Irish Cottage Pie | Shepherd's Pie

Gluten free cottage pie and shepherds pie recipe with mashed potato topping
Gluten-free shepherd's pie, Irish style cottage comfort.

Old School Comfort

I have been craving comfort food and shepherd's pie- even though it's been a warm and breezy week here by the Chama River north of Santa Fe. The promise of Spring is tugging at our sluggish winter bodies, cracking and stiff and a tad thicker than one would care to admit. We are itchy to walk- just as the junipers are shedding pollen in curtains of dirty yellow. We walked and sneezed and rubbed gritty eyes.

For this we waited all winter? I complained.

It strikes us as ironic if not downright diabolical. Mother Nature is taunting us. The coyotes are laughing on the rim of the mesa. I listen and note they are closer than usual, emboldened by our wintery hibernation. The land belongs to them now. We're simply tourists.

This doesn't bother me. I'm just here in passing, on my way home. Taking the long way- dreaming of the west coast and waves of glassy blue-green curling in to shore. I'm an ocean girl, a beachcomber. A wearer. Not a . I've never ridden a horse in my life. Or handled a rifle (two skills highly valued in this part of the world). The desert does not feed me. She takes from me. Sucking every last drop. If I stay here much longer I fear you will find me as brittle and sun-bleached as one of Georgia O'Keeffe's bone paintings.

I'm not quite ready to give up on the juicy part of my life.

Meeting your soul mate (did I just write the words soul mate?) after mid-life will do that to you. An autumn meeting of kindred spirits inspires a sharp thirst for more time. More juice. Looking ahead- down the road of your life- can be alarming. It's shorter and rutted and slightly curving downhill, not so far and away anymore. Carpe diem as the wise ones say.

And though (in theory) we should all embrace each day as if it might, indeed, be our last, this effort gains a deeper poignancy at 54. My knuckles are so bumpy with arthritis now I can no longer wear my wedding ring. I twisted it off with pain and dish soap. I didn't want to have it sawed off. Just the thought of the saw buzz made me shiver with separation anxiety.

When I was lying on the gurney outside the operating room, awaiting hip surgery- after ten hours in the ER playing our Movie Game with said soul mate (to play the game you start with A and take turns naming a movie title until you run out of A's; then you move on to the B's) the pony-tailed anesthesiologist told me to remove my wedding ring.

I can't, I said. It won't come off, don't worry.

It's hospital policy, she explained. To remove jewelry before surgery.

You'll need a saw, I said. She smiled. I'll get some surgical tape- we'll tape it, she whispered.

I tilted my face toward my husband. He stood there, stoic and brave, betrayed by a gleam of wetness obscuring his usual clear and steady blue gaze. We both knew the risks of breaking a hip, and undergoing emergency hip surgery. The odds aren't kind. But my age was in my favor. I was twenty years younger than the average woman who falls and breaks a hip. You're a spring chicken, the surgeon had said.

I love you, I told my husband. Tell the boys I love them. I felt the nurse tape my wedding ring. Ready? she asked.

Shepherd's/Cottage Pie - Gluten-free Comfort Food
Red potatoes make a beautiful topping for Irish cottage pie.

Karina's Irish Cottage Pie | Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Recipe posted March 2009.

Traditional comfort food for those of you still shoveling snow- or battling juniper pollen. Well, traditional with a few tweaks. We used organic grass fed buffalo. And no dairy at all- no butter or milk. You can use the more traditional ground beef in this recipe, if you prefer. It would be tasty with ground turkey, too. Or even keep it vegan with kidney beans or tofu. It's all good. Spring is almost here. Really. It is.


For the topping:

6 small to medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, to taste

For the filling:

1 pound organic grass fed ground meat or free-range ground turkey
2 large leeks, cleaned, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 medium carrots, trimmed, sliced
1 cup baby peas- frozen, thawed, is fine
1 14-oz can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the potatoes in a pot of fresh salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until under fork tender.

Saute the ground meat or turkey in a large hot skillet till lightly browned; pour off the fat if there is any; return the skillet to the stove. Add a dash of olive oil. Toss in the leeks and garlic; stir and cook until the leeks are soft.

Add in the carrots; stir and cook for a couple of minutes till tender-crisp. Add in the baby peas and tomatoes. Stir in the red wine, balsamic vinegar, sugar, herbs and cinnamon. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Back to the potatoes:

Drain the potatoes. Season with sea salt, ground pepper. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and stir to soften the edges a bit.

Layer the filling in a casserole or baking dish.

Top with the potatoes.

Bake in the center of a preheated oven until bubbling and hot- about 25 to 30 minutes.

Serves 4.

More comfort food + cottage style pie recipes:

Sweet Potato Rancher's Pie
Good Karma Meatloaf Pie
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Recipe Source:

All images & content are copyright protected, all rights reserved. Please do not use our images or content without prior permission. Thank you. 

 photo Print-Recipe.png

xox Karina


  1. that's like over-the-top wonderful shepherd's pie! i'm in!



  2. What? Did this just happen? Oh no. There you had me wafting along with a tale of true love and BAM! If so, I send hopes for a good recovery and not too much pain: and that pie is looking gooood!

  3. Mmm, sounds so hearty and filling. Spring is not here yet, can't wait to give this a try.

  4. oh...I'm really drooling at the thoughts of this. Love the photos.

  5. you just took shepherds pie to a NEW level!!!!!!!!!!!! oh my!!! yum!!!!

  6. I've been enjoying your writing and recipes since just after your arrival in New Mexico. Look forward to hearing more of the journey as you head towards the sea.

  7. Ah - now I understand, on a second reading. However in the past it was, my sympathies. But that cottage pie ( love the name) looks fabulous!

  8. You are simply a brilliant writer. I have tears in my eyes, reliving the broken hip incident (and perhaps wondering if I'll ever find a soul-mate quite like Steve.) If not (and let's face it darling, the odds are looking rather slim) I will definitely be so grateful to have great blogging soul-sisters like you! And we will be gazing out at that sea together sometime soon, I can feel it coming!

  9. Nichole13:22

    I found your blog a few months ago and I can't thank you enough. You bring out all the good in every bad situation and inspire me to try to do the same. Thank you for sharing; you are a wonderful human being.

  10. HI Karina,

    thank you for such a beautifully written post about your longing and your loves and your hurts and healings. You are a wonderful writer. And the cottage pie looks good, too!! I might try it with kidney beans sometime. Thanks again for the beautiful words along with the scrumptious recipes.


  11. Thanks for continuing to share your recipes and stories!

  12. I'll teach you hot to shoot a shotgun if you give me that gorgeous bowl and utensil! :)

    Many thanks for all your wonderful recipes. This is the first place I send people who pity me and say "So what can you eat?"...then they realize I eat better than they do. Haha

  13. Karina, this recipe caught my eye right away: Hearty, tasty and quite healty :) We had your wonderful cottage pie for our Firday supper and enjoyed it a lot. It makes the perfect comfort food for a day like this one: cold, dark and humid.

    Thank you and have a great weekend!

  14. How's your hip doing? I've always admired you for overcoming your gluten intolerance and learning to cook in a very new way but I didn't know about this injury. :s

    Hope you are OK now.

  15. I think I'm in love....

  16. We had this tonight minus the tomatoes. I love tomatoes however I am nursing a baby that has some sort of food intolerance and I am trying to figure out what it is. I eat so many tomatoes normally, I am thinkin'.... Anyway, even without the tomatoes, the flavor was very good. My 3 year old ejoyed it with ketchup. IfI make it again, i think I might add just a smidge of pearl tapioca to the sauce. That's usually a good addition to beef strws or pot roast anyway. The only thing that was a bit tedious was peeling and dicing the potatoes. I am thinking this would be equally good with sliced unpeeled potatoes...just thinly sliced like a gratin. Sounds easier anyway. Thanks for your yummy recipes. I am enjoying trying them out.

  17. I made this tonight with a couple tasty substitutes to give it a southwest flavor (we live in ABQ). I used 1t. ground chipotle pepper (frontier brand)and a bit of extra garlic instead of the herbs & cinnamon, frozen fire roasted corn (trader joe's) instead of peas, and fresh tomatoes instead of canned since I had them on hand and wanted to use them up, and added 1/2 a yellow onion, diced. I liked my pre-GF-diet version of shepard's pie that had kind of a gravy holding it all together. I didn't have any good GF thickeners (we're new to GF cooking and we don't have a well stocked pantry yet) so I just sprinkled on some GF bob's red mill biscuit mix (maybe 1.5 to 2 T) once all the solid ingredients of the meat mixture were in the pan. I cooked it until all the flour looked absorbed, 3-5 minutes, then added the balsamic vinegar, 1/3 cup Merlot (it was kinda sweet so I didn't add the sugar), 1/3 c. GF beef stock (I found that it's pretty inexpensive @ TJ's), and a squeeze of tomato paste (since I used fresh tomatoes that weren't too juicy I wanted a bit more tomato flavor).

    I like my potatoes a bit creamier & bolder flavor than described in the recipe so I put them all in my kitchen aid with the whip attachment and added salt, pepper, garlic powder, EVOO and added the beef stock that I had already opened until the potatoes were the fluffy/creamy/smooth consistency I like. They turned out soooo rich tasting with the beef stock. I prepared some Hatch green chile (diced) and shredded white Tillamook cheddar to be added on as people liked.

    My GF boyfriend and his brother added green chile and cheese, I just put cheese since I don't like green chile, and my dairy/nut free 2 y/o daughter had hers w/o the toppings. As a non-allergic yet picky eater myself I was really pleased with the meal, my heat loving GF boyfriend and his brother ate A-LOT, and my toddler took a few bites (which is a success when I can get her to take 1 bite of anything). Considering all the allergies and preferences, I'd say the meal was a wild success! The biscuit mix didn't impart any strange flavors. Everyone enjoyed the flavor, and I didn't have to do too much work to accommodate the picky eaters and allergies. Thanks so much for a great recipe! I'll have to try it as written too:) But, I'd recommend my version for anybody wanting to jazz up a weeknight comfort-food staple.

    PS-Thank you, thank you for this great blog! We've made a few things just this week being our first week GF and we've been really happy with them! I'm glad your recipes also have lots of subs for things since my daughter is dairy and nut free. So far, it's helped me a TON in dealing with all these allergies. I'm a bit of a foodie so I was REALLY worried when my daughter was diagnosed with her allergies, and even more worried when we discovered my boyfriend's gluten intolerance. Now, it's kinda fun to think of what to make to please my foodie palate and deal with the dietary needs of my loved ones:)

  18. Anonymous20:24

    I recently find myself needing to go Gluten free for assorted medical reasons and i have to say, your blog and recipes have been an absolute life saver!