Jar Lunch: Irish Shepherd’s Pie

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Shepherd’s Pie is already Irish, but this vegetarian version adds bit of Guinness and is topped with colcannon instead of plain ol’ mashed potatoes. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish with cabbage or kale in mashed potatoes. I’ve used kale here as we still have it in the garden and it adds a festive green touch for St. Patrick’s Day.

This recipe can easily be made vegan with non-dairy margarine and milk & forgoing the optional cheese.

Irish Shepherd’s Pie
Makes six jar lunches in wide-mouth pint jars.

colcannon topping ingredients:
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (just under 1-1/4 lbs.)
3 (packed) cups chopped kale, tough ribs removed
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¾ cup milk
1-½ tablespoons butter
¾ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

filling ingredients:
14 ounces vegetarian sausage (such as Gimme Lean), crumbled
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup Guinness
½ cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons vegetarian Worcestershire
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

optional topping:
6 tablespoons shredded Dubliner cheese or sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Prepare the colcannon:
Peel the potatoes and chop into large cubes. Place in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15 minutes, until the potatoes begin to break apart when poked with a fork. Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, mash thoroughly and cover.

While the potatoes are cooking, bring the kale, leek, milk, butter, salt, and nutmeg to a simmer in a small pot. Keep covered and stir occasionally until soft, 10-12 minutes. Add the kale mixture to the mashed potatoes and stir to combine. Keep covered while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling:
Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the vegetarian sausage crumbles. Cook until browned. Set sausage aside on a plate.

Put ½ tablespoon olive oil in the same pan used for the sausage. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, cabbage, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Saute for 10-12 minutes, until soft. Add flour and stir until veggies are evenly coated. Next add the Guinness, broth, and Worcestershire and cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Add the sausage, peas, and parsley and continue to cook until combined and warmed through. Remove the bay leaf.

Fill the jars:
Divide the filling evenly between six wide-mouth pint mason jars (a little over a cup in each jar). A jar funnel is very helpful for this step but not required. Next divide the colcannon topping evenly between the six jars (just over ½ cup in each jar).

Bake the filled jars:
Place jars on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet with jars from the oven, and switch setting to broil.

Add cheese as an optional topping. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon at the top of each jar. Return baking sheet and jars to the oven under the broiler. Watch closely while broiling. Allow the cheese (or colcannon if you didn’t add cheese) to turn golden, approximately 1-3 minutes.

Cool completely before putting lids on the jars and refrigerating.

Next time I make this, I’m doubling it and freezing half!

If you try this recipe or any of the other Jar Lunches, don’t forget to add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr Group. Flickr users, please join! Show off your own clever jar lunches.


Filed under food

19 responses to “Jar Lunch: Irish Shepherd’s Pie

  1. This is a cool post and great photos! Stop by and say hi :)

  2. Yumm! Looking forward to trying out some of these ideas! I always get laughed at when I bring my many containers to work. They all have a little bit of something in them – now there’s just one jar! Great!

  3. Have a Great Weekend:) Happy St Paddys Day!

  4. Love the colcannon on top idea! I also do a very popular vegan shepherd’s pie. Even The (non-vegan) Husband likes it better than regular. I use Yves fake ground beef and add some red lentils. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    • Oh, I bet lentils are good for adding a different texture. Good idea! What veggies do you add to it?

      • I usually don’t add a lot of veg to the bottom mixture, except mushrooms. The top is pure mashed potato (with cheddar for the non-vegans or those willing to cheat a little!) and served with a heaping portion of buttered, salted and peppered English peas. I learned the recipe in England, so mine’s pretty traditional, but I like how you use the colcannon on top! Great way to up the veg content in a yummy way.

  5. Fantastic concept in the Jar Lunch. Great to see the influence of our little island spreading across the globe, even if it is only for one day a year. Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Dublin, Ireland.

  6. lisabrundage

    Love this. If you freeze it, what will you do–just freeze it in individual jars?

    • Yes, we would freeze it in individual jars. Just leave enough headspace so they don’t burst when things expand. We haven’t yet made enough that we actually needed to freeze it, though.

      • Nancy

        This (and the other jar lunches) looks fantastic!!! I am trying to fill my freezer with yummy stuff for the family anticipating some down time after giving birth. So this may be a stupid question but do you freeze before or after you bake?

        • misterkrista

          Thanks! I baked first, but I can’t think of a reason why you couldn’t bake it afterwards. Let me know how it works out!

  7. Elizabeth

    I hate to be a wet blanket, but some may want to know that Guinness is made with Isinglas (fish gusts) and Worcestershire sauce with anchovies.

    There are vegetarian/vegan (and super delicious) Worcestershire sauces to be found. I’m sure other great stouts could be subbed if it matters to ya!

    • misterkrista

      The reason the recipe calls for “vegetarian Worcestershire” is that I am aware that traditional has anchovies in it. I’ve been buying the vegetarian stuff since the 90s!

      About a billion things have unlabeled animal ingredients in them – like alcohol and cheese. If you don’t eat them, that’s great, but many vegetarians find it difficult to be as strict.

  8. Scargosun

    This looks great AND I finally just bought the plastic wide mouth lids for my jars. It’s about time. I think maybe I will make a couple batches this weekend and freeze some. :)

  9. Colcannon on top! Awesome!

    I make a veg shepherd’s pie inspired by the moles of Redwall Abbey. (I love the descriptions of the food in those books! And that all the protagonists are pretty much vegetarian except for the very occasional fish.) Like you, I also use a good dark beer in the stew but we don’t much go for the meat analogs in our house. A combination of carrots, onions, rutabegas, and celery make for a suprisingly meaty textured stew.

    • Nancy

      I just finished making this tonight, and my family LOVED it! I did add some local grass-fed beef, and added a small head of cauliflower to the mashed potatoes, but otherwise followed to the letter – including kale and potatoes out of our garden. Needless to say, I don’t think any will make it to the freezer :)

  10. This looks amazing – I am totally making it for my lunches this week! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Pingback: 20 Mason Jar Meals | The Budget SocialiteThe Budget Socialite

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