Cottage Pie is traditional British comfort food and the nation's favourite. This simple yet delicious dish is a great combination of rich meaty sauce and creamy&cheesy mashed potatoes. It is child friendly as it has mild flavours, so if you're having a family over for dinner, this Cottage Pie recipe is a good option.
This British classic is very easy to cook and also very affordable. The name "Cottage Pie" was first used at the end of the 18th century when people who lived in cottages in the country started using potatoes as an everyday food as it was quite affordable.
Shepherd Pie vs Cottage Pie
There are other versions of this classic dish and the most famous one is the Shepherd's Pie. The main and only difference between them is that Shepherd's Pie has lamb mince instead of beef. They both can be made with finely chopped leftover roast beef or lamb meat instead of minced meat.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- Beef mince - fresh, good quality and a high percentage fat beef mince (%15 - 20) is the secret of a good cottage pie.
- Olive oil - you might not need olive oil if your mince contains enough fat. When you brown the mince, it releases some fast and you can use that fat to saute the onions and vegetables instead of olive oil.
- Onions - they are great flavourings that adds an umami flavour to dishes. You can use finely diced yellow, white or brown onions.
- Garlic - peel and finely chop before adding it to the cottage pie.
- Celery - it adds flavour depth to meals, especially soups, sauces and casseroles like cottage pie. Finely dice the same size as onions before adding.
- Carrot - adds aroma and colour to the dishes as well as nutrition. Peel and finely dice it the same size as celery and onions before adding.
- Flour - helps to thicken the sauce. Skip it for a gluten-free version and use cornflour instead at the end of the cooking process.
- Tomato paste - it adds an umami flavour to the dishes as well as a bright red colour.
- Port - substitute with sherry, vermouth, marsala or sweet red wine. Use unsweetened red fruit juice for a non-alcoholic kid-friendly version.
- Stock -Homemade Beef Stock or Chicken Stock (Bone Broth) are the best options. You can use good quality store-bought stock or stock cubes as well. Make sure you check the seasoning before adding salt at the end of the cooking period.
- Worcestershire sauce - it tastes tangy, savoury, sweet, and salty and adds umami flavour, which comes from the anchovies.
- Bay leaves - are great aromatic herbs for flavouring. They should be removed before topping the cottage pie filling with mashed potatoes.
- Thyme - it is an aromatic herb from the mint family and is used widely in Mediterranean cooking. Use fresh or dried. You can substitute it with rosemary or oregano.
- Frozen peas - add some nice green colour and sweetness to the cottage pie. You can use fresh or tinned peas instead of frozen ones.
- Seasoning - adjust the seasoning to your taste. If using store-bought stock, add the salt at the end of cooking and check before adding any salt.
Ingredients for the Mashed Potatoes
- Potatoes - the best potatoes for fluffy, smooth and flavoursome mashed potatoes are the ones with higher starch such as Maris Piper, Red Russets, Desire or King Edward.
- Double cream - it is similar to heavy cream. You can substitute it with full-fat milk, single cream or sour cream. If you want to omit it, add extra butter in mashed potatoes.
- Butter - helps make the starchy texture of potatoes richer and adds loads of flavour.
- Egg yolk - adds creaminess and flavour to the mashed potatoes and also gives some golden brown colour to the top layer.
- Cheddar cheese - everything tastes better with a bit of extra cheese added. You can use any hard cheese you like using for cooking.
This is a straightforward recipe to follow. However, to achieve the best results you need to follow a few simple steps:
- Prepare the Meat Sauce - Heat a heavy-based pan or a dutch oven on medium heat and brown the mince until it releases its fat. Most of the recipes start with browning the onions in oil first then adding the meat in, but I prefer to start browning the meat. This way, the meat releases some fat to sauté the onions/vegetables. And you might get away with not adding any extra oil or only just a little bit depending on the fat percentage of the meat. Add olive oil if necessary and sauté the onions until lightly brown. Add the garlic, sauté for another minute then add the celery and carrots.
Cook for 5 more minutes or until the vegetables are slightly softened. Add the tomato paste and sprinkle on the flour, give it a quick stir. Deglaze the pan with port or red wine and let it evaporate.
Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and put the lid on. Let it gently simmer for 1 to 1 ¼ hours or until the meat is soft and the gravy has thickened. Stir every half an hour or so to avoid the sauce sticking to the bottom of the pan. The presence of the flour makes the sauce easier to stick to the bottom and burn if not stirring occasionally. When the meat sauce is cooked, add the frozen peas and pour the sauce into an oven dish (approximately 25 mm diameter). Let it cool down for 30 minutes before adding the mashed potatoes to avoid them sinking in the meat sauce.
- Prepare the Mashed Potatoes - Preheat the fan oven to 180°C and start preparing the mashed potatoes while the meat sauce is cooling down. Peel and cut the potatoes in chunks and place them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water. Always start cooking the potatoes with cold water for even cooking. If you put your potatoes in boiling water, the outside will be mashy and start to flake while the core is still uncooked. Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a boil, bring the heat down and let the potatoes gently simmer for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain well and return the potatoes to the pan. Put the pan back on low heat and let all the water evaporate for 30 seconds then remove from the heat. Add the double cream, butter, salt and pepper. Mash with using a masher or a ricer until smooth. Add the cheese and egg yolks and give it a quick stir to combine.
- Combine and Cook the Cottage Pie - Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat sauce and cover completely. Fluff the top using a fork for extra crispiness. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top of the Cottage Pie is golden brown and piping hot.
The best way to serve cottage pie is with some steamed or sautéed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, beans, mange tout. You can also serve it with some simple salad such as Rocket and Parmesan Salad, Summer Chickpea Salad or Greek Salad.
You can reheat cottage pie in an oven or microwave. To reheat it in the oven, preheat the oven to 180°C, cover the cottage pie with tin foil and place it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until it is piping hot in the middle. You can remove the tin foil during the last 5 minutes of reheating process. To reheat the cottage pie in the microwave, place the pie in the microwave and run it for a couple of minutes. Check if it is done and put for another minute if needed until it is piping hot in the middle.
For more traditional British recipes why not try:
Top Tip From The Chef
This simple yet delicious Cottage Pie tastes even better when reheated. Make the meat filling ahead (up to 3 days) and top with mashed potatoes later when you want to serve the dish. Save some time while adding extra flavour to your dish!
I hope you enjoy the process of making this Traditional British Cottage Pie as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Traditional Cottage Pie
- 600 g beef mince
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion (small diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 sticks celery (small diced)
- 1 medium carrot (small diced)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup port (60 ml) (or ½ cup red wine)
- 2 cups beef stock or chicken stock (500 ml)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 sprigs thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 150 g frozen peas
- 800 g potatoes (peeled and cut in chunks)
- ⅓ cup double cream (80 ml)
- 30 g butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 50 g cheddar cheese (or any other hard cheese you like)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Heat a heavy-based pan or a dutch oven on medium heat and brown the mince until it releases its fat.
- Add the olive oil and sauté the onions until lightly brown then add the garlic, sauté for another minute.
- Add the celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly softened.
- Stir in the tomato paste and sprinkle on the flour. Give it a quick stir.
- Deglaze the pan with port or red wine and let it evaporate.
- Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil.
- Lower the heat and put the lid on. Let it gently simmer for 1 to 1 ¼ hour, until the meat is soft and the gravy has thickened. Stir every half an hour or so to avoid the sauce sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- When the meat sauce is cooked, add the frozen peas in and transfer them into an oven dish (approximately 25 mm diameter), and let it cool down for 30 minutes to avoid the mashed potatoes sinking in the meat sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan oven).
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal chunks. Place them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water.
- Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a boil, bring the heat down, and let the potatoes gently simmer for about 20 minutes or until soft.
- Drain well and return the potatoes back to the pan. Put the pan back on low heat and let all the water evaporate for 30 seconds then remove them from the heat.
- Add the double cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes by using a masher or a ricer until smooth.
- Add the cheese and egg yolks and give it a quick stir to combine.
- Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat sauce and cover completely. Fluff the top by using a fork for extra crispiness.
- Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top turns golden brown.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
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