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cottage pie fresh out the oven with beef dripping down edges of white casserole dish
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4.95 from 20 votes

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie

A comforting and simple cottage pie recipe. Once you try Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie you won't have it any other way! Refer to the notes section before you start the recipe :)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 5 mins
Total Time1 hr 25 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: English
Servings: 8
Calories: 693kcal
Cost: £2 / £2.50

Equipment

  • Deep 12" Skillet or Large Pot with Wooden Spoon (for meat layer)
  • Large Pot & Potato Masher (for mash)
  • 8x12" Baking Dish (for combined)
  • Tray (to place dish on)
  • Chopping Board & Sharp Knife (for veg)
  • Jug (for stock)
  • Cheese Grater

Ingredients

Beef Layer:

  • 2lbs / 1kg Ground Beef (10-12% fat works great)
  • 1 large White Onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups / 150g Mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 medium Carrots, peeled & finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
  • 1 small glass of Dry Red Wine (see notes)
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 cups / 500ml cups Beef Stock
  • 2 tbsp Gravy Granules (see notes)
  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
  • Olive Oil, as needed

Mashed Potato Layer:

  • 4lbs / 2kg White Potatoes, peeled and diced into chunks
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 large handfuls Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • generous helpings of Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Cream or Milk, as needed (approx 1/2cup / 125ml)

Instructions

  • In a suitably sized pot/pan, fry your onions, garlic, carrot and mushrooms in a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften and brown. Add your beef, break it up with your wooden spoon and continue to frying until brown all the way through.
  • Pour in your wine and leave to simmer for around 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol and allow the beef to soak up the flavour. 
  • After, add your beef stock, gravy granules, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt & pepper (to taste) and leave to simmer over low heat for a good 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point it will look like you've got way too much liquid but it will naturally thicken, so fear not.
  • Whilst your beef is simmering, get started on the mash. Whack your peeled potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water for around 15mins or until soft enough to comfortably slice. Drain (don't rinse) and place back in the pot. Mash with butter, half your cheese, nutmeg and generous helpings of salt & pepper until a smooth texture. Add cream/milk until desired texture. Leave to one side and preheat oven to 390F/200C.
  • In a baking dish, firstly pour in your beef (removing bay leaf), top the beef with your mash and finish with a layer of cheese. Pop in the oven for around 30mins or until golden and crispy on top. Leave to sit for a few minutes to retain shape and then serve.

Video

Notes

a) Gravy granules - Whilst the gravy granules are a key part of this recipe for both flavour and thickening of the beef, make sure it's a reputable brand. Here in the UK we do gravy granules pretty well, but I have bought some very questionable gravy granules from around the world. If you can't find any decent gravy granules (I use Bisto) I recommend stirring in 2 tbsp flour into the mince before the liquid is added. Fry it off for a few mins to get rid of that floury taste, then gradually pour in the liquid to avoid lumps.
b) Red Wine - I highly recommend adding this. It adds a gorgeous depth of flavour and pairs beautifully with the beef. Most, if not all of the alcohol will burn off, but if you're adamant you don't want to add it, just sub with more beef stock.
c) Finely Diced Veg - ensure you dice the veg (namely the carrots) nice and small, just so you don't get any huge chunks running through the pie.
d) Seasoned Mash - Seasoning the mashed potato is absolutely key. There is nothing worse than bland mash taking away from the gorgeous flavours of the mince underneath it. Adding cream/milk is not in the recipe video, but is in the recipe. My bad!
e) How do I stop the mash sinking into the beef? - Firstly ensure your potatoes dry out a little before you mash them. Let some of that moisture escape, otherwise it'll sink into the beef whilst cooking. The other tip is to let the beef layer cool before you top it with mash. Because no steam can escape when it's baking (as it's hidden under the mash) whatever the thickness of the beef before the oven will be the same on the other end. So, to avoid a watery base and in turn a sloppy mess, let the mince thicken before you top it with mash.
f) Make Ahead - You can make this ahead of time, just allow to cool, tightly cover and pop in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze for up to a month. Thaw in the fridge if freezing and bake at 190C/375F for 30-40mins, or until bubbly in the centre and golden brown on top. If you bring it to room temp before baking just use the times/temp in the recipe.
g) Leftovers - Cool and tightly cover in the fridge (2-3days, longer at your discretion) or freezer (up to 1 month). Thaw in fridge if freezing then reheat in the microwave until piping hot. Leftovers will be dryer, but still delicious!
h) Calories - based on using 1 tsp of olive oil for frying, 90% lean ground beef and no added cream/milk.

Nutrition

Calories: 693kcal | Carbohydrates: 59.46g | Protein: 46.52g | Fat: 27.93g | Saturated Fat: 13.239g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.236g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9.628g | Trans Fat: 0.799g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 410mg | Potassium: 1992mg | Fiber: 6.3g | Sugar: 6.82g | Vitamin A: 6450IU | Vitamin C: 39.6mg | Calcium: 260mg | Iron: 6.1mg