"This English classic has a deeply savoury beef mince filling smothered in gravy topped with creamy mashed potato, baked until golden."
Cottage Pie is a fabulous English classic which is easy to make, economical and 100% freezer friendly.
This lovely simple dish consists of a tantalizing beef filling and a creamy mashed potato topping.
Learn to make Cottage Pie:
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped*
- 1 celery, finely chopped*
- 750g / 1.5 lb beef mince (ground beef)
- 1/4 cup (40g) flour (plain / all-purpose)
- 1/4 cup (55g) tomato paste
- 2 cups (500 ml) beef stock/broth, low sodium
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) red wine (or water)
- 1 beef bouillon cube, crumbled (stock cube, or 1 tsp stock powder)
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried thyme (or 3 sprigs fresh thyme)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1.2 kg / 2.5 lb potatoes , peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes
- 2/3 cup (165 ml) milk, warmed
- 2 tbsp (30g) butter
- PARMESAN CRUST (OPTIONAL)
- 2 tbsp (30g) butter
- 2 tbsp (20g) parmesan, grated
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 3 minutes or until softened and sweet.
Turn the heat up to high. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.
Add flour and mix in. Add tomato paste, broth, red wine, bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Bring to simmer, then turn down the heat so it is simmering rapidly - I have it on medium-high. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it reduces down to a gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video). Taste then add more salt if desired.
Transfer to 6 cup pie dish (1.5 litres/quart). Cover, cool if you have time (even overnight). Cool filling = easier to top with mash (Note 2)
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off the 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. Mash until smooth.
Spread onto the pie, use a fork to rough up the surface (rougher surface = more golden bits). Sprinkle with parmesan, drizzle with butter (or skip this and just 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.
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. Filling thickens - 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 and makes it much easier to spread. 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 (4 days) or freeze (3 months).
Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe. Or bake from frozen - covered at 180°C/350°for 45 minutes, then 30 minutes uncovered.
Can also do individual servings in ramekins!
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 generous servings.