Cottage Pie (made with beef) and Shepherd’s Pie (made with lamb) are classic British dishes, made of a rich, meaty filling topped with creamy mashed potato.
You will need:
- a sharp knife
- a chopping board
- a wok or deep saucepan with lid
a saucepan with lid
an oven-proof dish
and the ingredients (for four people):
- A little oil
- 2 medium onions
- 500g beef, lamb, or Quorn mince (a.k.a. ground meat)
- 2-3 carrots
- tinned chopped tomatoes or passata
- tomato puree
- mixed herbs
- 3-4 potatoes
- butter or margarine
- a splash of milk
- hard cheese such as cheddar
- frozen peas or broccoli
My favourite way to make cottage pie is by combining savoury mince (you can find last week’s recipe here), and mashed potato. It’s a lot easier to make sure everything is cooked properly, because you can’t really stir a cottage pie! You can also make this recipe using leftovers, but I’ve written out the full process here.
Start by chopping your potatoes into chunks (tutorial here), and putting them on to boil in your saucepan. If you want really smooth mash it helps to peel your potatoes, but you don’t need to.
While your potatoes cook, make your savoury mince.
Place your larger pan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and dice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions)
Add your diced onion to the pan, along with a generous sprinkle of mixed herbs. (Adding a little garlic can help bring out the flavour of the meat, but it’s optional.)
Add your mince, and stir it gently while the meat browns.
Grate your carrots, then add them to the pan. (Remember to leave the top on while grating to save your fingers – you can find more tips in my tutorial here.)
Add a tin of passata or cooked tomatoes. Remember to rinse out the tin to get all the flavour out of it. Stir everything together and leave it bubbling gently while you make the mash.
Now you can check on your potatoes. If they’re ready for mashing, they should feel nice and soft when you poke them with a fork. Drain off any water, then use a fork, masher or even a food processor to mash them. You can add a splash of milk to make the mash softer, butter or margarine for richness, and a little salt for extra flavour.
Your savoury mince should be ready by now, so taste the sauce. If it tastes like it’s lacking something, try adding some more tomato puree (or ketchup), or a little salt.
Now it’s time to assemble the pie!
Pour the savoury mince into your oven-proof dish, and smooth it roughly level with a spatula. (You may want to preheat the dish; you can pop it in the oven for a few minutes, just remember to wear oven gloves!)
Add the mashed potato on top of the mince. Make sure you add it a little at a time, or you’ll make a big dent in your mince. If you smooth out the mash with a fork, it gives you little ridges that go all crispy in the oven. Plus they look nice! Finally, add a little sprinkle of grated cheese.
Finally, crisp up the top of the pie in a hot oven (Gas Mark 6 or higher), or under the grill. Once all the cheese is melted, it’s ready to serve!
Like all my recipes, there are a lot of ways to make variations on cottage pie! You could try any of the different variations on savoury mince for the filling, or why not top with sweet potato instead? Or, if you want to impress your dinner companions, why not bake individual cottage pies? Just use a small oven-proof dish for each person (and a baking tray to make them easier to take in and out of the oven!)