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Traditional Cottage Pie Recipe

Updated on November 26, 2015
Gordon N Hamilton profile image

Gordon has been cooking and experimenting with food since childhood. He loves coming up with new and tasty culinary creations.

What is a Cottage Pie?

A Cottage Pie is a type of pie made from what was once the staples of the British diet: cheap cuts of meat and an assortment of indigenous root vegetables. It is a rustic dish, so in order to retain its authenticity, it is important the ingredients be kept as few as possible and the procedures which are employed in making the Cottage Pie not be over-complicated by modern culinary techniques and sciences. This not only provides for greater authenticity in the Cottage Pie recipe but a far more satisfying eating experience.

Traditional Cottage Pie Ingredients

In order to make a Cottage Pie for two people, the picture shows the principal ingredients which we will require. In full, we will require:

1/2lb minced (ground) beef

1/2 medium onion

1 small carrot

3/4lb to 1lb potatoes (gross weight)

1 pint of fresh beef stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Please remember, however, with these ingredients that this is a rustic recipe you are making, one which was made in houses without weighing implements of even the most basic description. Particularly in relation to the potatoes, therefore, the quantity is stipulated as a guideline and there is no requirement to start cutting up parts of potato to reach the desired weight!

How to Make a Cottage Pie: Stage One

Preparing the pie ingredients for assembly.

The first step is to peel and chop the potatoes and add them to a pan of salted, boiling water, to let them simmer for around twenty-five minutes until soft. The beef should then be added to a dry pan and browned while stirring it constantly with a wooden spoon. There is no requirement to add any oil or grease as the fat from the beef will provide all the mositure required. When the beef is browned, the finely sliced onion and diced carrot should be added and the process continued until the onion begins to glisten and turn translucent. Only at this stage (which should be a few minutes later) should the hot stock be added and the mixture simmered until the potatoes are ready.

The oven should then be put on to pre-heat to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5, the solids removed from the pan with a slotted spoon and placed in a casserole dish, as shown. Enough stock should then be poured in to almost come up to a level with the meat and vegetables, but not quite.

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How to Make a Cottage Pie - Stage Two

Adding the potato topping to the meat

It is now time to drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot (saves having another bowl to wash-up!) with a little butter and milk. Again, exact quantities are not required - we simply wish to ensure that the mashed potatoes are light and fluffy enough to be spread easily on top of the beef and vegetables. The potatoes should then be mashed thoroughly.

If we were now to simply tip the mashed potato on to the meat and vegetables, we would end up not with a Cottage Pie but with a soggy, mushy mess! What we do, therefore, is take a spoon and add little bits of the mixture at a time, as can be seen from the photograph. By then taking a flat-bladed knife and running it under hot water, we can effectively spread the mash out over the meat.

The pie should then be added to the oven - uncovered - for around twenty minutes.

NB If desired, when the pie is removed from the oven, it can be placed under a hot grill for a couple of minutes to further brown and crisp up the topping.

Cottage Pie Ready for the Oven
Cottage Pie Ready for the Oven

What is the Difference Between a Cottage Pie and a Shepherd's Pie?

Are they simply two different names for the same thing?

Firstly, the answer to the second question is no: Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie are not two different names for the same thing. The difference is often not even discernible at first glance but is very profound. The difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie is quite simply that Cottage Pie is made with beef and Shepherd's Pie with lamb, or perhaps even mutton. This can of course make a huge difference to many diners, so is always worth remembering.

I therefore followed this simple logic and came up with my own, brand new creation. Can you guess what the following is made of:

Swineherd's Pie

The Cottage Pie Comes Out of the Oven

The Cottage Pie Comes Out of the Oven
The Cottage Pie Comes Out of the Oven
Cottage Pie with HP Sauce
Cottage Pie with HP Sauce

How to Serve Cottage Pie

A matter of personal preference

How to serve Cottage Pie is an unusual conundrum, as technically, the pie itself contains the meat, potatoes and two vegetables that comprise the prescribed, balanced dinner. It is often served with a green vegetable such as Brussels sprouts or broccoli - but personally I enjoy it better than any other way served as it is with a good dollop of HP Sauce as shown!

Thank you for your visit to this page. I very much hope that you found the information it contains enjoyable and useful.

Any feedback you have may be left in the space below.

Do You Like Cottage Pie?

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    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines makes my mouth water!

    • profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 4 years ago

      Making one tonight with a similar recipe. Great fuel for a old night!

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 4 years ago from Naperville, IL

      I've never had it. Looks delicious! I plan to make this dish soon.

    • kwj profile image

      kwj 4 years ago

      I love cottage pie. Winter warming favourite.

    • michalk lm profile image

      michalk lm 4 years ago

      happy pie day

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 4 years ago

      This looks delicious and so simple. Thanks!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Just when I was going to ask the difference between cottage pie and shepherd's pie, you answered the question. Although in the U.S. I think we have corrupted the recipe and we use chopped beef most of the time for shepherd's pie. Great lens.

    • profile image

      MintySea 5 years ago

      My husband sometimes makes this and it's so good

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 5 years ago

      Yes we loved it so much on our many trips to England, we learned how to make it and it is now a favorite of many of our friends and family.

    • Gordon N Hamilton profile image

      Gordon N Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      @DebMartin: Hi, Deb. Thanks for visiting. When I was a child, there were only two vartieties of HP Sauce - original and fruity. They actually remain the only two I have ever tasted. Although I enjoy the fruity, I definitely go for the original as also being the best :)

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      I've never had it but I can tell I'd love it. I love simple meals. I've never heard of HP Sauce. Just looked it up. Do you prefer one of their flavors over another? Thanks, d

    • senditondown profile image

      Senditondown 5 years ago from US

      Love this recipe and the way you presented it. I promise that I won't add any of those little "chemical cubes" that you detest. :) Hope you don't mind but I have added this lens to my favorites section on my lensography page. Well done Gordon!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Yep!!! I love it!!! Whatever the spices added to the meat, it's a scrunchy yummy dish! As long as it has mince, mashed potatoes and a little butter on the top to give it a golden colour in the oven, it deserves to be called "cottage pie". Thanks for the lovely memories of my grandma's cottage pie!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I'm a Sheppard's pie lover.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 6 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      Simple yet great! Happy New Year Gordon!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Traditional cottage pie sounds like its right up my alley, i love all the ingredients and it's a simple and delicious one dish meal, as well as being easy on the pocket book.

    • Wbisbill LM profile image

      Barbara Isbill 6 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      I enjoyed the cottage pie when I tried it last year. Thumbs up on the lens. I included your lens in my lens on Cornmeal Pie (featured lens module(. Thanks.