I’m not much of a cook. Don’t get me wrong, I can feed my family and we’ll never starve to death but they may well die of boredom having the same foods over and over again. So the few things I do cook, I’d like to think I’m rather good at since I’m so well practiced in them.
Cottage Pie is one of the few things that I cook that my family universally love (although don’t do what I did last week and step outside of the box and add peas to it, oh no, that did not go down well with my two fussy eaters!). I also love it as I can make it the night before and then just whack it in the oven when I get home. It also freezes really well and is very easy to make (kinda a prerequisite for me).
Interesting fact: if you use lamb mince it’s called Shepard’s Pie, if you use beef mince it’s called Cottage Pie, but essentially the same thing.
So here is my Cottage Pie recipe. Please note that the picture above is definitely NOT my Cottage Pie, mine is a little more ‘rustic’ but still very edible.
500g Beef Mince
Oil for cooking
1-3 carrots (depending on size and preference for getting vege into the family), diced
1-3 celery stalks (depending on size and preference), diced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 – 2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups beef stock
6 – 8 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and diced (or frozen mash if you’re really in a rush)
Milk and butter for mash (and cheese if you want)
Butter or cheese to top
Turn oven on to 180 degrees.
Put your peeled and diced potatoes into a large pot of cold water (according to my Irish husband putting potatoes in cold water is the correct way to cook them, they shouldn’t be put into hot/warm water. I’ve no idea why this is, I just do it to humor him.) and turn onto high. Pop and lid on and bring to the boil. Once boiling take the lid off and turn down to a med-high heat. Depending on how big/small you’ve cut your potatoes will depend on how long they’ll take to cook. Keep checking them but they should be done by the time your mince is done if you put them on first.
Put a bit of oil in a large fry pan and add your onion, carrot and celery to the pan on a medium-high heat. I have to cut my veges up very very very small (grated and then chopped) for my family, you can cut yours to whatever size you want. Fry them off for 5 mins or until they are tender (the smaller the are the less time you’ll need to cook them here).
Add the mince and cook for another 5 minutes or until the mince is has browned. Add the flour and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring to mix the flour in well.
Add in the bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, beef stock and salt and pepper. Turn to medium and simmer for 10 or so minutes or until the sauce has thickened and reduced to your liking. If your family wont reject the dish on the basis of visible vegetables you can also add some frozen vege like peas and corn at this stage, just simmer for a couple of minutes longer. Put into an oven proof dish and retrieve the bay leaves (easier to do now than when you’re serving).
Once the potatoes are cooked mash them to your liking with a bit of milk and/or butter. You can also add a bit of cheese in if you like. If I’m really in a rush I sometimes use frozen mash.
Spread the mash over top of the mince. If you feel like it you can use a fork to make pretty patterns along the top (I don’t bother with this, for me it falls into the ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ category).
You can either melt some butter and brush this over the top of the mash or sometimes I put grated cheese on top. Both are nice but I think butter is my favourite.
Then pop it in the oven for 20 minutes or so, or until its piping hot and the mash on top is golden. If you’re making it in advance and it’s going into the oven from stone cold you’ll need to put it in for longer than this. Try and have it at room temperature (rather than straight from fridge or freezer) and cook for about 30 – 40 mins or until it’s piping hot and the mash is golden.
Depending on how hungry you are, and whether you serve anything else on the side I’d say this would feed 4 – 6 adults.
Some recipes also call for red wine to be added but I prefer to drink it rather than waste it in cooking but each to their own. If you want to add wine do it after the flour, cook it down a little and then add the rest of the ingredients.