie recipe. One is a traditional recipe, and the other is a more health-conscious version. Use beef as a delicious, lower cost meat option as substitute for lamb in both recipes. For those with food allergies, oat, rice or gluten free flour blends can be used as an alternative for all-purpose flour; dairy free milk, cheese, cream and butter can easily replace dairy products; and egg alternatives like flax can replace the egg.

Traditional Sheppardā€™s pie

Ingredients listed in order of use

2ā€‰Ā½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved

1 pinch salt for boiling water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 pounds lean ground lamb

1 onion, diced

salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon paprika

ā…“ cup all-purpose flour

ā…› teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ketchup

3 cloves garlic, minced

2ā€‰Ā½ cups water, or as needed

1 (12 ounce) package frozen peas and carrots, thawed

1 tablespoon butter

1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

Ā¼ cup cream cheese

Ā¼ pound Irish cheese (such as DublinerĀ®), shredded

salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk


Instructions Checklist:

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Step 2
Place potatoes into a large pan of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Step 3
Melt olive oil and butter in Dutch oven at medium heat. Brown meat and stir in root vegetables, about 10 minutes.

Step 4
Incorporate flour, then mix in salt, black pepper, rosemary, paprika, cinnamon, ketchup, and garlic; stir in garlic until it is fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 5
Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven and stir in water. Reduce to medium-low heat and bring to a simmer; stir until thick, about 5-6 minutes.

Step 6
Remove from heat and add peas and carrots.

Step 7
Spread meat and vegetables into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Step 8
Drain potatoes and return to pan.

Step 9
Mash potatoes with butter, cayenne pepper, cream cheese, and Irish cheese until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Step 10
Whisk egg yolk and milk together in a small bowl; stir mixture into mashed potatoes.

Step 11
Cover the meat and vegetables in the baking dish with the mashed potatoes and spread evenly.

Step 12
Bake in the preheated oven until the sauce is bubbling up around the edges and the top is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving:
517 calories; protein 29.2g; carbohydrates 37.2g; fat 28.3g; cholesterol 132.3mg; sodium 301mg.

Classic Sheppardā€™s pie

Ingredients listed in order of use

2 large potatoes peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

Ā¼ cup fat free sour cream

1 Tbsp Reduced-calorie margarine

ā…› tsp salt or to taste

2 tsp Olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 medium carrots

2 rib of diced celery

1 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey

3 Tbsp All-purpose flour

1 Tbsp, fresh Rosemary chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tsp dried Thyme

Ā½ tsp salt

Ā¼ tsp black pepper

2 cups chicken or beef broth


Step 1
Preheat oven to 400ĀŗF.

Step 2
Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to medium heat and let simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain potatoes, and place into a large bowl. Ā Add sour cream and margarine and mash until smooth, season to taste with salt.

Step 3
Heat oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat. Add vegetables; cook until tender or about 3 minutes. Brown meat, breaking up the meat as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Add flour, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper; stir. Add broth and simmer until mixture thickens or about 3 minutes.

Step 4
Transfer meat and vegetables to a 9-inch, deep-dish pie plate. Cover with mashed potatoes. Bake until potatoes are golden-brown, about 30 minutes.

Total Time, 1 hr 7 min, Prep 25 min, cook time 42 min, Serves 6

Your plate is ready, sheppard’s pie in baking dish with serving dished out for one.
Photo provided by Pixabay

Contact me at:

For more articles by J.R. Williams please click here.