Cottage Pie! Comfort food at it’s best!!

7 Mar

There are days when nostalgia takes over and you want to eat something great that you remember from your childhood.  This is one of those days!  The sunshine from yesterday has gone, replaced by dark clouds.  Its time to eat something really comforting like Cottage Pie.

I remember eating cottage pie at my Grandmothers on a Monday dinner time.  Dinner time , in those days, was always 1300 hours.  If you were a minute late your dinner would be in the dog!!!!  She would have been a great sea captain! 

There is something fantastic about the smell of cottage pie as it cooks in the oven and the crunch as the spoon breaks through the crispy edges of the mashed potato to reveal the luscious beef mix below.  Yum!!!!!!!!  Grandma used to make hers using the beef left over from Sunday Lunch.  There was never very much beef, not even on the Sunday, so she would mince it and pad it out with chopped up vegetables.  I suppose it was one way of getting her Grandchildren to eat them.  Whatever the agenda, I know that we all loved her pie.  While we are talking of not wasting food, for tea we would eat dripping from the roast beef, spread onto warm toast and sprinkled with a little salt.  Oh, the memories! 

There are all sorts of variations on the cottage pie.  Shepherds pie is the most common, and is associated with minced lamb rather than beef.  Cottage Pie was first recorded in 1791 when the potato was used by the poor.  Cottage came from the work cottages they lived in.

I’ve tried all sorts of Cottage Pie recipes.  One included baked beans, some with cheese mixed into the potato topping, some tending towards an Italian version, using pancetta and red wine in the beef mix.  All were really tasty and healthy too.  My favourite though has to be my Grandmas version.  I am serving it with boiled cabbage and gravy.  Heaven!

Grandmas’s Cottage Pie          (Serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 500g (1lb) beef mince (lean)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Splash Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
  • 500 ml (1pt) beef stock
  • 1kg (2 lbs) old potatoes (I use Maris Piper), peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • Knob of butter
  • A little milk.
    1. Heat the oil in a pan then add the onion, carrots and celery.  Fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften but are not coloured.
    2. Add the beef mince, crumbling to break up any large lumps.  When browned, add the tomato puree and Worcestershire Sauce.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.  Add the stock, mix well.  Bring to the boil then simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
    3. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. 
    4. Meanwhile, make the mashed potato.  Add the potatoes to salted boiling water, cover and simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).  Drain well then return to pan.  Add the butter and milk and mash everything together until smooth.
    5. When the beef is ready tip into ovenproof dish.  Top with the potato then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is browned and the beef is bubbling around the edges.
    6. If you want to, you can freeze this at the end of Step 4.  Make sure it is cold before you put it in the freezer.  Defrost and continue with Step 5 when you want to eat it. 

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