There are as many different variations of cottage pie as there are humans who eat it. As far back as the 1700s it was made with any leftover meat and a mashed potato topping and was very popular among the poorer folk. Nowadays its called “shepherd’s pie” when the meat is lamb and cottage pie only when beef is used.
Similar dishes can be found the world over, but some of the more popular versions around Britain include St. Stephen’s Day pie (turkey and ham), Cumberland pie (bread crumbs on top), Shepherdless Pie (vegetarian), and even fish
Cottage pie is a traditional, rustic dish. While some recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, cheese, baked beans, and even cinnamon, I’ve found that its best when kept as simple as possible.
The following is my version, perfected over the years for my family:
6-8 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 dried bay leaves
½ C butter
½ C milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, chopped
½ C green peas
3 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 C beef stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Mash: Place potatoes, salt, and bay leaves in a large pot and cover
with cold water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain
the water off and remove the bay leaves. Add butter and mash
thoroughly with a mixer or potato masher, then add milk and stir well.
Meat mixture: Cook the ground beef, onion, garlic, carrot, mushrooms,
peas, salt, black pepper, in a large frying pan over medium heat,
stirring occasionally, just until meat is browned. Do not drain.
Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat the meat mixture. Add beef stock
and simmer until thickened.
Assembly: Spread the meat mixture on the bottom of an ungreased
casserole dish. Smooth the mashed potatoes over the top, like icing a
cake. Sprinkle with paprika for color. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit
for 30 minutes.
I would love to hear how you make it!
Sarah Bloom is a stay-at-home mom in Pennsylvania, USA, but in her heart she is British through and through. While especially enamored of the food, Sarah loves all aspects of UK. You can find her on Facebook at The British Appreciation Society and read more of her posts here.