Building a Cottage Pie

I love cooking things that are new, exciting or that little bit special, but there is always a place in my heart for the bog standard meals that you can whip up without looking at a cookbook.  I think these home grown comfort meals made with love can be just as good as anything from a restaurant.  A particular favourite in our house is a cottage or shepards pie (the choice depending on what meat I have defrosted).  As with the mince variety, a lot of what goes in is decided by what happens to be in the fridge on a given day, but the latest variation I made was deemed to have been the best yet by my partner so I have decided to share it.

My ultimate cottage pie

I started off by frying off a finely diced onion and carrot in some oil until the onion was soft to bring out their sweetness.  After about 7-8 minutes I added my mince beef.  Some people like to try and keep the strands of mince long, but I prefer mine broken up to make a smoother sauce and so I stirred the mince quite vigorously while it was cooking.

Frying the veggies and mince

Next in was about 6 cubed chestnut mushrooms.  I think these help to give a depth to the sauce, but they also melt in when cut small so it’s a great way to sneak another vegetable in.  With the meat all brown I and the mushroom soft I added an oxo cube (my secret weapon!) and a tablespoon of plain flour.  This was all mixed in so that it coated the meat and veg meaning there would be no lumps when I added my water to the mix.

Adding the mushrooms and the oxo and cornflour

I added just enough water to cover everything in the pot, probably about ¾ pint, as you don’t want a runny pie!   Next I gave the contents another good stir, and left it all to simmer uncovered for a while.  After about 15 minutes a fairly thick sauce had formed and at this point I added a good handful o frozen peas.  I hadn’t put them in sooner as I wanted to try and they really don’t need much cooking and the mix still had to go in the oven.  With the peas stirred through I put the whole lot into my baking dish.

Adding the peas and the finished filling

While I was making the sauce I had placed the ingredients for my mash onto boil.  For this version I was being slightly healthier and upping the veg count even further by using one very large sweet potato with a couple of small traditional potatoes to bulk out the mash.  When boiling potatoes for mash I think that large pieces work better and give a smoother mash (unless I’m in a rush when such things go out the window and tiny chunks are quickly boiled!).  With my lumps nice and tender I drained them and then used a ricer to mash them.  The resulting strands of potato were combined with some butter to make a rich topping which I then proceeded to spoon and mould over the top of my meaty filling.

Making the mash and building the pie

With everything covered it was time for my final addition, something I nicked from good old Delia, cheesy leeks.  I sliced up two leeks which I spread on top of my mash pushing them down into the mash to stop them falling off.  I then sprinkled over about 30g of grated cheddar and everything was ready to go in the oven

Ready to go in oven

I bake my pies with the dish placed on top of a baking sheet as this not only catches any drips where the sauce bubbles over (keeping my oven cleanish) but also, I find, makes it easier to get in and out of the oven.  The lot went into the oven for 20-25 minutes on 180°C until the sauce was bubbling and the cheese starting to brown.

Out of the oven and ready to eat

Delicious! And six veg in one meal!


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4 Responses to “Building a Cottage Pie”

  1. Janice Says:

    Love your topping I must try that.

  2. Jill Colonna Says:

    I am totally with you on this kind of comforting but hit dish. Yours, however, is more than a hit with the leeks on top and it all looks so full of flavour. I’d choose that one in your restaurant anytime!

  3. Olivia Says:

    I love the idea for the leek & cheese topping. It looks so good in your photo

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