Traditional Cottage Pie Recipe
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.
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:
The Cottage Pie Comes Out of the Oven
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!
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