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Cottage Pie

One of the greatest comfort foods of all time! A ground beef (mince) filling in a tasty gravy, topped with mashed potato. Make it a Shepherd's Pie simply by swapping the beef for lamb. This is my most used classic recipe - see notes for optional extras.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped*
  • 1 rib celery finely chopped*
  • 1.5 lb lb ground beef mince
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock / broth 500 ml
  • 1/2 cup red wine optional - can omit
  • 1 beef bouillon cube crumbled
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Topping

  • 2.5 lbs potatoes peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Nutmeg optional
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add carrots and celery. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened and sweet.
  • Turn heat up to high. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.
  • Add flour and mix in, then add tomato paste and mix in.
  • Add beef stock, red wine, beef bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to simmer, then turn down heat so it is simmering rapidly - I have it on medium high. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces down to a gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video).
  • Transfer to 6 cup pie dish (1.5 litre / quart). Cover, then refrigerate to cool for 1 - 2 hours or overnight. (Note 2)

Assemble Pie

  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  • Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off stove. Shake briefly and allow to steam dry for 30 seconds or so (Note 3).
  • Add butter and mash until melted, then add milk and salt (+ optional nutmeg). Mash until smooth.
  • Spread onto pie, use a fork to rough up the surface (rougher surface = more golden bits), drizzle with olive oil.
  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
  • Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh thyme leaves if desired.

Notes

* Carrots and celery are used to make a truly great mirepoix / soffrritto flavour base for this pie. However, they can be omitted, but add 1 tsp of sugar instead.
1. Whatever the thickness of the sauce when you pour it into the tin, that's what it will be once baked - no steam escapes while baking to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until it's the consistency you want.
2. Cooling the filling ensures that the potato doesn't sink into the filling. If you are in a rush - as I often am - pop it in the freezer while you make the potato. That works pretty well.
3. Watery potatoes drops excess liquid while baking into the filling which makes the sauce watery. So don't skip the step of steam drying the potatoes!
Also, make sure the mash is hot when spreading onto the pie. Cold mash is hard and so it is harder to dollop / spread onto the pie.
4. Variations: If I'm making this for company or am on a calorie-blow-out mission, I add a big handful of cheese into the potato and also top with more cheese before baking. It doesn't need it, it's a bonus. 🙂
For the filling, sometimes I add peas, or I reduce the amount of beef and add chopped veggies like zucchini.
5. Make ahead instructions: Assemble pie but don't bake it. Cool mashed potato topping then either refrigerate or freeze. Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe.
 
Dec 2017