Cast Iron

Spiced Lamb Pie

November 18, 2014
8 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

I usually use a 10-inch pie pan for this recipe but you can use any size or shape. I've even used a springform cake pan.

You can make this pie all in one evening, but I don’t recommend it. Try to make your pie dough and filling a few hours or a day ahead of time. And use your favorite dough recipe for the crust. (Here's one for reference:

Be warned. This pie is rich. You don't drain the fat from the lamb (but you can if you want). You line the interior with cheddar cheese. You use a butter crust. So make sure you cut the fat by serving the pie with something refreshing. Crème fraîche and sour cream are too rich. Use yogurt. And perhaps some pomegranate arils. Or serve it with a salad of hearts of romaine and tangy lemon vinaigrette. Just don't eat this pie alone. —Phyllis Grant

What You'll Need
  • 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 (from can or box)
  • 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)
  1. Take the lamb out of the fridge and break it apart into about quarter-sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. With your mortar and pestle, make a paste with garlic, anchovies, tomato paste, honey, and Worchestershire sauce. Mix in cinnamon, cumin, and paprika.
  3. Add olive oil and butter to a medium pot or cast-iron pan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, slide in your onions. Add salt. Stir. Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the meat. Stir for a few minutes, continuing to break apart the meat even more with the back of your spoon. It’s okay if it’s still pink; you will be cooking it for a long time. Add the spice paste. Stir for 2 minutes, integrating the paste and cooking it a bit in the hot pan. Add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the sauce thickens, about twenty minutes. Take off the heat and stir in herbs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sherry vinegar. Taste. Adjust seasoning. If you have time, allow it to cool.
  4. 20 minutes before making your pie, take your pie dough out of the fridge or freezer. Heat oven to 350° F. When the dough just starts to soften, scatter flour on your counter and roll out the first disc of dough into a circle that's about an inch bigger than your pie pan. (Shoot for the dough to be about 1/4-inch thick but don't worry too much. It will work regardless. I promise.) Press it into your pie pan. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, paint the interior of the dough with mustard. Pour in cooled lamb filling. Cover the filling with slices of cheese. Roll out second disc of dough. Place dough on top of cheese and filling. Seal the top layer of dough with the bottom. Tuck edges underneath. Crimp away! Or fold over. Or use the tines of a fork to make a pretty pattern. If you have any scraps of dough, add a few decorative flourishes in the form of a lightning bolt, a leaf, a star, or a heart.
  5. Whisk together egg and cream. Using a pastry brush, paint the top and edges of the pie with the egg wash. Don't go overboard. Just a light coating. You will have a lot left over. Save it for your next pie. Decoratively cut several 2-inch long gashes in the center of the pie to allow the steam to escape. Sprinkle crust with coarse salt. Bake until crust is golden brown and the lamb filling is bubbling a bit out of the slits (45 to 55 minutes). Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve with something refreshing like yogurt mixed with chopped mint and lemon zest. Or a crisp green salad with avocado and pomegranate arils.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sauertea
  • DessertByCandy
  • Robert P. Battersby
    Robert P. Battersby
  • Christine Otis
    Christine Otis
  • Fiona Stevens
    Fiona Stevens
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.

25 Reviews

Luke H. October 16, 2020
An excellent recipe. Followed it verbatim with gorgeous results. Used a springform pan, and once unmolded, it was a stunner. A rich and flavorful cold weather celebration kind of a meal. Give yourself plenty of time; this one's a project. I was skeptical of the cheddar, but it was delicious. Although, next time I'll sub in feta to complement the lamb a bit better.
Quartine S. April 16, 2020
Would you say this recipe is medieval?
Sauertea April 16, 2020
Yes definitely! I made it for one of my Games of Thrones watch parties.
whatever October 11, 2019
I love this pie. Sometimes I combine the lamb filling with cornbread instead of pie crust. I often omit the cheese.
Bill May 22, 2019
Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed spiced lamb pie from Food52. We are going to share it with select neighbours. If they like it’s much as we do, we may cooking it for as many as 40 people at a community meal!
Sauertea April 29, 2019
So delicious. Made it for a Game of Thrones themed dinner! Perfect for the long night. Will definitely make again!
Linda April 18, 2016
Delicious recipe-the combo of flavors is amazingly! I only used 1 lb of lamb which intensified all of the flavors. I also drained the lamb/onion mixture and used a springform pan. I served it with Greek yogurt w/mint & lemon zest. It was fabulous!
Sharon June 3, 2015
Looks great! Reminds me of moussaka, only baked in a crust instead of topped with custard. Must try.
Sue January 14, 2015
Does it really need the cheese? It seems like it would compete with the richness of the lamb rather than compliment it.
chum December 6, 2015
Had the same question but think the cheese helps as a barrier between the crust and the juicy meet. It keeps the crust from getting soggy.
DessertByCandy January 12, 2015
Did not get lamb at store so used ground beef and skipped the cheese. I made 2/3 of the filling into a tall 6-inch springform pan. Love the seasoning of the filling with just enough zest to make it standout. Will make again when I have pie dough in fridge.
Robert P. December 28, 2014
I have made two. The first following right along the line with your recipe and I found it best cold or at room temp. although the lamb fat was a bit off putting. I made the second by doing the lamb first and draining the fat. Then I did the onions and added a few mushrooms then put the meat back in and doubled the sauce. Words fail me but deliciouser sounds good.
Pamela S. February 18, 2015
THANK YOU for the suggestion of cooking and draining the fat .Excellent ! I usually do this but I am almost sure I would have forgotten . I agree this will definitely be more yummy now.
Bérangère B. December 22, 2014
I would like to comment about the pie but I'm here to comment about your blog post. I love it but couldn't find any comment section. I felt like you were in my head, expressing my words and thoughts and for that thank you! :) Hang in there pie loving mama!
Bérangère B. December 22, 2014
Oops found it! :)
Urbain D. November 30, 2014
Would likely be fine. However I do associate these spices with lamb so not entirely sure. You might consider adding fennel seeds...just a thought.
elizabeth November 30, 2014
How would this be with ground pork? I have a bunch in my freezer.
Urbain D. November 24, 2014
I made this pie last night and it was excellent! There are so many wonderful layers of flavors. The addition of the lemon zest and mint are spot on. I baked mine in a spring form as mentioned and it was a show stopper when it was brought out of the mould. Thanks for the recipe!
Phyllis G. November 24, 2014
Thanks so much for telling me! And glad to hear it worked in a spring form pan. I agree about the lemon zest and mint. Those are new additions for me and I'm thrilled with the brightness they add.
Christine O. November 24, 2014
We loved it! The filling is glorious, even cold. My younger son, who is not very sophisticated, compared it to "lamb sloppy joe in a pie", I think he means it as a compliment. Great recipe and a great excuse to buy extra ground lamb and bake moussaka too!
Phyllis G. November 24, 2014
"lamb sloppy joe n a pie." I love that! my daughter called it a taco pie.
FoodieCloud November 23, 2014
Some pies look beautiful, some pies look delicious. This does both. It's got that warm and fuzzy winter comfort.
Phyllis G. November 23, 2014
What a beautiful comment. Thank you. Warm and fuzzy winter comfort is where it's at.
Fiona S. November 23, 2014
If you were making this freezer-friendly, would you freeze it before baking? And cook from frozen? Thanks
Phyllis G. November 23, 2014
Great question, Fiona. You can freeze it at many stages. It's very forgiving. 1. Separately freeze pie dough and cooked lamb mixture. Then thaw, assemble, and bake. 2. You can assemble the tart and then freeze it unbaked. To bake: add egg wash and salt. Throw it frozen into a 350°F oven. Check after 45 minutes. Might need a bit of extra time. Cover with tin foil if the crust is getting too dark. 3. You can half-bake the assembled pie for about 25 minutes. Cool. Freeze. When you're ready to eat it, throw it frozen into a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes. Check to make sure center is piping hot. Might need 10 more minutes or so. 4. You can also cook it entirely. Let it cool. Slice it. Freeze slices in a Ziploc bag. Since they're already cooked and cut, they will only need about 20 minutes at a 350°F oven.