Eat Like a Princess - Merida - Shepherd's Pie

February is the month of love and passion! Who as more fire than our red-headed, headstrong princess Merida?  

Brave is set in medieval Scotland and once of my favorite dishes from this region of the world is shepherd's pie. A combination of meat, potatoes, and vegetables in a brown gravy in warm and comforting - it fills you up for the damp and weary Scottish weather ahead! Most people are family with some version of this casserole but don't usually realize a true shepherd's pie is made with lamb. Often they are served with ground beef which is more accurately called a cottage pie.

Ground lamb is a lot easier to find than you might imagine - our local King Soopers carries it along with bison, elk, and some meatless options! Lamb also has a unique flavor compared to beef. I usually describe it as being more "earthy" or with a different sort of tang to it that you don't get with regular ground beef. It works really well with creamy potatoes and gravy. If you aren't Brave enough to try a different protein or would rather try a meatless version this recipe should still work perfectly with leaner ground beef or a meat alternative. Recipes like these can be great ways to get your family to try different flavors, regional specialties, or use that cookware gathering dust in the back of your cabinet! I love using my oval casserole dish from Le Creuset for shepherd's pie.

No shepherd's pie is complete without its potato lid. You can get fancy and pipe it on or just spoon and smooth like in the recipe. My new favorite mashing potato for casseroles is the golden potato. They boil up creamy and a lovely color - mixed with cream and butter they are a perfect compliment to what lies beneath. I had about 4 medium potatoes this time around and it just barely covered my meat mixture so if your potatoes are larger I would go with four but if they are truly medium or small grab an extra to be safe. Also, if you mash this mixture by hand it will be a little chunky. Perfect for a rustic dish like shepherd's pie in my opinion, but if you're a smooth mashed potato junky whip out your hand mixer. Don't overwork it though or it could become gummy, gluey, and unappetizing due to excessive starch released from the potatoes.

I also served my shepherd's pie with Mickey-shaped biscuits on the side. I was short on time so I used a Pioneer buttermilk baking mix and followed the biscuit directions. A bit shocked at how wet and loose the dough was initially, I tipped it out onto my liberally floured counter and mixed in additional flour as I kneaded the dough. Once it was no longer sticky I rolled it out, cut my Mickeys. To add more flavor and browning to the tops I brushed them with melted butter. Baked on parchment they slid off the trays with no worries!

This recipe is a staple in my box and should be in the rotation more. My husband took leftovers to work the next day and reported he really enjoyed it. My dad had visited us the night I made this recipe so I sent him home with some - he reported it became his birthday dinner a few nights later! Interesting, both my husband and dad raved about how great the biscuits were after being reheated in the microwave. Go figure! Goes to show if you put some love and Disney magic into your cooking everyone loves it.

Shepherd's Pie


For the potatoes:

  • 1 ½ pounds or 4-5 medium-sized golden potatoes, peeled and diced to ½ cubes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (corn, canola, vegetable)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, and green beans), heated per package directions


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water, seasoned with salt to taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender and easily fall apart when pierced with a fork, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Place the heavy cream and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.
  5. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Add oil to a large pan on medium heat. Once heated, add the onion and sauté just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine.
  6. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute.
  7. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine.
  8. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
  9. Add the mixed vegetables to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into a medium sized casserole dish approx 11x7. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown.
  11. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
It may look like it has a lot of steps but it comes together quickly. You could use fresh veggies in this recipe but I find it turns out about the same and saves on prep and cook time which makes it a weeknight meal versus weekend meal for us! Give it a try and let me know if you went shepherd or cottage to start off Merida's Eat Like a Princess month... Comment below! 


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