Shepherd’s Pie Means “I Love You”

Every year on Valentine’s Day, I make the people I love Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. Because, in my mind, Shepherd’s Pie means love.

Shepherd's Pie 1
Some years ago, one of my daughters (age nine at the time) was in ICU for nearly a month following a car wreck. At the time, in addition to the daughter in the hospital, we had three other young children and an 8-week old newborn, so the girl’s Dad held down the fort at home, and the baby and I slept at the hospital and rarely left. I survived the first week almost entirely on saltine crackers and Jello Pudding cups from the ICU refrigerator.

After some days, I finally made my first real trip home – to take a real shower, revive my spirits, and visit my other girls and their Dad. When I arrived, I found my dear friend Bev and some other ladies in my kitchen, delivering dinner to my family. After a short visit with them, I went to shower and clean up. Then I read the girls a book, sang them a song or two, and packed up for the next week. Almost as an afterthought, I spooned some of the potato-topped casserole that Bev had left us into a plastic tub to take with me, and then I buckled my baby back into her carseat and sped off to the hospital. It wasn’t until late in the night, as my injured child slept amidst her web of tubes and wires that realized I was hungry. When I opened the plastic container, the sterile hospital air filled with amazing savory goodness. Padding down to the Parents’ Kitchen, I microwaved it, and then, fork full by fork full, I let that Shepherd’s Pie wrap me in a blanket of warmth, kindness, generosity – and hope. Even today, the memory – standing there alone in the hospital kitchen eating Bev’s Shepherd’s Pie – brings me to tears.

So, yes, Shepherd’s Pie means love – at least to me. It is a warm, comforting, enduring, hope-filled love – and in serving it on Valentine’s Day, that is what I offer to the people who mean the most to me.

Who in your life would savor some Shepherd’s Pie?

Usually made with ground beef, Shepherd’s Pie can easily be made vegetarian with the substitution of Gardeins Ground Crumble (by far my favorite ground meat substitute.)  Bev’s original recipe is A-Mazing, but over the years I’ve made a few tweaks; for example, the original recipe calls for peas, but I substitute diced yams because, as I mention frequently, I hate cooked peas.

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Shepherd's Pie
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dish Casserole
Cuisine: Serious Comfort Food
Serves: 10
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 small yam, peeled and cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 medium carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 lb ground beef, browned & drained OR 1 lb. Gardein Ground Crumbles (Vegetarian) {or some combination of the two for splitting the recipe)
  • 1 lb mushrooms coarsely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 5 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup, or more if needed
  • ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1¾ cup vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup red wine (I use Pinot Noir) or apple juice
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Use vegetarian if you are cooking for Veggies!)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1½ lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg
  1. For the filling: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add yams, onions, and carrots and cook until everything is soft. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have released their juices and are softened.
  2. Sprinkle flour over everything, and then squirt in ketchup. Cook and stir for about one minute.
  3. Add cream and cook about another minute. Add apple juice, soy sauce, and thyme and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick but still saucy, 5-8 minutes.
  4. At this point you can just stir your meat substitute or ground beef into the casserole mixture. However, if I am making this for both Veggies and Omnivores, I just spread the meat int ht bottom of their respective casserole dishes and then pout the vegetable mixture over each and give them a stir. This way I don't have to dirty any more dishes than I need to, and I don't have to guess proportions as much. If you are making this all together, you will need about a 2-quart casserole dish. Or, divide accordingly.
For the topping:
  1. Adjust over rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 375°. Bring potatoes, sw3eet potatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and water to cover to boil in a large saucepan over high heat, Reduce and simmer until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to saucepan and mash with butter and cream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Spread potatoes over filling, using a spatula spoon to smooth top. Brush with egg and drag a fork across the top to make ridges. Bake until the filling is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until top is golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Remove and cool 10 minutes. Serve.
Gardein Ground Crumbles are BY FAR my favorite ground meat substitute!


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Renée ♥

I'm a writer, teacher, autoharper, food & lifestyle blogger and proud Native Portlander.In my spare time, you can find me writing love songs about cowboys, exploring the moss-covered nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest, and making music with my talented singer-husband.
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  1. says

    I’m a little sentimental about Shepherd’s Pie, actually, since I had never had it until last year when I started eating meat again after being raw vegan and it was one of the first things I made. I usually make it with sweet potatoes or pureed cauliflower on top, since I don’t tolerate white potatoes well, and I don’t use flour to thicken or anything… I love reviving traditional recipes like this one for our modern real food diet! So nourishing, there’s a reason people in cold places like the UK developed this kind of recipe! I agree, it means love! =)
    Adventures in Dressmaking recently posted…Valentine’s-ey, festive real food treat: Chocolate covered candied orange peelsMy Profile

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