I think January is my least favourite month, it’s the only month with nothing fun to look forward to. The high from the holiday season is over as we all get back into our daily grind. The days are still short, with gloomy clouds and rare sunny days. Over the years I’ve noticed a significant change in my mood in January, and I think I have mild seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. Heading south for a week of sun is the ultimate cure, but if that’s not possible, I retreat to my kitchen and cook up a storm. One of my favourite comfort dishes to make is this Lamb Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping.
This twist on a traditional Shepherd’s pie is my go-to recipe for a cozy winter dinner party. Filled with delightfully rich, savory flavours that are guaranteed to impress. This dish can be made a few days in advance, making a weeknight dinner a breeze! Adding Worcestershire sauce and gherkins to this pie was a tip that I picked up from Gordon Ramsay. I absolutely loved the addition of the Worchestershire sauce to the pie. The sauce adds more depth to the flavour of the meat, a bit of a sweet fermented kick. Using gherkins in the pie also really tickled my taste buds, their sweet crunchiness cutting through the fatty richness of the lamb. Over the years this recipe has morphed into the ultimate Shepherd’s pie, and is packed full of some of my favourite ingredients.
I adore lamb, and am always looking for ways to use lamb instead of beef. Besides being so tasty, lamb is also a great source of iron, zinc and B vitamins. I also combined sweet potato with yellow potatoes for a healthier pie topping. Sweet potato is an excellent source of Vitamin A, potassium and dietary fibers – something we all need after all that holiday eating! I also made the pie topping with almond milk, as my boyfriend is lactose intolerant, but if you can find cashew milk that’s even better because it’s a bit creamier. Finally, I added some liquid smoke to give an element of smokiness to the meat, but this is optional.
My dad is of British descent and fully appreciates a hearty meat and potatoes meal. He loved my take on Shepherd’s pie (but I guess your parents are supposed to say that, no matter what age!). Also, I’m sure that I inherited my love of pickled foods from him. The gherkins cut through the rich mince while the generous topping of potatoes is light, fluffy and slightly sweet. This Lamb Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping is a spin on a classic British pub dish with some healthy substitutions. If you’re feeling blue this January, call up some family or friends for an impromptu dinner party. This hearty Shepherd’s pie is a wonderful way to warm up the soul on a cold January evening.
Lamb Shepherd's Pie with Sweet Potato Topping
For the filling:
- 900 g lean ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion peeled and finely diced
- 2 x large carrots peeled finely diced
- 3 x garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ¼ cup red cooking wine
- 1 cup low sodium beef stock
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 x sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 6 x sweet gherkins finely chopped + extra for serving
- sea salt and ground black pepper
- liquid smoke optional
For the potato topping
- 2 x medium yellow potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 x medium sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk or cashew milk
- 2 x large egg yolks lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 6 x sprigs of parsley finely chopped
Boil the potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes until a knife can easily pass through the potato. Drain well, and return potatoes to the hot pot over low heat to dry out briefly.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.
Sauté lamb until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a bowl lined with paper towel.
Lower heat to medium and add 1-2 teaspoons olive oil as needed to the lamb fat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften and start to brown.
Add the flour and tomato puree, stirring for another minute.
Working quickly, add red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove the browned bits. Simmer until reduced by half.
Pour in the beef stock and bring back to a simmer.
Return the meat to the pan and add the Worcestershire sauce, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt, pepper and a few drops of liquid smoke. Turn down the heat to low and loosely cover the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every once and awhile until the sauce has thickened.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 350C.
Bake sweet potatoes in the microwave on the potato setting until soft.
Press yellow potatoes through a ricer and into a large bowl. Using oven mitts and a large spoon, remove sweet potatoes and their juices from their skins and add to the bowl.
Mix in butter, almond milk and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Add the chopped gherkins to the meat mixture and spoon into a 2.3L oven proof dish.
Using a large spoon, top with sweet potato mixture by carefully spooning in large dollops over meat, slowly covering the entire surface. Sprinkle some paprika over top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes start to brown and the sauce begins to bubble around the sides.
Serve with parsley and extra gherkins.