Cottage Pie is comfort food central! A tasty ground beef (mince) gravy filling topped with mashed potato, baked until golden perfection. Swap the beef for lamb, and you’ll turn this into a Shepherd’s Pie.
Easy to make, and freezes really well. I love this Cottage Pie so much, I make it all year round – even in the height of summer!
I am pretty sure I am the most frequent visitor of my website. Not just because it’s my job. But also because it’s my actual “recipe tin” – albeit a digital form of the old recipe boxes I used to collate recipes in.
I popped onto my blog to grab my Cottage Pie recipe….and had a moment of disbelief.
I hadn’t shared Cottage Pie yet??
Me – the Potato Queen, the lover of all things gravy, the girl who craves hot comfort food even in the height of summer – hadn’t posted Cottage Pie yet.
Well. I decided I better fix that quick smart!
Cottage Pie is a fabulous English classic, one that Australians have also adopted as one of our beloved winter favorites. Or in my case, all-year-round-favourite.
There is quite often confusion over the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie. Both are made the same way – a ground beef (mince) filling in a gravy sauce that is topped with mashed potato, then baked. (That crusty top is everything!!) The only difference is that Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb instead of beef.
So if you want, just swap the beef in this recipe with lamb and you’ll have a Shepherd’s Pie.
This is an easy Cottage Pie recipe. Actually, I am not sure how hard Cottage Pie recipes can be, but I’m sure there are posh versions around. 🙂 Mine is a classic, and I don’t fiddle with it and try to fancy it up. Oh wait, I lie. Sometimes I add peas. And when I feel deserving of a treat, or if I’m making this for company, I add a big handful of cheese into the mashed potato. But for every day purposes, I don’t feel the need to add cheese into the potato because Cottage Pie is so tasty as it is anyway.
The only tips I have for making Cottage Pie are:
- To stop the potato from sinking into the filling, cool the filling first. But this isn’t a deal breaker; and
- Ensure the filling reduces down enough (see video) to ensure you don’t end up with a watery filling after baking. It’s so disappointing when you break through the potato to be greeted with a beef sitting in a watery sauce!
Those of you familiar with my Baby Hands will recognise that the hands in the video are not mine (see below recipe). My mother did most of the cooking for the video, I filmed and “directed”. By “directed”, I mean I stood behind the camera, instructing my mother to move “faster, faster, faster!” as she added the ingredients into the skillet (because, as I tell her, whenever I watch footage of my mother cooking, I feel like I’m watching a movie in slow motion – ba ha ha!!)
She hates being my hand model. Claims I stress her out. 😉
– Nagi x
PS Is it just me who wants to do a face plant in this bowl?
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 1 carrot , finely chopped*
- 1 rib celery , finely chopped*
- 750 g / 1.5 lb ground beef (mince)
- 1/4 cup / 40 g flour (plain)
- 1/4 cup / 55g tomato paste
- 2 cups / 500 ml beef stock / broth
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml red wine (or water)
- 1 beef bouillon cube , crumbled
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1.2 kg / 2.5 lb potatoes , peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes
- 2/3 cup / 165 ml milk
- 2 tbsp / 30g butter
- Nutmeg (optional)
- Olive oil or melted butter, for drizzling
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add carrots and celery. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened and sweet.
Turn heat up to high. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.
Add flour and mix in. Add tomato paste, broth, red wine, bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves.
Bring to simmer, then turn down heat so it is simmering rapidly - I have it on medium high. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces down to a gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video).
Transfer to 6 cup pie dish (1.5 litre / quart). Cover, then refrigerate to cool for 1 - 2 hours or overnight (optional, Note 2)
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off stove. Shake briefly and allow to steam dry for 30 seconds or so (Note 3).
Add butter and mash until melted, then add milk and salt (+ optional nutmeg). Mash until smooth.
Spread onto pie, use a fork to rough up the surface (rougher surface = more golden bits), drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh thyme leaves if desired.
* Carrots and celery are used to make a truly great mirepoix / soffrritto flavour base for this pie. However, they can be omitted, but add 1 tsp of sugar instead.
1. Whatever the thickness of the sauce when you pour it into the tin, that's what it will be once baked - no steam escapes while baking to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until it's the consistency you want.
2. Cooling the filling ensures that the potato doesn't sink into the filling and makes it much easier to spread. If you are in a rush - as I often am - pop it in the freezer while you make the potato. That works pretty well.
3. Watery potatoes drops excess liquid while baking into the filling which makes the sauce watery. So don't skip the step of steam drying the potatoes!
Also, make sure the mash is hot when spreading onto the pie. Cold mash is hard and so it is harder to dollop / spread onto the pie.
4. Variations: If I'm making this for company or am on a calorie-blow-out mission, I add a big handful of cheese into the potato and also top with more cheese before baking. It doesn't need it, it's a bonus. 🙂
For the filling, sometimes I add peas, or I reduce the amount of beef and add chopped veggies like zucchini.
5. Make ahead instructions: Assemble pie but don't bake it. Cool mashed potato topping then either refrigerate or freeze. Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe.
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 generous servings.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Cottage Pie cooking video. Dozer fans – don’t miss Life of Dozer at the end of the video!
LIFE OF DOZER
That’s what Dozer looks like when he’s peeved. In this case, I’m pretty sure he’s cranky because he squeezed himself under this tiny table, waited so patiently for me to finish taking photos and he didn’t get a taste test.