Thursday, 19 February 2009

Cottage/shepherd's pie

Some people don't know the difference between cottage pie and shepherd's pie. The difference is that cottage pie is made with beef and shepherd's pie is made with lamb - when was the last time you saw a shepherd looking after cows? Try rounding some cows up with a sheep dog and let me know how you get on.

Having said that, the recipes are extremely similar, so if you make it with lamb just substitute lamb/chicken stock instead of beef stock, and make sure you use wine rather than ale.

This serves about 4-6 people and takes about an hour in all I guess.

  • 800g good quality beef mince (this is crucial as this is a very simple recipe; Aberdeen Angus is a good bet if you're in the supermarket)
  • 200g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1kg potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 250ml red wine or good dark ale
  • 600ml beef stock
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley, thyme or rosemary leaves according to taste
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • A generous sprinkling of mature cheddar
  • Two red onions, peeled and diced
  • 1tsp English mustard
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 knob of butter


  1. Peel the potatoes and chop them into roughly golf-ball sized pieces. Put them in a big saucepan and cover with salted water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in the saucepan on a medium heat and add the butter. When it's foaming, add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes until they've softened, stirring regularly.
  3. Trim and peel the carrots, then chop them into small cubes. Add them to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until they've softened. If you prefer, you can grate the carrots into the mince at a later stage, which makes for a smoother meat sauce, but personally I like to taste and identify the carrots, and I feel it makes the recipe a bit more rustic and homely.
  4. Bring the potatoes to the boil and simmer briskly for about 20 minutes until they're tender. When they're ready, drain them and dry them out in the pan for another minute or so, then take the pan off the heat.
  5. Preheat the oven at 210 degrees.
  6. Increase the heat to a medium-high heat and add the mince, stirring occasionally. Cook it until it's browned, then drain the excess fat.
  7. Make a well in the centre of the meat mixture and add the chopped tomatoes. Keep stirring for a few minutes and add the herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste.
  8. Pour in the wine or ale and reduce by half.
  9. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer briskly until reduce by half.
  10. Mash the potatoes when they're ready and add a couple of knobs of butter and a drop of hot milk (add this slowly as you don't want to make your mash too sloppy) and season to taste. Stir a teaspoon of English mustard into the mixture.
  11. Put the meat sauce into a large casserole or roasting tin and cover it evenly with the mashed potato, flattening it with a fork. Alternatively, you can do this with a piping bag, but personally I think that's a bit poncey and it's too fiddly for something that makes little difference to the flavour, so I don't bother. Grate a generous helping of mature cheddar over it and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and the mashed potato has gone crispy. If you like, you can also sprinkle a little bit more Worcestershire sauce over the cheese for added tang!

NOTE: The meat sauce is basically the same as the one you would use for moussaka or lasagne, if you fancy trying them, though in those cases I would recommend grating the carrots and perhaps leaving out the stock.

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