The late autumn/early winter weather is really starting to settle in. As I write this post it is cold, grey, and pouring with rain outside, and at this time of year I, like most of you love nothing more than comfort food. My Cottage Pie Recipe is one of my family favourites, and is so easy to make.
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Cottage Pie Recipe
This Cottage Pie recipe is the first in a new series of Comfort Foods on The Purple Pumpkin Blog. The recipes will be my version of comforting favourites, that I’ve been cooking for my family for years, so I hope you enjoy them as much as we all do!
The recipes in this series will be English recipes since that is where I am from. But I also have a Greek-Cypriot and Lithuanian heritage, so recipes from those cuisines will also appear. You may also find some American ones creeping in too as I have quite a few favourite comfort foods from the USA.
What is comfort food?
Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterised by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture. – Wikipedia
What’s the difference between a Cottage Pie Recipe and a Shepherd’s Pie Recipe?
These two dishes are very similar – they both contain meat and vegetables in gravy, topped with mashed potato. The difference is that a Cottage Pie recipe will use beef mince, and lamb mince will go into a Shepherd’s Pie. There is actually a third very similar dish – Cumberland Pie, which uses either meat, topped with mash, and then also topped with breadcrumbs and cheese.
I know that I call this dish both Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie – even if I’m not using the correct meat! It’s all comfort food at the end of the day!
So, given that I call my pie by both names, I thought I would also give 5 ways I tweak the recipe to mix things up a bit at dinner time.
Cottage Pie Recipe – 5 Ways
My basic cottage pie recipe has onions, beef mince, and peas cooked in gravy, and topped with mashed potatoes.
You’ll find the printable recipe further down the page with all the variations included, but let me walk you through them all first.
1. Add extra veggies – I often add a handful of sweetcorn to the filling as we love sweetcorn in this house. If I add carrots I usually grate them as we are not fans of cooked carrots! Slicing them thinly or dicing them up are other ways of adding this veggie. You could also buy a bag of frozen veggie mix and add that to the saucepan while cooking the meat.
2. Replace the veggies – Add a tin of baked beans, and a squirt of ketchup to the beef mince filling. Add some grated cheese to the mash potato too. This is one of my favourite variants as my mum used to do this when we were kids – ultimate comfort food!
3. Use cauliflower as topping – instead of mashed potato. If you remove the peas, it is also turns the recipe into a good low-carb version. You could mash the cauliflower with some butter as you would do with potato, or leave the cauliflower in florets. Add some cheese to give it a bit of a cauliflower cheese twist. Or you could go food lux and add a cheese sauce to the cauliflower before topping your pie.
4. Use sweet potato as a topping like in this Sweet Potato Cottage Pie from Hello Fresh who mixed sweet potato with regular potatoes. You could also combine potatoes with butternut squash or swede – both of which make tasty toppings, and I’ve used all three of these toppings in the past.
5. Turn it into a vegetarian Cottage Pie – replace the beef mince with Quorn mince (or similar meat substitute) and use vegetable stock and granules instead of beef.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 500g beef mince
- 500ml beef stock
- 100g frozen peas
- salt & pepper
- gravy granules (optional)
- 1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 50g butter
- salt & pepper
- Add the oil to a large saucepan and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, then add the beef mince and cook for a further 5 minutes until the meat is browned. You can drain off any excess fat if you so wish.
- Add the beef stock and the peas, and stir. Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce the stock. If you find the filling to be too watery from the stock, cook for longer to reduce, or you can cheat a bit (and beef up the flavour!) by adding some gravy granules and stirring to thicken. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if desired (shop bought stock and gravy granules may be salty enough)
- Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling water for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and allow to steam for about 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
- Mash the potatoes with the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the filling into an ovenproof dish and spread evenly.
- Spoon the mashed potato on top and carefully spread it over the filling in an even layer. You can drag a fork through the topping to make a pattern if you wish.
- Cook in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the potato topping is golden.
2 - Replace the peas with baked beans, and also add a squirt of ketchup to the sauce. Add some grated cheese to the mash potato too. This is one of my favourite variants as my mum used to do this when we were kids - ultimate comfort food!
3 - Use cauliflower as topping instead of mashed potato. If you remove the peas, it is also turns the recipe into a good low-carb version. You could add cheese on top too.
4 - Use a combination of sweet potato and regular potato as a topping You could also combine potatoes with butternut squash or swede. I've used all three in the past, and they all make tasty toppings.
5 - Turn it into a vegetarian pie and replace the meat with Quorn (or similar meat substitute) and use vegetable stock and granules instead of beef.
Cottage Pie Recipe – 5 More Ways
And finally, here is how some celeb chefs make their Cottage Pies!
- James Martin’s recipe on BBC Food uses parsnips and horseradish with his potato topping
- Prue Leith’s recipe on Irish Timesadds bacon and black pudding to the beef mince filling.
- Gino D’Acampo’s recipe on This Morning is his Italian twist on this comfort food favourite
- Mary Berry’s recipe on BBC Food includes mushrooms and red wine in the filling
- Delia Smith’s recipe on her website is from her book One is Fun! Which makes one portion, but can easily be multiplied to serve more.
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