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Desi Shepherd's Pie

My weekends in Essex would be spent browsing the food section of ‘Marks & Spencer’ which had the poshest ready-to-eat meals, sauces, meats, desserts etc on display. Fancy pies, whisky custards, truffles, different types of butter, jams, and creams, gosh it was a food heaven for the Desi girl in me who had never stepped out of India till I got on that flight to Great Britain.

Living on a very tight budget I could hardly afford the food that was sold on the shelves of M&S, so after spending a few hours salivating over things that were beyond my budget, I would take myself to the local Tesco and buy cheap food that was easy on my pocket.

But occasionally as a special treat, I would indulge myself by buying something from M&S and my two favorites were ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ and ‘Brandy Cream’.  While the cream was a bit too heavy to indulge in, the pie was just out of the world. Life was simple in those days and something as basic as a ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ from M&S was enough to help tide over cold lonely nights.

The combination of seasoned minced meat, flavourful vegetables, and creamy mashed potatoes that were baked to perfection created a harmonious medley of textures and tastes. Each forkful was a journey through layers of warmth and heartiness, making it the perfect dish for a cozy, comforting meal. Its ability to comfort, satisfy, and evoke a sense of tradition makes it more than just a dish.

I make it often because not only is it delicious and hearty, but it also makes for great leftovers and can be made with leftover mince or kheema if you have it at home. Unlike the traditional version I skip the wine and the stock cubes, instead, I cook the mince ‘Desi style’ with Indian spices and so are the mashed potatoes that have turmeric for some colour. Sometimes I substitute the normal potatoes with sweet potatoes and or mix them both and it always tastes good. I love it when the potatoes crisp up and you can hear the crackling when you portion the pie and the turmeric gives it a lovely yellow hue. For me, Shepherd’s Pie is a reminder of a time when I learned to live on my own in a foreign country for the first time in my life and I survived.  

Recipe: Cooking time 1.5 hours

Ingredients for the mince:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tsp ginger garlic paste

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tomatoes finely chopped

  • 2 carrots, cubed

  • 1 cup cut French Beans (optional)

  • 1 cup frozen peas

  • 1 can of Kidney beans (Optional)

  • 750g ground lamb (mince) OR beef

  • 1/4 cup (55g) tomato paste

  • 3 dried bay leaves

  • 1 stick of cinnamon

  • 3 green cardamoms

  • 2 tsp red chilli powder

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 2 tsp coriander powder

  • Salt to taste

Ingredients for the Mashed Potatoes

  • 1.2kg potatoes boiled and mashed

  • 2/3 cup milk (whole or low fat)

  • 2 tbsp (30g) butter

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder or curry powder

For the Crust

  • 2 – 3 tbsp grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • Chopped parsley or coriander for garnish


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger garlic paste, and onion, and cook until softened.

  2. Add the lamb and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.

  3. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and mix well add all the dry spices and cook for 5 minutes on a low flame.

  4. Add the kidney beans, carrots, and French beans and mix well.

  5. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to a thick gravy consistency. Resist the urge to add water if you can. Should you feel that the meat is sticking to the pan you can add 1/2 cup of water.

  6. Add salt and pepper, taste, then add more if you like. Transfer the Filling to a 1.5-litre pie-baking dish. Stir through peas. Cover and cool.

  7. Put the mashed potatoes in a bowl add the butter and mash until melted, warm the milk, and add the turmeric powder, salt, and pepper. Mash until it's soft and smooth (i.e., spreadable consistency, but not sloppy), adjusting with a touch more milk if required.

  8. Spread mash onto the pie and use a fork to draw squiggles over the surface. Sprinkle with cheese, and drizzle with olive oil.

  9. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until deep golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot. Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh parsley or coriander if desired. 


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