Saturday, November 10, 2012

Traditional Scottish Shepherd's Pie

January 25 is traditionally the night Scottish literary and poetry lovers celebrate Burn's Supper. Robert Burn's grace, reportedly given at a supper hosted by the Earl of Selkirk, is usually what's spoken to open the dinner:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
The supper starts with the soup course, such as Scotch beef broth (very salty and peppery), Potato soup (it's like an onion soup with slabs of potatoes floating in it) or Cock-a-Leekie (a chicken and leek broth based soup) is served.
Then guests stand as the haggis is sung in. Last supper I went to we sang "A Man's a Man for A' That" followed by a number of whiskey toasts. By your third sip, if you're not a whiskey drinker, your head gets good an' swimmie. Folk take turn to out do the others with recitations of Burns' work and a lot of liquor is thrown down. We Scots sure can drink (and talk) a leg off a chair! Another traditional dish you'll see at these suppers is a Shepherd's pie. Mine has diced potatoes rather than turnips. The night is finished off with toasts to the host and an oft sloppy round of Auld Lang Syne.


Ground beef, cubed potatoes or turnips (any root vegetable will do), a cubed onion, salt, pepper, peas, a doubly liberal splash of Worcestershire sauce, and if you have it three fingers of dark peat whiskey.

The pie crust must be crisp and flaky. Use the cold lard and butter cut into the dry ingredients technique. Joy of Cooking's recipe is perfect. Do Not use a boxed pie crust!

Evenly spoon in the filling and do not crimp the crust.

Make whipped potatoes. I only use Bob's Red Mill potato flakes. They produce the lightest and fluffiest potatoes I've ever seen! Add pats of butter and sprinkle paprika over top.

Bake at 400* for 25 minutes. Set on a trivet to cool for 20 minutes and then slice with a pie server.

The pie is light and filling. You'll never have a lead belly with this dish!


  1. I've never had a Shepherd's pie that had an actual crust before - very interesting. Looks delicious!

  2. My grandma Betty would make it like this, but her crust was considerably thicker and would taste like a savory shortbread. And she would often whip an egg into the filling to keep it together. I had the thin crust at the last Burn's Supper and just loved it. I've also seen it done sans crust, just a thick condensed filling with mash pressed firmly on top in a 9x11 casserole dish. Heavy heavy heavy like a lead balloon. :) This version is my favorite.