Cottage Pie

August 19, 2011

You just can’t have an English pub menu without Cottage Pie (or Shepherds Pie if using lamb mince). For me in particular, I could never go through a winter season without indulging in this classic regularly. It has been a staple meal in my life growing up just as much as rice and noodles.

There’s a very special place in my heart for this old-fashioned comfort dish. Even dinner with my in-laws usually involves a Shepherds Pie although their version is slightly different. Nanna absolutely insists on a layer of sliced tomatoes and onions on top of the mash before it goes in the oven. It’s a little unorthodox but I actually like it. And who am I to argue with the in-laws (hello hello!).

I love this extra rich and hearty with red wine and a few more dashes of my beloved worcestershire than the recipe calls for. You can opt for just meat but I adore chewing the little cubes of diced carrots throughout. You could also add mushrooms, extra chunks of onion and, if you feel so inclined, peas (ugh but why??). What’s essential though, is a thick topping of buttery, creamy, toasty potato mash. You simply cannot have a Cottage Pie without it, excessive carbs be damned.

Cottage Pie
Serves 4
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  1. 500g beef mince
  2. 2-3 Tbl olive oil
  3. 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 large / 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  6. 300ml red wine
  7. 1 x 70g tub tomato paste
  8. 2 Tbl plain flour
  9. 350ml beef stock
  10. 40ml worcestershire sauce
  11. 1 Tbl thyme leaves
  12. 1 Tbl rosemary leaves, chopped
  13. 1/2 Tbl sugar
  14. 800g potatoes, chopped into chunks
  15. 70g butter (feel free to use less if you like it less buttery)
  16. 50ml hot milk or cream
  17. Freshly grated parmesan (optional)
  1. In a heavy-based saucepan or casserole pan, add the oil so that it forms a thin layer over the surface. Over medium-high heat, cook beef mince for about 5-10 minutes until evenly browned (in batches if you have to). Transfer mince to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add in the onion, carrot and garlic to the same pan. Stirring frequently, sauté the vegetables until golden brown and softened (about 4-5 minutes).
  3. Pour a 1/3 of the red wine into the vegetables, scraping the browned bits off the bottom and simmer until it has mostly reduced. Another another 1/3 of wine and cook again until nearly completely reduced. Add the last 1/3 of wine and stir through.
  4. Immediately add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Then shower over the flour and stir frequently for another minute or two (it’ll look like a gluggy mess but don’t panic). Stir in the stock and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the browned mince, worcestershire sauce and fresh herbs. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mince is tender and the sauce has thickened. Add the sugar and check for seasonings. Tip out into a ovenproof dish and set aside to cool to firm up (I find if the filling is too hot, the mash will sink a little to the bottom and make it hard to spread).
  6. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  7. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water for around 20-30 minutes until tender (time will depend on how thick you chopped your spuds). Drain well then return them to the hot pan over low heat to steam dry for a minute or two.
  8. Mash the potatoes or put them through a ricer into a large bowl. Mix in the butter and hot milk (and parmesan if using). Check the seasonings.
  9. Layer the mashed potato evenly on top of the slightly cooled mince and ‘fluff’ it up with a fork. Sprinkle over more parmesan/cheese if using.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden and the mince filling is bubbling.
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