Single Serving Shepherd’s Pie is the ultimate in adaptable comfort food. Basically meat and vegetables covered by mashed potatoes, it requires only variety in the ingredients and ingenuity in the way you combine them.
You can make it as a single serving dinner for just yourself. Or you can make it for two or more in large ramekins or small oven-proof bowls for each serving. Use leftovers or pull together whatever fresh and frozen food items you have around.
A while back I posted a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that feeds 6. This version is similar, but works well for singles or smaller households. Originally (in 2014), I used the recipe to feed one hungry guy. I went out with girlfriends and left this Single Serving Shepherd’s Pie for my beloved. In that instance, I used ground beef as the meat and added bacon for extra flavor. Figuring that he would appreciate a warm dinner and a cold beer on a blustery night, I left it in the refrigerator, fully cooked, with warming instructions in a note on the counter. The next morning, when I asked him how he liked the dinner I had left for him, he smiled broadly and gave me a kiss. I figure that counts as at least 4 stars, maybe 5.
Fast forward to mid-March 2020. We’re home for the foreseeable future, except for significant errands and walks around the neighborhood. I’m trying to keep our spirits up by varying our main meal of the day. Using up what we have on hand to make Single Serving Shepherd’s Pie seemed like a good way to do that. And, although one might think of this as a wintry meal, it is welcome on a chilly spring evening too. Since there are two of us, I made double the recipe, which is why the photos show two servings.
I had chopped lamb in the freezer and an assortment of frozen and fresh vegetables. Potatoes are a staple in this house (my guy can never get enough of them), so the topping was no problem. Adapting as all of us are these days, I set to work with what I had and discovered that lamb makes a flavorful base for the filling. (Bacon is an optional ingredient in the recipe if you use beef. Lamb does well on its own, without bacon.)
At the last minute, I decided to add some fresh rosemary.
Don’t have fresh herbs? Use dried, Want to make it vegetarian? Eliminate the meat, add extra vegetables and exchange vegetable broth for the beef stock. This is a recipe, but you can think of it as a template.
The order of the pie is simple. First cook the meat if you’re not using already-cooked meatloaf.
Then sauté the hard vegetables for a few minutes in olive oil.
Add the flour and stir to cover the vegetables, cooking the mixture for a few minutes to avoid the raw taste of flour.
Then add the heated broth or broth/water mixture and continue to stir. If this process (oil/fat, cooked flour, and hot liquid) seems familiar, it’s the same one that works to make gravy or the sauce for mac ‘n cheese.
Add the meat, frozen vegetables, and the seasonings and cook for a few minutes more.
Put the filling in an oven-safe ramekin or single-serving bowl.
Finally, top with the potatoes, followed by the cheese and butter. Sprinkle on the paprika and bake. Sure you could leave off the cheese. But if you want a really crusty top, shredded or grated cheese is the way to go.
Simple and yummy.
To see how easy it is to make this Single Serving Shepherd’s Pie, check out the video:
Single Serving Shepherd's Pie
The ultimate in adaptable comfort food. Use any type of beef, whatever vegetables you have around and mashed potatoes to put together this delicious one-dish meal.
- 4 ounces meat - chopped, cut into small pieces or shredded Beef is traditional, but lamb works too.
- 2 strips bacon - optional
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced hard vegetables (e.g. onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, string beans)
- 1/2 cup frozen vegetables (e.g. peas, corn)
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup liquid - either all beef stock or 1/2 stock & 1/2 water Alternatively, use vegetable broth.
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried thyme, rosemary, etc If using fresh herbs instead of dried, use about 3 times as much.
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup mashed potatoes
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1-2 tablespoons grated or shredded hard cheese (e.g. Parmesan, romano, sharp cheddar)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
If your meat is not leftover (already cooked, such as meatloaf), cook it and set aside. if using bacon, cook it, drain the fat off, and dry the bacon on a paper towel, crumbling it in the towel once it has cooled down.
Add the tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, heat it, then add the fresh vegetables. Cook them for 3-5 minutes, stirring semi-regularly until they are crisp but beginning to cook through.
Add the flour and stir frequently for 2 minutes, until the flour is incorporated and cooked. In a few minutes, the flour will thicken the broth and water, a variation on the method used in making gravy. But first it has to cook, so there is no raw flour taste in the pie.
Heat the broth and water (I microwaved it for 1 minute on high) and add it to the vegetables. Stir until the vegetables are well-coated in a thick, almost-gravy. Add the cooked meat, the bacon (if using), and the frozen vegetables. Cook the mixture a low-medium heat for a few minutes, stirring until everything is combined and the frozen vegetables start to cook. Add the Worcestershire sauce, herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the mixture into the baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes, leaving the potato roughly spooned in (or make ridges with a fork) so that edges will brown as the Shepherd’s Pie bakes. Dot with the ½ tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with cheese and paprika.
Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes, until the top is browned and steam comes out when you insert a spoon down to the meat-and-vegetable mixture. If the filling is bubbling, but the top is not yet nicely browned, turn the heat up or use a low-broil setting for 1-2 minutes.
Let the pie cool for a few minutes before eating.
For the mashed potatoes, we like them made this way, but you can follow any recipe and use any type of potato.