Pie For Dinner: A Savory, Spiced Lamb Pie

November 19, 2014

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: Exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A story about the intersection of school nights and dreams -- and why all of ours should involve this warm, cinnamony lamb pie. 

spiced lamb pie

Shop the Story

When I was 10 years old, I wanted world peace, no capital punishment, and an endless supply of Fun Dip Sticks.

At 44, I want my kids’ homework done, the table set without triple requests, and for all of us to sit down to dinner at the same time with napkins in our laps.

I want my son to take a bath at least once a week.

I want a slow, luxurious husband-kiss delivered to the side of my neck while I chop herbs.

I want my fall filled with warm and cinnamony lamb pies.

I want to sit at the kitchen table -- red wine in hand, breathing deeply, staring at the wall, thinking about nothing -- while my husband does the dishes.

I want to stop yelling at my children.

I want all of the laundry folded and tucked away, the bills organized and paid, the leak under the kitchen sink fixed.

I want us all to feel safe.

spiced lamb pie

Last Wednesday, at 6 PM, I try for these dreams.

But there are some issues.

My husband is out of town.

The red wine gives me a headache. I google perimenopause and red wine. The news is horrifying.

So I become a yelling machine. 

No way. Not on a school night. No. I don’t care how nicely you ask. No screentime. No. No! Nooooooooooo!

No. Please, Dash. Don’t sharpen your pencil with a chef knife!

Pick up your lunchbox your Legos your jacket your dirty socks your homework your cheddar bunnies!!!

spiced lamb pie

I turn away from it all to stir a pungent paste of garlic, anchovies, tomato paste, and spices into the ground lamb. My world fills with cinnamon, paprika, cumin. The juices reduce down and thicken. I turn off the heat and reach for the dough.

I hear a jumble of voices: teacher, mama, recipe writer. Don’t move your body, move the dough. Don’t overhandle it. Add flour. Move quickly. Look at the beautiful marbling of butter. Isn’t dough amazing? Want to make a honey pie with the scraps? 

I pour the filling into the pie shell, slide as much cheese as possible underneath the top crust, and bust out a scrappy crimp.

I am no longer yelling.

I snap out of my pie trance and remember that kids need to be fed at a reasonable hour on a school night.

And 8:30 PM isn’t reasonable. 

I pull out the frozen pizza. 

spiced lamb pie

Spiced Lamb Pie

Serves 6

2 batches of your favorite pie dough (enough for two 10-inch circles rolled out 1/4-inch thick)
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and diced (yielding about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
14 1/2 ounces crushed or diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I prefer creamy Grey Poupon)
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 egg
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (fleur de sel or Maldon)

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Phyllis Grant

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Denise
  • A T
    A T
  • aargersi
  • SallyM
  • healthierkitchen
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Denise May 9, 2015
A T. November 24, 2014
Dear dear Phyllis, 2 words (aside from yum yum!)
Wiley Protocol.
(aka: bio-identical hormones)
aargersi November 20, 2014
Phyllis! 1) Yum 2) don't believe all the hype re: menopause and wine - the latter gets you through the former. Buy a personal fan on a rope. 3) Yum
SallyM November 19, 2014
I can almost taste and smell this lamb pie Phyllis. Thank you for bringing some spice to this cold and rainy day! You're great at writing and creating the most wonderful and inspiring dishes...
Phyllis G. November 20, 2014
Thank you. And I'm thrilled that the pie comes to life for you. That was my goal.
SallyM November 19, 2014
healthierkitchen November 19, 2014
Rarely do the frustrations and mundanity of everyday life sound so beautiful! Love your writing!
Phyllis G. November 20, 2014
your comment really moved me. thank you.
Katie S. November 19, 2014
I want: my kids to be kind to eachother, to not care about wrinkles, to be in the moment, and to eat this lamb pie. Lovely, as always.
Phyllis G. November 20, 2014
oh katie. thank you. and yes to being in the moment. and not caring about wrinkles. and being kind.
Emilie K. November 19, 2014
Why did you add the cheese? Not a criticism, an honest question, what does it add? It seems such a lovely persian riff but the cheese confuses me and I can't taste it anymore despite your lovely lovely writing.
Phyllis G. November 19, 2014
I love this question. And just last night, Kenzi Wilbur (my editor @food52) and I were discussing the name of the pie, We considered including the cheese in the recipe title. But I was worried that it would turn some people off. What it becomes is just an extra layer of fat and flavor. It melts into and thickens the meat and it becomes a part of the upper crust. It's odd in concept. But quite wonderful in flavor. But feel free to omit!
ChefJune November 19, 2014
This sounds SO good! And definitely luxurious enough for a company dinner.
Jane K. November 19, 2014
This is so well written, I simply love it. Will be making this luxurious little thing one of these cold winter nights...
Kelley B. November 19, 2014
this is lovely.
Kenzi W. November 19, 2014
In your honor, I am going to try to make this on a weeknight this week. I will make sure my freezer is stocked with pizza.
Phyllis G. November 19, 2014
Please make your pie dough the day before. xoxo
Cassandra R. November 19, 2014
I would love to know more about this pie's origins and history!
Phyllis G. November 19, 2014
I wish I had a wonderful story! It originates from my kitchen. From the need for something comforting. I suppose a shepherd's pie would be the closest inspiration. But honestly, this pie comes out of my obsessive need to cook. Every single day. And it certainly includes most of my favorite things: lamb, garlic, anchovies, pie dough. Thanks so much for asking!
Cassandra R. November 22, 2014
Thank you for your answer! It reminds me a good deal of a moroccan lamb pastry, but the cheese is an interesting addition. You capture real life so beautifully and I so admire your ability to capture the difficulty, not just the beauty, of life. I feel so often that the most beautiful blogs portray a perfect life, but you portray real life, something I strive to do in my blog as well - you're a wonderful example.