I recently posed a question on my Instagram stories to ask what were peoples favourite comfort food dishes. There were a lot of the usual suspects there – curries, spag bol, and fish pies. One answer that popped up a couple of times was Shepherds Pie. I replied that I love it too but never blogged it because it is hard to make it look good and I never liked my pictures. And then I thought, that’s a pretty daft thing to say. Beige food can be the tastiest food, not every meal has to be Insta-worthy!
So here is my recipe. Except this is for Cottage Pie instead of Shepherds Pie. The only difference is that Cottage Pie is made with beef while Shepherds Pie is made with lamb. It is basically the same recipe so use the meat of your choice. I like to make the meat ragu the day before I make the pie to allow time for the flavours to develop. It is not strictly necessary but like all meat stews, they definitely benefit from a little extra time. If you do not have time to do this that is fine, just allow the meat sauce to cool before topping with the mash or else the mash can disappear into the sauce.
Useful tips & links:
- Gizzi Erskine has a recipe for Short Rib Cottage Pie in her book Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts which I love. It is a little bit time consuming however so I stick to my simpler recipe.
- I used to make this with tomato passata added to it but that’s basically just another version of my Bolognese Sauce. Over the years this has become my favourite sauce.
- Personally I like celery or frozen peas in my Cottage Pie, most people I know don’t. As a compromise I use celery salt to season this and serve the peas to the side. I will not back down on carrots though.
- This freezes really well so if you like you can make individual pies, don’t bother putting the meat sauce in the fridge overnight. Just allow it to cool and when you top it with the mash, double wrap in cling film and then foil and freeze. Defrost thoroughly before heating in the oven.
- I don’t normally give a recipe for mash, basically I use rooster potatoes, steam them and just mash adding butter until it is the consistency I like. I always steam rather than boil the potatoes as I prefer them to be dryer. Here I add milk to make it easier to spread over the meat, and cheese and nutmeg for extra richness and flavour. Gordon Ramsey has a recipe where he adds egg yolks to his mash topping but that’s a little too much for my taste.
- For another comforting beef dish have a look at my Hearty Beef Stew.
- For a meatless version see Holly White’s Vegan Shepardless Pie.
- Olive Oil
- 100g of smoked bacon lardons or streaky smoked bacon cut into small pieces.
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- A large pinch of celery salt
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
- 500g of lean minced beef
- 150ml of red wine
- 500ml of hot beef stock
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
- A dash of mushroom ketchup (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
For the mash topping
- 800g of potatoes, approx. 6 potatoes
- 100g of butter
- 25ml of milk
- 30g of cheddar cheese grated (optional)
- Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pan over a medium-high heat. Fry the bacon until crispy. When it has cooked you can remove it with a slotted spoon or leave it in the sauce.
- Reduce the heat and gently fry the diced onion and carrot in the bacon fat until soft. This will take at least 10 minutes to do, don’t believe the recipes that tell you a few minutes!
- Add the celery salt, crushed garlic and tomato puree and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Increase the heat and add the beef mince. When the beef has browned add the wine and cook until the wine has reduced and all of the alcohol is burned off.
- Add the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and mushroom ketchup and when it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Tie the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme together with some twine, add it to the sauce and cover.
- Allow the sauce to simmer for an hour, stirring regularly and removing the lid for the last 20 minutes.
- When the sauce has reduced and thickened taste for seasoning and add more salt and some pepper if needed. Allow the sauce to cool and store it in the fridge overnight.
To make the Cottage Pie
- To make the mash topping, peel and chop the potatoes and steam them with a little salt until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 6 and place the meat filling in a suitable pie dish. Remove the bay leaves and thyme.
- When the potatoes are cooked mash them with the butter, milk and cheese until smooth. Grate in a little nutmeg and stir through. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Spoon the mash on top of the meat filling in small blobs. If you want to be really fancy you can pipe it on. Smooth the mash to give a somewhat even layer. Then run a fork through it to make little ridges, these will crisp up in the oven to give you a more crunchy topping.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the meat sauce is bubbling underneath. Take it our of the oven and allow it to stand for 5 minutes before serving.