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How to Cook Cottage Pie

Updated on July 12, 2020
Gloriousconfusion profile image

I used to help in our family restaurant. I love good food and enjoy thinking up creative ways to cook and use leftovers to avoid food waste.

Cottage Pie, Sometimes Called Shepherds Pie, is a Family Favorite in my Home

Cottage pie is a traditional English dish, made with minced beef, topped with mashed potato which has been browned and crisped in the oven. My mother taught me how to cook it, and I have been making it for over fifty years, improving on it as time goes by. Once you have tried my recipe, I think you'll agree that this is the best cottage pie you will ever taste.

Some people call this cottage pie "shepherd's pie", but what does it matter as long as it tastes good? And it does!

Cottage Pie Just Out of the Oven
Cottage Pie Just Out of the Oven | Source

Cottage Pie is Easy to Eat Because it has Everything in the Same Dish

Children love it because it's soft and tasty; elderly people love it because it's soft and easy to eat if they have difficulty chewing anything tough; and everyone in-between loves it because it's delicious.

Cottage Pie is Also Fairly Easy to Make, Very Cheap and Nutritious

My detailed instructions and explanations for this cottage pie recipe will encourage beginners to give it a try

Most of the seasoning mentioned below is optional, and if you prefer your cottage pie to have a bland flavor, with fewer of the highly-flavored ingredients, or if you simply haven't got some of the ingredients to hand, you can still make a good cottage pie as long as you have the main ingredients, namely minced beef, onion, tomato and potato.

You Can Rate This Recipe - Did You Enjoy it?

4.5 stars from 2 ratings of How to Cook Cottage Pie

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 1 hour 5 min
Yields: Serves three people


  • Medium-sized saucepan
  • Oven-proof baking dish
  • Wooden spoon for mixing
  • Blender or mincer if the meat is not already minced
  • Potato peeler
  • Potato masher (you can use a fork if you haven't got a masher)

Ingredients Needed for Cottage Pie Recipe - to Serve 3 People

You will need to vary the quantities if you want to feed more people
You will need to vary the quantities if you want to feed more people | Source

Ingredients - Assemble Them Before You Start:

NB: Precise amounts are not particularly important for this recipe, so you can add more or less, or vary the ingredients

  • 13 oz. (350 g) minced beef, preferably best beef mince, which is lower in fat
  • 3 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cabbage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or other cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 large blob of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of sage and onion stuffing
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed herbs
  • 1 clove
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A few drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Bisto or other gravy thickener
  • salt, to taste

Here Are The Various Stages For Preparing Your Cottage Pie:



1. Fry the onion in the olive oil in a saucepan on a low heat until golden brown. Add the minced meat, breaking it up and squashing it with the wooden spoon. Continue to turn the meat and squash it down, so that it cooks and browns evenly. (If the meat is not broken up and squashed, it will form into lumps).

2. Add the garlic, and all the spice and herbs, stirring them in to spread them through the meat. Add the tinned chopped tomatoes and a little Worcestershire sauce, stir well, and simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan. If the meat starts to dry out, add a little water.

3. Whilst the meat cooks, peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces, cover them with water in a saucepan and boil for about 15 minutes until soft, adding a small amount of salt if desired. Drain off most of the water, leaving about 1 tablespoon of of the water in the saucepan with the potatoes. Add the milk, and then mash the potatoes into the liquid, ending up with a fairly soft consistency.

4. Wash the cabbage and boil for 5 - 10 minutes. (You can cook it in with the potatoes, and then fish it out and save separately before you mash the potatoes. This will save dirtying another saucepanpan). Do not cook the cabbage for long, as it will cook further in the cottage pie.

5. Add the Bisto or other gravy thickening to the minced meat and stir until the gravy has thickened. Then spoon the meat mixture into a medium-sized oven-proof dish.

6. Sprinkle the sage and onion stuffing mixture evenly over the meat. Then cover the meat evenly with the cabbage. This will stop the gravy seeping into the mashed potatoes.

7. Spread the mashed potato evenly on top of the cabbage, using a fork to make a light pattern in the potato, and then put some small blobs of butter on the top. The butter will melt whilst cooking and spread into the ridges formed by the fork.

8. Cook the cottage pie on the top shelf in a medium hot oven until golden brown for about 30 minutes, depending on the oven and heat. Check whether it is done - it should be golden brown and slightly burnt . If necessary, cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes.

Butter the Top Surface of the Cottage Pie
Butter the Top Surface of the Cottage Pie | Source

Here's a Secret Tip if Your Family Say They Don't Like Vegetables:

A little advice from one who knows!

If your family are picky about eating vegetables, cottage pie is an ideal meal for disguising secretly-added vegetables - for instance you can add a grated carrot, greens or finely chopped celery to the minced meat, and nobody would notice the difference. Just don't tell them what's gone into your cottage pie.

And Here's Some Advice About Health Considerations When Using This Recipe:

For health reasons, I would suggest that you use as little salt as possible, and that you use olive oil for frying, as it consists of polyunsaturated fat, and is therefore healthier than most other cooking oils. You could even use a little olive oil on top of the potato instead of butter, if you are really health-conscious, but I must say that butter does give the mashed potato topping a better flavor.

How do You Like to Buy Your Minced Meat?

Take the Poll below about minced meat and see how many people share your views

Many people like to buy their beef in a whole piece, and then mince it themselves, so that they know what's going into it, whilst others are happy to buy the meat already minced.

Some time ago there was a scandal in the UK about Polish suppliers adding horse meat to minced meat used for commercial beefburgers without the customers' knowledge, and it led to the withdrawal of millions of beefburgers in many well-known shops.

So how do you like to buy your meat?

Do You Mince Your Own Meat?

See results

A Popular Video Showing How to Cook Shepherds Pie or Cottage Pie - a Variation on My Recipe


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