Cottage pie is such a comforting and delicious family meal. And this version is simple to prepare ahead and can be easily cooked from frozen! A sure family favourite!
I have an issue with cottage pie and shepherd pie! Well my issue isn't with the pie, but with what people call shepherds pie. As I explained to my kids the other day, shepherds pie is made with lamb, cottage pie is made with beef.
"Oh" said Mr 6 "that makes sense because shepherds have sheep."
Although at that point Mr 9 piped up with "then cottage pie should be called cattle farmer pie"
Too smart for his own good that one!!! 😉 But he did have a valid point so I had a google to see why cottage pie is called cottage pie!
I found a couple of answers and I am good to you guys so I thought I would share them with you. If you are not a food history nerd like me, feel free to jump ahead 😉
Peasants and farm workers who lived in cottages would keep a cow for milk and then at the end of its life they would use the meat for pies, hence cottage pie.
The cheaper cuts of beef would be used to make pies, which provided plentiful dinners that were eaten by the folks who lived in the cottages whilst the rich folks in the manor house tucked into Game Pie or beef roasts.
So there we go, cottage pie because people in cottages ate beef pies 😉 Or maybe it is just a quirk of the English Language, like Toad in the hole and Bubble and Squeak!
Either way, if you make a 'shepherds pie' and use beef them remember it is actually a cottage pie 😉
This cottage pie is so comforting and perfect for the whole family!
I like my cottage pie to be packed with flavour, no weak and woosy gravy for me. I also add some lentils to the mince, this is a great way to gets some extra nutrients into the kids and it means you can use a little less meat, making it cheaper. And trust me no one will know! The lentils break down into the sauce, thickening it and adding some nutritious bulk.
Once you have the amazing rich meat sauce, you add a good layer of mashed potato to it and bake it until golden. SO GOOD!!! What is more, for even more flavour I add some cheese and herbs to my mash! Because let's face it, cheesy mash is the best!!!!
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Individual Cottage Pie with Cheddar and Thyme Mash
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 500 g beef mince
- 1 can brown lentils
- 2 tablespoon plain flour
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon tarragon
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 250 ml (1 cup) red wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 400 ml beef stock
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup frozen peas
For the mash
- 800 g potatoes
- 125 ml (½ cup) milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 125 g strong cheddar
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Peel and chop the onion and carrot.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Then add the onions and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes until they are starting to soften.
- Crush in the garlic and stir.
- Add the mince to the pan and use a spatula to break it apart. Stir well and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the flour, thyme, tarragon and black pepper. Stir everything together and then add in the red wine.
- Once the red wine is incorporated add the tomato paste, beef stock, bay leaf and the worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- Cook uncovered for about 40 minutes until everything is cooked well and the gravy has reduced to coat the meat. Whilst this is cooking prepare the mash.
- Peel and roughly chop the potatoes.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt it well and then add in the potatoes. Cook them for 20 minutes or until tender.
- Drain well then return them to the pan and mash them with the milk and butter.
- Once mashed add in the grated cheddar and fresh thyme. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
To Assemble the dish.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/390ºF
- Stir the frozen peas through the meat mixture.
- Divide the meat mixture between 6 large ramekins (or any small oven proof dishes).
- Top with the mashed potato and bake for 20 minutes until golden on top.
Assemble the pies and allow them to completely cool.
Cover them well with cling film and the freeze.
Defrost them in the fridge and cook as instructed.
Alternatively to cook from frozen, heat the oven to 180ºC, cover with foil and cook for 11/2 hrs until bubbling. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes to get a golden crust.
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I tripled the recipe and it told me to put 750 ml of wine and 1200 ml of beef broth. I’m a little worried as it looks very soupy. Will that cook into the meat?
Claire McEwen says
So I have never tippled the recipe so I can't say for sure! But with the 6 servings, it starts off quite wet but as it cooks it gets thicker, due to the flour and evaporation. Leaving you with a thick gravy.
I think with crippling the recipe, you might find you need to cook it for a little longer as the rate of evaporation won't triple so it will look wetter. Hope that makes sense.
Dorothy Dunton says
Hi Claire. These little pies are pure comfort food and something I've never made...why I don't know. Here, again, I would sub barley for the lentils. Thyme is something I use a lot of, mine actually wintered over so I have had fresh thyme all winter.
Claire McEwen says
I have been on a bit of a lentil road haven't I? 😉
I think barley would be a great addition, or some canned beans.
I am just starting to re-plant my veg and herb garden. Only 2 1/2 years since the fire!!!!!