Cottage Pie

Posted By Kerri

I’m really surprised that we’ve never made this before, it’s a classic and one I grew up with. You’d think that it wasn’t all that appropriate for an evening in August but then the weather hasn’t really been all that appropriate of late either so it seemed fitting.

As I said before, I grew up eating this and I remember my mum making enough of it to feed an army, there was always a huge heap of mashed potatoes on the top that were crispy on top (mum used to brush the potato with an egg) and fluffy inside. This is one of the first dishes I remember learning to cook and I still have the handwritten copy mum wrote down for me when I went away to university. I made it a lot then (mince was cheap and like most students, I preferred to spend my hard-earned student loan on beer and clothes) but can’t remember the last time I cooked it.

I didn’t use mum’s recipe today largely because she boils the mince. It makes wonderful gravy but I don’t enjoy the smell of boiled mince – any more than she did either I imagine 🙂

I did my research and firstly consulted Mr Ramsay. I’ve never cooked one of his recipes before but have enjoyed the odd episode of Kitchen Nightmares and I recall him introducing this to an Irish restaurant in America as the signature dish. Not wanting to play favourites, I next called upon the honourable Delia Smith. I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for Queen Delia since her recent cheater-McCheater programme but when she’s not using frozen mashed potatoes she does give good British cooking. Next up was the spiky-haired Gary Rhodes. I remember avidly watching his Great British Classics show with my mum when it was first aired sometime in the mid-nineties and she bought me the book that Christmas. We both used to salivate over his roast beef and pork pies and I remember his version of cottage pie well. Lastly, I consulted my least favourite of the TV chefs, the self-titled Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson.

As you can imagine, the ingredients and method varied somewhat from chef to chef but the basic principles remained the same throughout. I picked my favourite parts from each and created my own version.

1 onion, finely chopped
Celery stick, finely chopped
500g minced beef
Salt and pepper
Tbs flour
Handful parsley, finely chopped
Handful thyme, leaves only
Half glass red wine
500ml beef stock
1.5 tbs worcester sauce
1.5 tbs tomato puree

Fry the onion and celery in olive oil with a lid on, on low heat, until cooked through (about 10 minutes) and then remove from the pan.
Fry mince on medium to high heat until cooked through (I prefer not to use the very lean beef and then drain off the excess fat and water)
Add onion and celery back to the pan, add herbs and then season with salt and pepper.
Stir in flour and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add wine and cook out the alcohol.
Add stock slowly and let it absorb slightly before finishing with worcester sauce and tomato puree.
Reduce heat to lowest setting, put the lid on and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the lid for the last ten minutes and cook down until almost all liquid has reduced.

At some point in this process, you need to make the mashed potatoes. I’m not going to tell you how to do that (mum did on the recipe she wrote out for me) but in case you’re interested I started this once the meat was simmering away.

Once the meat is cooked, add it to your dish of choice and top with the mashed potatoes. Delia suggested cheesy, leeky potatoes which I think would be brilliant but Stephen ate all the cheese and the leeks we have are reserved for tomorrow.

Fork the mashed potatoes in the pattern of your choice (I chose random today but mum favoured straight lines if I recall correctly) and then cook for about 25 minutes on 200 degrees.

And that’s it. Serve with your favourite vegetables (savoy cabbage and green beans for us) and enjoy.

ETA: saving the photograph as “cottage pie” showed us that we have in fact cooked this before, in February 2007. I have absolutely no recollection of either cooking or eating it though and unhelpfully the post doesn’t give a recipe.

Aug 9th, 2008

4 Comments to 'Cottage Pie'

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  1. Pen said,

    Hey honey, one of my first recipes too… from one of my Mum’s GH recipe books from teh seventies – you know the ones that had chicken in aspic on the cover! Love this, but my foodie shame (I blame my Aunty Helen) is that I eat it with frozen peas and *whispers*tomatoketchup… *runs and hides* Hope it hit the spot xxx

  2. Antonia said,

    Love cottage pie and funnily enough I made one earlier in the week due to the lousy weather… Frozen peas and ketchup are essential, surely?! Nothing to be ashamed of Pen!

  3. Kerri said,

    I agree with the frozen peas but I’m not a ketchup fan, you’d have to bring your own if you came to my cottage pie party – then eat it outside and then wash your own plate 🙂

  4. YOUR MUM said,

    The old recipes – with a little updating, are the best ……..

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