Cottage pieThe first time I ever ate cottage pie was in my teens, when my sister was living in her University dorm.  She’d make cottage pie often, inspired by her cooking-with-a-microwave cookbook.  Thinking back now, I can’t fathom why she couldn’t have just bought regular mince, but instead chose to use burger meat.  I didn’t complain then, I thought it was the bees knees.  But now, ramly burger meat for cottage pie..?  I remember vividly the use of a cast iron wok, and lots of stabbing with a heavy metal spatula to break up the burgers into ‘mince’, as it thawed and cooked from frozen.  And then throwing in lots of frozen mixed vegetables.  The topping would be mashed potato with cheese to cheat getting the potato to brown.

For years after, cottage pie , and shepherd’s pie sunk into the recesses of my memory.  Until.

One day in London I get a text from the wife of my husband’s colleague.  Now, she hates cooking, but ohmygoodness can she cook.  She texted to say she had made shepherd’s pie for her houseguests who, it turned out, weren’t fans, so she had loads left over, would I like some.  How could I refuse.  She brought it over and it looked beautiful, studded with fresh stems of rosemary, red chilli powder sprinkled over the top (because they liked things spicy), mashed potato in abundance (“for the children!! but they didn’t want! haiyuuhhhh”).  There was plenty of eye rolling on her part as she retold her story, but lots of grinning from me.  I re-fell in love with Shepherd’s pie, but this time, thankfully, the real kind.  And since then it’s found its way back on my regular menu.

I always find that every time I make cottage pie, there’s never enough.  If there isn’t enough to cope with greed, then there needs to be more.  This day, I prepared 900g of beef mince thinking I would feed my greed with a mega pie but in the end practised restraint and froze about 300g of it for fresh, hot pie another day (which isn’t too shabby either).  Also, kids (generally) do love cottage pie, and for a weaning toddler, this could be easily adapted for them, with no pepper or salt, grated carrot perhaps instead of diced, prepared ahead of time in little ramekins, assembled and frozen unbaked, until you want them.

 

Cottage Pie
Print Recipe
I would make shepherd's pie and cottage pie the same way, and usually with the same ingredients. Lamb of course marries well with rosemary, but beef likes it too. There isn't much time spent on prep if you prep and cook as you go. The majority of your time will be spent on browning your meat at the first stage (after onion and garlic, before other wet ingredients), and stewing it after all the ingredients are in. Don't stinge on these two stages if you can, the flavour does deepen. Red wine is also an oft used ingredient along with the beef stock; it's added before the stock, and cooked down til very little is left. Only then add the stock. I don't use alcohol in my cooking, so I won't list it down.
Servings
6 servings
Cook Time
1.5 hours
Servings
6 servings
Cook Time
1.5 hours
Cottage Pie
Print Recipe
I would make shepherd's pie and cottage pie the same way, and usually with the same ingredients. Lamb of course marries well with rosemary, but beef likes it too. There isn't much time spent on prep if you prep and cook as you go. The majority of your time will be spent on browning your meat at the first stage (after onion and garlic, before other wet ingredients), and stewing it after all the ingredients are in. Don't stinge on these two stages if you can, the flavour does deepen. Red wine is also an oft used ingredient along with the beef stock; it's added before the stock, and cooked down til very little is left. Only then add the stock. I don't use alcohol in my cooking, so I won't list it down.
Servings
6 servings
Cook Time
1.5 hours
Servings
6 servings
Cook Time
1.5 hours
Ingredients
Meat bit
Potato topping
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. You will need two large pots, and a casserole dish that is wider than it is deep. What you want for baking is something that will increase surface area of your potato topping, because everybody loves the crunchy bit.
  2. First large pot. Fill it with water and put it on high heat. While it's heating, peel your potatoes. Cut them to roughly similar chunks and plonk them in the water. Bring to the boil and keep them on a high simmer/gentle boil. About 15 mins from the time it reaches a boil.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling and getting soft, start on the meat bit. Get your second pot ready on the stove and add the oil to it. Peel and chop your onion. Turn the heat on for your pot. Peel and chop the garlic. Add the onion and garlic to your pot. Quickly peel and chop your carrots, and add them in too. Low heat. Let them saute gently for about 10-15mins.
  4. While the onion et al are going, test your potatoes for doneness with a fork. The potatoes should be soft, but not completely breaking apart (in which case you've overshot so get your potatoes out quick!). Drain and return to the pot.
  5. Put the pot with the drained potatoes on a low heat, to evaporate whatever water's left. Dryer potato equals fluffier mash (which is why you use floury potatoes, they're drier than waxy ones). About 2 mins. Don't forget to stir your onion mix in the other pot, don't let it burn.
  6. Mash your potatoes! Once it's a texture you like, add butter to the potatoes. Let it melt. Make a space in your potato pot where you can pour milk so that more of it is touching the bottom of the pan for it to heat faster. I do this so I have fewer pots to wash. You can otherwise heat your milk in a separate little saucepan and just add it in to the potatoes already warmed. Add your seasoning. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon till evenly mixed. Don't bother overdoing it, stop when it's mixed, and it'll taste fine. Set aside.
  7. Back to your onion pot. Add the mince! Depending on what kind of mince you're using, oil will emerge from the cooking mince. If you're averse to oil, once everything is done, you can skim it off. For now, let the mince cook in the oil to get some nice, crusty colour, a tan if you will. be patient, persevere. Stir occasionally. Don't stir too often because you want the meat to sit in one spot for a time so it can brown. This could take 20-30mins.
  8. At about the 15 min mark, while the meat is still browning just a tad more, you can add in your herbs and pepper and salt. Complete the browning, and add in the tomato puree, worcestershire and Branston.
  9. Add the stock til it's just covering the meat, enough moisture for it to stew. Don't worry if it's too much, you can leave the pot uncovered after the stewing and it will evaporate, but this of course will splutter so be warned. Otherwise, stew covered for 30-40mins. Heat your oven, about 200degC
  10. Get out that casserole dish. Once your mince is looking nice, it's moist but not soupy, and you've tasted it and adjusted seasoning, layer it into your casserole dish. You can use all the mince for your pie, but feel free of course to portion some out to freeze for another time. Spread it out so it's a flat layer.
  11. Get your mash, and place dollops of it all over your mince. Then spread it out so it's another even layer. Grab a fork and using the tines, rough up the surface of the potato. The jaggedy scrappiness is what's going to crust up, golden brown in the oven.
  12. If you want to insert some rosemary stems into the potato here, put them on a clean surface and drizzle them with oil first. Then stab them into the potato. You don't have to do this, but it is rather pretty and smells good. Bake in your hot oven about 30-40mins, until the pie looks beautiful. Serve hot.
Recipe Notes

Cottage pie and shepherd's pie are, by and large, the same thing, except cottage pie is made with beef mince, and shepherd's pie with lamb mince. How do you remember? Ask yourself what shepherd's do. I'll give you a clue; it's not herding cows.

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2 Thoughts on “Cottage Pie

  1. Eh got time to write blog even?!? Very impressed and love your blog!. Wonder who this person who hates cooking might be hmm mm?

    • Woohoo! Hi Jen! Greetings from the kingdom.. I just barely have time lah.. I’m floored that you wrote me a comment, my first one 😀 How apt that it was this post you commented on..

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