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Cottage pie

Cottage pie

So far 2009 has been mixed, with regards to the quality of my food intake.  A quick glance at the food diary shows a distinct lack of home cooking, partly due to the fact that the family are still trying to get over the Christmas cold/flu that’s affected practically everyone we know, and partly due to the leftover Christmas snacks available for easy, but bad, appetite suppression.

Since we are now back into the realms of normal routine – back to work A.G.A.I.N. – it’s time to try and get back into good habits.  Today, I decided to make cottage pie for dinner.  To be more accurate, I’d decided to make shepherd’s pie, but lamb mince was unavailable at Waitrose this morning, so beef was used instead.

I make no claims for authenticity or otherwise of my recipe (although I’m not convinced anyone could reasonably claim to have the definitive recipe anyway):


  • 500g minced beef (I went for the 10% fat option)
  • 2 carrots, chopped finely
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 1kg King Edward potatoes (I suspect you could probably get away with 25% less, and other mashing spuds like Maris Piper would be perfectly acceptable)


I took my largest Le Creuset saucepan, got some olive oil up to a pretty hot temperature, and browned the minced beef.  Given the quantity involved, I did it in batches to keep the temperature nice and hot, so that the beef didn’t just stew.

After tipping the beef out somewhere safe, I used the same pan to sweat the carrots and onions until nicely soft but not mushy, then added the beef back in.  I sprinkled about a tablespoon of plain flour onto the mixture, let that cook for a good minute or two, and then poured, ooh, about 500 ml of water freshly boiled from the kettle.  I let that bubble away until I got a lovely unctuous gravy with the meat, then poured that into my pie dish.  I let it all cool down before sticking it in the fridge, to ‘set’ the mixture.  It makes whacking the mashed potato on top that much easier.

Speaking of which, obviously you need to do some mashed potato to top the pie.  It’s hardly rocket science, but for the record, peel and chop your spuds into small cubes, then boil that in salted water until soft and mushy (but not completely falling apart).  Drain, then return to the pan for a little bit more heat to drive out any excess moisture, then mash it up.  I added a generous knob of butter to my mash and glug of extra virgin olive oil.  I was going to stick a handful of grated cheddar cheese into the mash, but the missus wasn’t keen on the idea.  (If I was making mashed potato as a side dish, I’d also add a good few glugs of full fat milk to make it lovely and creamy, but for a pie topping, I want it fairly stodgy.)

When your mashed spuds are done, stick them on top of the pie, and smooth out with a spatula.  If you’ve cooled your meat mixture, it should be a piece of cake, er, pie, to do this bit.  I realise now I should have made a video to show the technique I use to get my mash topping right, as I’m struggling to find the words to describe it.  Ho hum.

Stick your completed pie in a hot oven for about 25-30 minutes.  Finish it off under a hot grill to get a lovely crispy topping.  I’d recommend putting the pie dish on a baking tray, by the way, in case the meat mixture bubbles over, like mine did.