Shepherd’s Pie: It’s not Indian?!

Indian Shepherd's Pie

I vividly remember the moment my fork sliced through layers of pillowy potatoes and savory minced lamb as I ate my first shepherd’s pie.

I was 11 years old, visiting my friend, Pia, when her mother asked if I’d like to stay for dinner. I had eaten steak and potatoes before but this was an entirely different world of textures and flavors. For hours I described in detail to my parents each tasty nuance of this magical new ‘Indian’ meal I had just eaten. But when they stared blankly back at me, I began to realize something was amiss.

Since Pia’s mother was Parsi – a person from a small ethnic community of Indians that immigrated from Persia – I had assumed that the dish her mum had made was an Indian-Parsi dish; different from other Indian dishes I was used to, but nonetheless still Indian. Turns out I was too mesmerized by the delectable bites I carefully assembled on my fork to realize that what I was eating was an Irish, and not an Indian, dish.

It didn’t take long for my father, who had lived in England, to realize my error or to begin his subsequent string of affectionate teases that all ended in “it’s Indian!” His teases still remind me of a funny clip from the British Indian comedy group, Goodness Gracious Me, where a father stubbornly insists everything comes from India. I’ve added it to the end of this post.

Spoonful of Indian Shepherd's Pie

This past Saint Patrick’s day, I decided to try out a recipe I’ve been tossing around in my mind for a spicy shepherd’s pie that is indeed – Indian! I combined roasted garlic mashed potatoes with my favorite Indian spicy ground lamb dish called keema. The peas and fresh cilantro were not only tasty but added the requisite green color for the Irish holiday.

While gathering the ingredients for the recipe, I noticed how similar whole cilantro leaves look to shamrocks – the three leaf clovers that are the symbol of Ireland and the plant that Saint Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. As a nod to the holiday and to add another Indian twist to the recipe, I garnished each pie with a shamrock-looking cilantro leaf.

Now, dig in!

A printable list of ingredients and directions are at the end of this post,
along with an image of this Perfect Morsel.

Roasted Garlic

First, I roasted whole garlic cloves with a little bit of olive oil.

Mashed Potatoes

I added the soft garlic pulp, butter, half & half, salt and pepper to the boiled potatoes. Using a potato masher, I mashed the ingredients until I had smooth creamy garlicky potatoes.

Spices for Shepherd's Pie

I then added oil, onions, garlic, ginger and green chili to a pan. When the onions turned a light brown, I stirred in the ground meat, salt and all the spices – cumin seeds, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and garam masala.

Peas, Carrots, Cilantro for Indian Shepherd's Pie

Once the meat was well browned, I stirred in the peas, carrots, fresh cilantro, water and lemon juice and set the pan on a low simmer.

Ground Meat with Peas & Carrots

I let the meat and vegetables simmer until the peas were cooked, making sure not to dry out the meat.

Ramekins With Meat Filling

I filled each ramekin about 3/4 full with the saucy meat and vegetables.

Mashed Potato Topping

I topped off the meat filling with a couple of heaping spoonfuls of creamy mashed potatoes and sprinkled a little shredded Parmesan.

Baked Indian Shepherd's Pie

I baked the uncovered ramekins in the oven until the potato toppings were a crispy golden brown.

Morsel Of Indian Shepherd's Pie

And this, my friends, was one of the perfect morsels I eagerly assembled on my spoon this past weekend.

Let me know how this turns out for you and about any meals you’ve eaten that bring cultures together on a plate.



COOL FACT: Turns out the words “bungalow” and “shampoo” are really Indian.


  1. Hannah says

    This Irish lass wholeheartedly approves! My mouth is watering just looking at these beautiful photos. And using keema for your filling is a stroke of genius…

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