Cottage Pie (or Shepherd’s Pie made with ground beef instead of ground lamb) is a historically British classic dish that’s a staple pub food. It is also commonly served around St. Patrick’s Day as an alternative to corned beef and cabbage.
Here (in the US) I commonly think of it as good old meat-and-potatoes comfort food for a cold day or when you’re in need of some “stick-to-your-ribs” food, as my dad likes to say. 🙂
If you have a large cast iron skillet, that will work best for this dish, as you can go from start to finish and only have one thing to clean up! And it will give your dish a nice extra favor.
Here’s what mine looked like when it was fresh out of the oven:
FOR THE POTATO LAYER
- 2.5 - 3 lbs Russet potatoes approx 3-4 large ones, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch chunks / cubes
- 4 tbsp butter softened
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/2 c. extra sharp shredded white cheddar cheese if you're feeling fancy
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper or to taste
- 1 tbsp parsley fresh preferred - for garnish
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika - for garnish
FOR THE MEAT LAYER
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 cup carrots diced small
- 1 large onion diced small approx 1.5 cups
- 0.5 - 1 cup celery diced small (optional / min 1 rib celery)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 - 1/2 c. Dry Red Wine
- 1 cup beef stock - low sodium
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp pepper or to taste
- 1 clove garlic minced or equivalent amt garlic powder
- 2 tsp dried rosemary optional - I don't like it, so I don't use it
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- 2 bay leaves
PREP AND BOIL THE POTATOES:
- Start by first peeling, and cutting the potatoes.
- I found it helpful to wash each potato after peeling it (rather than before) and drying it off with a paper towel just before cutting it.
- Cut the potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks / cubes.
- Place the potatoes into a large saucepan that will hold at the very least 2 quarts (maybe 3).
- Cook the potatoes in boiling water for about 15 - 18 minutes or until fork tender.
- While the potatoes are cooking, you can start preparing everything else that will go into the meat mixture.
START PREPPING EVERYTHING ELSE:
- Peel and dice the carrots. (I used a measuring cup to make sure I wasn't going much above 1 cup).
- Peel and dice the onion (small!)
- Wash the celery and dice small. I don't prefer celery and if you don't either you can leave it out. However, to get the lovely mirepoix flavor, I would recommend dicing 1 rib of celery very very small, and you probably won't even taste it.
- Measure out 1 cup frozen peas.
- Set aside all of the veggies for when you'll need them.
- Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in your cast iron skillet (or if you don't have one, any skillet will do) over medium heat.
- Add the diced onion, kosher salt (1/4 tsp), freshly ground black pepper, garlic (or garlic powder), dried thyme, dried (or fresh) parsley. Stir together with a spoon or spatula so that the spices coat the onion.
- Cook for 5min - 7min until the onion softens and becomes translucent.
- Add in the carrots and celery and continue to cook for 10min more (approximately). Feel free to cover.
- Add the frozen peas.
- Cook for 3min more.
START COOKING THE MEAT:
- Push the veggies to the side (so that there is a hole in the center) and add the ground beef to the skillet.
- Season it with the salt (1/4 tsp) and pepper and cook it for abut 5 minutes or until it's no longer pink, breaking it up as you go along.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, wine, 3tbsp tomato sauce, and stir.
- Add the 2 bay leaves, give everything a good stir, and let it simmer while you mash the potatoes.
HEAT UP THE OVEN:
- Preheat the oven 400 F degrees.
ARE THE POTATOES DONE COOKING?
- Prepare the mashed potatoes . . .
- Drain the potatoes but keep them in the saucepan.
- Put them back on the hot burner to let any excess water wick away.
- Add in the butter and using a potato masher, mash until smooth.
- Add the milk, Parmesan cheese, (cheddar if you're using it), salt, pepper and mash a bit a more until smooth.
IT'S TIME TO ASSEMBLE:
- FYI - Make sure the thickness of the sauce is how you want it when you're ready to assemble because that's likely how it will be once it's baked, as not that much steam escapes during the baking process to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until the meat mixture is the consistency you want.
- When you're ready, remove the bay leaves from the meat mixture.
- Spread the potatoes over the meat and smooth with a spoon.
- Draw some concentric circles with a fork on the top for some added cache.
- a bit and garnish with a bit of parsley.
- Place the cast iron pan in the oven.
- Bake for approx. 30min until golden brown on top.
- When you remove it from the oven, first -- grind some black pepper on top, and give it a nice sprinkle of parsley (for a pretty garnish).
- Let it sit for 10min to cool a bit and give the liquids a chance to soak up and set.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
Skillet Shepherd’s Pie by Joanna Cismaru (who blogs at Jo Cooks)
Traditional Cottage Pie by Julia (who blogs at Savory Tooth)
Irish Cottage Pie by Carrie Farias (who blogs at Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen)
Cottage Pie by Nagi (who blogs at RecipeTin Eats)
As always — I love to hear from you! 🙂