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Sweet potato-topped shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie, garnished with rosemary

The evenings are beginning to draw in and it’s time for home comforts (first my apple and walnut oat crumble, now this – I think there might be a chillier weather theme developing here. I’m not complaining). I have fond memories of cottage pies bubbling away in the oven, served up with peas and gravy after school and my version is similar in some respects to my mum’s – different meat and different topping, yes but some elements are essential, namely a few good glugs of Worcestershire sauce.

This hearty shepherd’s pie is tasty, comforting and, best of all, pretty straightforward to make.

The warm sweetness of the mash works wonderfully with the meaty savoury flavour of the lamb mince and I urge you to have a go at making this slight change to this traditional dinner-time dish.

Notes on my recipe

The lamb

I’m most familiar with using minced lamb in shepherd’s pie so used this. Jamie has an interesting shepherd’s pie in which he used lamb shoulder – fancy.

Go for the best quality you feel comfortable buying. With the Soil Association’s fantastic Organic September campaign in mind, I bought organic mince (and sweet pots for that matter) for this dish.

Ingredients – serves 4-6

  • 950g sweet potatoes – washed and chopped into roughly equally-sized chunks. If you can bear it, don’t peel! The skin is (I like to think) full of goodness, and it provides great texture variation.
  • 500g lean lamb mince
  • A glug of vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion – diced
  • 1 white onion – diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 celery stalks – chopped
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms – sliced
  • 3 stems of rosemary
  • 1 stem of thyme
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • 200g strong cheddar – grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
  2. Chop the sweet potatoes and pop them on to boil in a pan of water with the lid on. When the lid begins to rattle, adjust it slightly so only half of the pan is covered. The sweet potatoes will take approximately 15 minutes to cook. Make sure you keep an eye on them if you get started on the meat and veg whilst the potatoes are still on the heat. Test their done-ness  by sticking in a sharp knife – when they slip off, they’re ready and should be drained and set aside.
  3. Brown the mince in a separate pan. When the mince is fully browned, set aside so you can use the same pan for the veg.
  4. Put the oil in the pan. When it’s hot (a piece of onion sizzles when dropped in), add the diced onions and leave them to sweat for a few minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, celery and carrot and leave to soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Put in the mushrooms, rosemary and thyme leaves and allow the flavours to develop for a couple of minutes.
  7. Add the browned mince, tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce to the veg mix. Stir and leave for a couple of minutes.
  8. Pour in the stock and leave to cook.
  9. Pop the butter in with the drained sweet potatoes and mash until they’re at your desired texture. I’m all about the rustic so a couple of lumps and some skin here and there is fine by me. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Assemble the pie in an oven-proof dish. Pop the meat in, roughly flatten it then top with the sweet potato mash.
  11. The pie will take around 20 minutes to bake through properly – watch out for the potato peaks browning too much and adjust the oven temperature if necessary. About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the grated cheese to the top of the pie.
  12. Serve with plenty of green veg and maybe a cup of tea.


Other possibilities

  • Mix up your mash – if you’re not quite ready to ditch the faithful Maris Pipers, go for half and half of sweet pots and half regular.
  • Crunchy breadcrumbs – add some fresh rosemary breadcrumbs to the topping when you add the cheese for a bit of extra crunch.
  • Sub in booze – for a richer flavour, you could add 200ml of red wine rather than stock.

7 thoughts on “Sweet potato-topped shepherd’s pie

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