The Luck of the Irish and Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

PUBLISHED ON: 07.15.2015


Ireland is like one big picnic spot
~Bailey Knapp
I feel like I need to start this post with a resounding  “America there is nothing Irish about corned beef and cabbage!” Okay, there I feel better. Who knew?  It is believed that when the Irish came to America corned beef was cheap, readily available and soon became the meat of choice. It is also believed the close proximity of the Jewish and Irish immigrant communities played a role in establishing corned beef and cabbage as a mainstay meal in their new homeland.
As an American in Ireland you feel the similarities. A sense of kinship.  If you are not listening close you might think the accent is American, if you fail to listen closely, you can easily mistaken an Irish person for being American.

Ireland is stunning. Your first impression is the intensity of the color green and the lushness of the landscape with its cragginess and tall grasses.  Ireland landscapes are dotted with small family farms. Beef, lamb and milk production are the agricultural products of Ireland.  The coast line is equally as stunning.  The Irish weather? Let’s just say when there is a sunny warm day, the Irish feel lucky. While standing on the Cliffs of Moher  (the wind literally moved my body).  I believe it is the only place where I experienced my hair literally blowing in all directions at the same time.

The only way to discover a new culture is in a up-close and personal way. We do it by spending time with the locals, walking the neighborhoods, shopping local stores and eating in local establishments.  In Ireland this is so easy. The Irish are incredibly warm and friendly-Even the farm animals say hello.


Bailey enjoyed saying good morning to this friendly guy


The Irish Rush Hour
At first we thought the colored dye on the wool of the sheep were a marker for the farmer to identify their flock of sheep.  It is actually used to distinguish female (red) from male sheep (blue).
We thought it would be fun to pull off the road with our dinner and eat along side the sheep. Eating along side the road was an excellent idea! Eating your dinner with a mature ram at your back with his herd of ladies and a grocery bag of food? Not such a good idea.  We high-tailed it out of the sheep pasture.
Found ourselves a great picnic spot across from the grazing flock of sheep.  This photo is proof Ireland is indeed like one big picnic spot.


And the beauty continues
And continues….

There is no better way to honor a country and its culture than re-creating a traditional dish.  In Ireland a pub favorite is Shepherd’s pie which is traditionally made with lamb.  Replacing the lamb with beef is sometimes called a cottage pie. The theory goes that a shepherd is only concerned with his sheep (lamb or mutton) not cattle (beef).

Shepherd’s pie is a simple flavorful combination of ground meat and veggies baked in a light gravy with a mashed potato topping. You can make this for two or make it a for crowd.  This dish freezes easily and a is a kid friendly and family favorite meal.



Traditional Irish Shepard’s Pie
Serves 4-6
Recipe from Grumpy Irish Lady

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1lb. ground beef or ground lamb
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 large carrots, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
3-4 sprigs  fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 glass of red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chicken stock
6 cups fresh or leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg beaten
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven too 400F.

Sauté carrots the olive oil until almost tender.  Add onions and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.  Add beef or lamb.  Season with black pepper and thyme.

Cook until the meat is browned. Drain the fat.  Return the meat to the pan.  Add butter and peas.  Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat the meat.  Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.

Reduce slightly.  Add chicken stock.  Allow to reduce down until you have a thick meaty gravy.  Season to your taste.

Reduce from heat.  Grease an oven proof dish (9×13 oval baking dish works well) with butter and add the sauce.  Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over top.  Brush with egg and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until potato is nice and brown on top.




  • I am envious of your vacation in Ireland. It is now on my list of places to go. Must try this pie.

  • Ireland is on my list of places to travel with it's burgeoning culinary scene and drop dead gorgeous scenery.

  • I can see you and your family had a wonderful time! It is beautiful there and the people are amazingly friendly. We have visited in December ( where you are the only tourist in town) and in September (nice weather) and we'd move there if it were possible. Love your Shepherds pie! We like it with lamb best, yours is gorgeous.

  • I really feel like checking out Ireland now. Always did make easy friendships with Irish/Americans so that would be the natural next step. Love the photos and the pie of course!

  • This shepherd's Pie looks delicious! It's one of my favorite comfort foods. Ireland is such a beautiful pastural country. I would love to visit it one day.

  • I love corned beef because I feel like it combines my Jewish heritage with my husband's Irish heritage. And I love shepherd's pie because I'm human.

  • I think I would enjoy all of that food. That Shepherd's Pie looks wonderful. That is so beautiful there.

  • You surely had a great time in Ireland and I would love to experience the Irish Rush Hour! The Shepherd's pie looks mouthwatering.

  • We loved our holiday in Ireland a few years back. Love shepherds pie as well this recipe looks good. Take care Diane.

  • What a travel bucket list trip come true! I love the simple life that the Irish live, and so closely tied to the land. I am sending this link to my beautiful Irish cousins (for whatever reason, my Italian family married many, many wonderful Irish!). They will LOVE your post. And your recipe for Shepherd's pie is a double bonus! Welcome home from your travels, Velva!Roz

  • *sigh* On my list of places I haven't visited…yet 🙂 A great recipe and nothing short of comfort food.

  • I long ago fell in love with Ireland via its poetry and plays. When I visited – it did not disappoint. This is a dish I love – just wraps me up into it's blanket and glad to have another recipe. (Corned beef and cabbage – hmmmm …. not so much!)

  • Great pictures! I've always wanted to visit Ireland 🙂 I love the recipe too!! Definitely will try it out.

  • What a wonderful trip and beautiful photos, Velva! You'll remember this trip for a long time. Thanks for the clarification on corned beef and cabbage 😉 I don't dislike lamb but it's not a favorite so I'll opt for the 'Cottage Pie' version. LIke most ethnic recipes, simple recipes are the best and so delicious.

  • I'm enjoying your trip and would like to go sometime. Bev is not a fan of lamb but we both love Cottage Pie.

  • I, too, became so enchanted with the people and countryside of Ireland. I cannot wait to go back again! I experienced the whole sheep thing, and having to wait for them to pass. I loved watching the sheep herding dogs. They were amazing to watch. I do love a good shepherd's pie, too. This one looks delicious.

  • When we were in Scotland, I thought the dye was a farmer's marker too. Surprised to read it's to distinguish sex.Love your photos and it was fun following your trip on Facebook. I've never been….we were so close, don't know why we didn't go. Life's bad decisions!Your Shepard's Pie looks delicious…definitely would make it with lamb!

  • Such beautiful photos of a beautiful country. 🙂 And that shepherd's pie sounds fantastic. 🙂

  • So cool Velva! We've been twice and I think I posted 400 photos. Love everything about Ireland – did they make you clean your shoes on the way out of the country? Sheesh – that's tons of fun! We hiked and loved it. Nothing better and the food is always so good. That picnic looks amazing!

  • What a trip, great pictures!

  • Oh my gosh, i had no idea! Well, I won't be associating corned beef with St. Patrick's Day anymore. Shepherd's pie all the way!

  • Shepherd's pie is very popular here in New England. Your version sounds great.

  • Such a beautiful vacation!! It really looks breathtaking. xo Catherine

  • Oh my gosh, Velva, this looks so delicious! Savory, comforting, perfection! I am of Irish ancestry so many of my relatives have visited but I have yet to go. Your beautiful photos are definitely inspiring. What a wonderful vacation!

  • Photos are GORGEOUS! What a wonderful trip! I'm crushed about the corned beef though. 🙂

  • we're hoping to go to ireland for our honeymoon and this just makes me more excited.did you get the recipe from an actual grumpy irish lady or is that some obscure cookbook title?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You cannot copy content of this page