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How To Make Granny's Killer Shepherds' Pie - With Pastry Recipe

Updated on May 11, 2018
RedElf profile image

Elle Fredine (RedElf), photographer, published author, Elle loves to share her family's well-loved, favorite recipes


Traditional and an Updated, Low Carb Version

My granny made absolutely killer Shepherd’s Pie. She would grind up the remains of the Sunday roast lamb or pork shoulder, add whatever ground meat she had on hand (usually veal, or sometimes, beef), and throw in anything else that took her fancy and seemed likely to fit in. Granny was very French in her cooking, so you knew there would always be onions, garlic and usually mushrooms. Then, she smothered it all in a creamy, mashed potato crust, baked to a delicious golden-brown and, “Voila!”

To transform her classic into another very French, Christmas Eve treat, simply add the mashed potato to the filling, adjust the seasoning slightly, and top it with a delectable flaky pastry, and you will have a tourtiere fit for a king, or queen if you prefer.

This particular version of tourtiere is presented as an appetizer instead of the usual main course. You can use a fine, short, thinly rolled out crust, puff pastry, or layers of phylo pastry made even more delectable by buttering each layer.

Her original Shepherd's Pie recipe is included here along with a variation that was traditionally served on Christmas Eve, usually after the midnight carol service. I have many warm, childhood memories of frosty windows, steaming with the heat from the busy kitchen, and savory smells making young tummies growl in anticipation of treats just waiting to be devoured.

With a few easy changes, you can easily transform this traditional palate-pleaser into an equally tasty, but low carb and dairy-free family-friendly meal. Definitely kid-approved - my son didn't even notice the substitutions.

Tradiional Shepherd's Pie
Tradiional Shepherd's Pie | Source

Granny's Shepherd's Pie

For the filling you will need:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (You can substitute 1/2 lb left-over roast, ground fine, and 1/2 lb fresh ground meat - lamb and veal, pork and lamb, or pork and beef are very nice combinations)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced - your choice, but portabello is a favorite of mine for this recipe
  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp savory, dried or fresh
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup chicken broth or meat stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable Layer:

  • baby carrots, roll-cut in 1/2 inch pieces and steamed to crunchy-tender
  • frozen or canned, drained kernel corn - about 2 - 3 cups vegetables, combined

Traditional Topping:

  • cooked potatoes, mashed and whipped 'til flufy with heavy cream and butter - about 4 - 6 cups, depending on the size of your baking dish
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar, we prefer aged or old
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Low Carb, Non-Dairy Topping:

  • 4 - 6 cups cooked, well-drained cauliflower, pureed and whipped fluffy. Substitute a generous drizzle of extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil or any quality oil of your choosing - almond, safflower, or sesame, which will impart a lovely nutty flavor. Stay away from almond oil or peanut oil unless they are family favorites, as their flavor can be overpower the more delicate flavor of the cauliflower.
  • 1/2 cup lactose free cheese, or a quality non-dairy substitute
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped, along with a few sprigs of fresh dill, also finely chopped

An electric mixer can save a lot of time and effort
An electric mixer can save a lot of time and effort | Source


  1. In a heavy skillet, sauté garlic and onions in good quality oil (cold pressed virgin olive, safflower, canola) 'til almost transparent. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Raise heat and quickly sauté mushrooms 'til just done. Set aside with onions.
  3. Lower heat and add ground beef (or fresh ground meat of your choice). Cook, stirring to break up meat, until no pink remains.
  4. Pour off any excess oil or fat and return to heat. Add cooked ground meat and stir until heated through. Add mushrooms and onions and stir to combine. Add seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings as required.
  5. Pour in chicken broth or stock, and stir 'til combined. Remove mixture to an oven-proof baking dish or casserole.
  6. Top with vegetable layer, enough to completely cover the meat mixture. Gently mound on the mashed potatoes OR mashed cauliflower, for the Eating Clean/Low Carb version, smoothing the top slightly. Sprinkle with grated cheese (either regular cheese OR a non-dairy OR lactose-free option) and parsley. Place in 400 F oven to brown crust.
  7. When cheese is melted and bubbly, and the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and serve immediately with tossed green salad and a fresh crusty loaf.


  1. Make sure the cauliflower is very well-drained. I recommend leaving it a sieve, over a bowl or pot after you drain it. Granny used to set it over a bowl with the pot lid on top. You'll be surprised how much more liquid will drain off.
  2. You can replace the roll-cut carrots with chopped green beans. These are your best low-carb option. You can also add peas, though they are a higher carb option.
  3. Yet another version of this recipe calls for mashed yams (the orange ones) instead of potatoes. They will be much sweeter, but match up beautifully with a curried filling - just add turmeric, cardamom, and your favorite curry blend to the meat for an eastern-style taste treat.

Fatayer - Lebanese Meat Pie

Another version of meat pie in pastry
Another version of meat pie in pastry | Source

Christmas Eve Tourtiere

Filling Variations:

You can substitute 1/2 lb. left-over cooked roast, ground fine, and 1/2 lb. fresh ground meat - lamb and veal, pork and lamb, or pork and beef are very nice combinations.


  • 1 potato, very large, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lb. lean ground pork, OR substitute 1/2 cooked meat, ground, plus 1/2 lb. fresh ground meat
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, cleaned and cut in 3 pieces, leaves on
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. savory, fresh or dried, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves, ground
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten with a fork


  1. In saucepan, bring lightly salted water to boil. Add potato quarters and cook til tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon when done, mash and set aside.
  2. Discard all but 1/2 cup potato water. Add ground meat, onion, celery, garlic, savory, thyme, allspice, and cloves. Break ground meat with a spoon. Simmer and cook uncovered until meat is no longer pink and liquid is reduced by half.
  3. Remove celery pieces and discard. Stir in mashed potato, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning to taste, and let cool in refrigerator.
  4. Divide puff pastry into quarters. Roll out each quarter into a 12 x 9 inch rectangle and cut into twelve equal pieces.
  5. Brush each piece with beaten egg and place a heaping teaspoon of meat mixture in the center of each.
  6. Fold pastry over filling to enclose filling and make a triangle. Dip tines of a fork in flour and lightly crimp the edges of the pastry triangle together to seal them.
  7. Continue with the remainder of the dough and reserve any left-over beaten egg in the refrigerator.
  8. Turnovers may now be covered and refrigerated overnight, or sealed in freezer bags and frozen for up to two months. Thaw in refrigerator before baking.
  9. Arrange turnovers on baking sheet, brush with reserved beaten egg. Bake in center of oven at 400 F. until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot with cranberry/walnut conserve, or your favorite red or green tomato chutney.

These delicious morsels are sure to become a family favorite.

Cook Time

Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 1 hour 5 min
Yields: Makes 12 mini-tourtieres

Pastry Topped Meat Pies - So Many Variations

Since writing this, even more absolutely delectable meat pie recipes have appeared on line including an amazing meatball pie, that features savory meatballs, smothered in rich gravy, all nestled under a flaky pastry topping.

Another recipe calls for spicy, ground pork filling, topped with a layer of apples. And depending on which apples you use, tart or sweet, you can add more or less spicy heat to the filling - a teaspoon of cardamom certainly brings out the flavors of the meat and fruit quite nicely.

This is perhaps a modern take on the old practice of putting the meat at one end of the hand-held meal, and fruit or jam at the other end. Dinner and dessert in one handful. You can see where our modern pizza-pops had their humble, and perhaps much more healthful, beginnings.

Traditionally, depending on which part of the old-country you hailed from, your meat pie - or pasty if you were from Lancashire, like granny - could contain almost any kind of ground meat. But to be called Shepherd's Pie, the meat had to be lamb.

Another way to make the meat pies uses a very short crust, a bit thicker on the top. You can fill the crust with cooked venison and ground beef, mixed with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme, along with a bay leaf that is discarded after cooking the meat. This version has vegetables at all.

But however you make it, as a quick way to use up left-overs, or a new dish all on its own, Shepherd's Pie remains a family favorite and one of the mainstays of home-made comfort foods.

Please rate this recipe

5 stars from 2 ratings of Shepherd's Pie

© 2009 RedElf


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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      13 months ago from Central Florida

      My husband has French-Canadian ancestry, so we have pate chinois which is their odd name for shepherd's pie. Very tasty and warming.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Canada

      My pleasure - talk to any shepherd, though, and they'll have a different version LOL

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      There is a Canadian tv show we have been watching...."Where the Heart Comes," or something like that. They are always eating Shepherds Pie, and I was wondering what the heck it was. Now I know. Thanks, Elle!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, Gal. We love it, too. I think the only version we like better is one called Pate Chinoise.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      RedElf, our family loves shepard's pie. You recipes look so good I can wait to try them. Bookmarked, up, and useful.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      You'll enjoy Granny's recipe - guaranteed! Thanks for commenting, Debbie.

    • debbiesdailyviews profile image


      9 years ago

      This has made me " STARVING "

      Going to mark this, and try it.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      So happy I could help out with Granny's recipe, D. :)

    • d.william profile image


      10 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Wow. talk about good timing. i am having some friends over and wanted to make shepherd's pie and could not find my recipe. I was just going on line to find one somewhere when i ran across yours. Thanks.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      You are most welcome, TransScribbler - always nice to meet another "collector"! I look forward to hearing from you.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Now that I have finished wipping the drool from my keyboard, I can thank you for this great recipe! I am another grandchild who remembers old meat grinders and leftover rost meat going in to shepherds/cottage pies, pasties, etc. Being a fan of home made over store bought (read as "processed") foods, this one is going in my recipe file! Will let you know how it turns out.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      I hope you're not too hungry to sleep, Xonica. Enjoy! Nice to meet you.

    • Xonica profile image

      Tracy Trending 

      10 years ago from Scotland

      lol oh my gosh its midnight here and that just made me so hungry! ...sounds yummy , going to try this one.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      See you then!

    • Winsome profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      It's a date RedElf. =:)

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      Hey, Winsome! That Texas slow-cooked brisket sounds amazing. Make a hub and I'll come for the recipe - better yet, make the dish, and I'll just show up for dinner! :D

    • Winsome profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      RedElf, all I can say is ya-ummmmmmm! We are fortunate to have a British Pub & Eatery with a French-trained chef that makes a "pasty" with shepherd's pie filling that is scrumptious. Your hub gives me an idea for my left-over Texas slow-cooked brisket. Together with a little ground pork and your Gram's recipe--voila y'all! Thanks =:)

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much! nice to meet you, Lady. We like it too - my daughter-in-law makes a version with ground meat topped by creamed corn, and them mashed potatoes over all. She puts cheese on hers, too.

    • Lady-of-the-Lake profile image


      10 years ago from Ohio

      I make shepherd's pie myself. I think it bears mentioning that shredded beef roast AND GRAVY make a great pie too. My son can hardly wait until I make it a day or two after crock pot roast night. He likes shredded cheese on top of the potatoes too. I think adding cheese is an Italian thing though.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      So glad you like Granny's recipe, Info Help! Thanks so much for stopping by to comment.

    • Info Help profile image

      Info Help 

      10 years ago from Chicago

      Hi RedElf,

      I am going to make your grandma's original recipe tonight for dinner for my family. It sounds delicious and I cannot wait to try it!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

    • itakins profile image


      10 years ago from Irl

      Wow -these look absolutely scrumptious.Brilliant.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      Greetings, Dolores. You can use almost any meat - even the vegetarian version can be quite scrumptious. So glad you stopped by and commented.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      RedElf - now I can't wait for winter - that shepherd's pie looks divine! People always say that you have to make it with lamb but I'm glad to see it's okay with beef.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      Cheers, Wayne, and thanks for stopping by to comment - nice to meet you!

    • Wayne Orvisburg profile image

      Kenneth Wayne 

      11 years ago from Alabama

      Sounds good. I'll have to try it.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      Nice to meet you, Earthscribe. Hope the recipe does you proud, adn good lick with the 30in 30 challenge!

    • Earthscribe profile image


      11 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      YUM!! I never got the family recipe, so here's my chance to save face :) Thanks!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      tdarby, thanks for stopping by

      Camping Dan, happy to have helped out, and thanks for stopping by

      Enjoy, Jerilee - always nice to share one of my granny's best, and so glad you stopped by

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      11 years ago from United States

      Bookmarked this hub recipe and ready to go get the ingredients. I've got to give both of these a try.

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 

      11 years ago

      Sound delicious! We were just talking about what to do for dinner and I have plenty of ground beef.

    • tdarby profile image


      11 years ago


    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      You're on, ladies, but we'll have to have it at Enelle's as my home-hub is currently undergoing sub-division (lol). I hear she has a very sunny backyard, though, so if one of you (Candie V?) wants to bring a big pitcher of Sangria, and another would bring a lovely crisp green salad (Hawkesdream ?), Enelle can supply the yard, the table and chairs, and candles (in case the diners linger into the evening), and I shall supply, ohhh, let's say meatball pie, tortiere (with the pastry crust) and the turnovers in phylo...sound like a plan? Oh, and something light and chocolaty for dessert - oops. Nope, can't bring that - haven't written that hub yet.

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 

      11 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      I definitely think RedElf should make several selections, judging by the response so far LOL

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Al Hawkes 

      11 years ago from Cornwall

      Me too, especially if you are doing the pastry topping! yum.

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      11 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      Enelle, call me when it's arrainged, I shall be there with my napking fastened in my collar! Yuummm!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      Thanks, Enelle - anytime you'd like...should we have roast lamb as well, LOL?

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 

      11 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      so...when did you say you were coming by to cook this? Hmmmmm?? I'm sure I could invite a few hubfriends over for a repast....:D :D shall we say next Tuesday? LOL Great hub, will definitely be trying this recipe out on the family!


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