Monday, 16 July 2018

#ewew cooks Cottage Pie

Cottage pie or shepherd's pie is basically a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato.  The meat used is usually ground beef or ground lamb which is cooked in a tomato gravy of onions and vegetables and topped with mashed potato.

It seems it should be called cottage pie (if ground beef is used) and named shepherd's pie (if it's ground lamb).  Well, now I know.  So, I guess I'm making Cottage Pie then (though nowadays both names are used interchangeably).  I suppose you can also substitute it with ground chicken or pork if you like (but I won't know what fancy names to call those pies other than chicken or pork shepherd's pie...kekeke!).

This recipe is inspired by Patricia Heaton and Jamie's Table which I've tweaked and simplified further.  I don't mind sacrificing a bit of the taste if I can save on buying more spices and seasonings which I'm not able to use up.


1 packet minced beef (the one I got was about 260g)
4 medium potatoes
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 a red capsicum, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks of Chinese coriander, chopped
2 knobs of butter (I use those 9-in-1 mini packs)
4 tbsp tomato puree (you can add more if you like it wetter)
1 tsp (dry) mixed herbs
Salt & (freshly cracked) black pepper to taste


Make sure the diced vegetables (of onion, carrot, bell pepper and celery) are cut uniformly as this will ensure that they all cook at the same time.  The quantity of each of the diced vegetables is about 3/4 of a cup.


Pour in a tbsp of olive oil into a hot pan and put in the ground beef.  My recipe has a reduced amount of meat used as I wanted more vegetables than meat in my pies.  You can 'beef up' the beef (double the portion if you like).  Once the ground meat is in, season with 1 tsp mixed herbs, 1/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper.  You can use 1 tsp of chopped fresh thyme if you have.  I didn't, so I substituted it with 1 tsp of mixed dry herbs of rosemary, thyme, marjoram and basil (I 'invested' in this seasoning recently since it's so versatile with a mixture of four herbs which I can use on a lot of stuff).

Saute the meat on relatively high heat to get it nicely seared (I learned that from Tobie Puttock's video on Jamie's Table).  Cook it for about 3 minutes until it's nicely browned.  Remove the cooked meat onto a dish.

Next, put in all the vegetables (of onions, carrots, capsicum and celery) together with the minced garlic too in 1 tbsp of olive oil and saute for 5 minutes.

Again, season with 1/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper.  The vegetables are so pretty and colourful, don't you think?

Once the vegetables start to soften, add back the cooked beef mince to the pan.  To that, add 4 tbsp of tomato puree (add more if you want a more tomato-ey taste) and 1/2 cup water (use fresh stock if you have) and simmer on medium low heat for 5 minutes.

I bought this bottle of fresh tomato puree from Mercato (coz I liked the jar!) and found that it only cost RM6.99 for 720 ml (quite a bargain for a product of Italy since Italian tomato puree is known to be the most acclaimed variety, no?).  Anyway, I like the taste of this tomato puree as I find it not as acidic as some of the ones I've bought before.  I think I should have added more tomato puree into my mixture.

I improvised and substituted fresh flat-leaf parsley with coriander (since there weren't any at the supermarket when I wanted to make this).  Add chopped coriander (I like a lot) towards the end and simmer for a further minute until the sauce is almost dry.  If you want to include green peas into the mix, you can. Just add frozen peas in the last minute and stir them in (the baking process will cook and soften the peas).

And the Cottage Pie filling is done.  Let it cool.

In the meantime, make the mash.  In a heavy saucepan, season the water generously with salt and bring to a boil.  Put the potatoes in and parboil until soft.  Once a fork easily pierces through the potatoes, you know it's ready (which is about 15 minutes).  Drain the potatoes thoroughly.

Add 2 knobs of butter to the potatoes while they're are still warm, season with salt and black pepper.  Mash. You can also add milk or cream to the mash but I didn't, so I loosened it up with a little water (stock would be more flavourful if you have).

By now, the filling would have cooled a little for you to spoon into ramekins.  Fill it slightly more than halfway up and the rest of the ramekin can be filled with the mashed potato.

Top the balance of the ramekin with the potato mash and press down to seal the edges.

I don't have those fancy tips to pipe in the mash, so I just use a fork to press down or poke at the mash to create ridges as this will give rise to crusty edges.

Finally, sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over the top of each ramekin. You can sprinkle some cheese on top too if you want.

Put the ramekins on a lined sheet pan (that's in case the filling bubbles over).  Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes.

The Cottage Pie is done once the mash turns a nice golden brown.

The filling was more than enough to fill 4 ramekins (I was left with extras to fill another 1 - 2 ramekins) but I had run out of mash (so you'll need to adjust the amount of potatoes needed...rule of thumb is one potato for each portion/ramekin...and when you increase the potatoes, you have to increase the butter too, of course).

You can keep the extras and make a pasta dish out of it by adding more tomato puree (and that makes a wonderful meal in itself).

You can also choose to make a layered casserole by spooning all the vegetables (and mash) into one large casserole or you can do it like I did here, into small ramekins, one for each person (maybe two if you're feeling peckish).

This was my second time making Cottage Pie...but my first attempt at making it from scratch.  Hmmm, I think I pretty much nailed it! ;)

The previous time I made a Beef Shepherd's Pie was through a dinner box provided by (the now defunct) Urban Stove that looked something like wasn't great looking nor great tasting (that's why it's defunct...wuahahahaha)! :D

Mine (made from scratch) definitely looks better presented...and it was better tasting too.

It's a wonderfully comforting dish.  Just imagine curling up in the cold air-conditioned comfort of your home and out comes this hot mash and still bubbling beef and vegetable stew to warm your heart.  Simply yummy. ^.^

Because it's a dish of meat and potatoes, it can be a little heavy, so it'd be best to serve it with some green leafy vegetables (like a fresh arugula salad with cherry tomatoes or sauteed broccolini or, in this case, stir-fried pea shoots) to offer a fresh bite.

The potato mash was really nice, buttery, soft and fluffy on the inside with nice crispy edges on the outside. Eaten with the bubbling hot beef and vegetable stew, it was hearty and delicious. ^o^

If you want a vegetarian version, you can too....just omit the ground beef.  It should still taste good...and you can call it a 'shepherdless' pie....hihihi! ;D  And if you add a sprinkling of breadcrumbs (and cheese) to the mashed potato topping, it turns into a cumberland pie!  So, whether it's a cottage, shepherd's, 'shepherdless' or cumberland pie...try making one today and you'll realise that the name just sounds fancy but it's actually quite simple to make.

I wasn't expecting it to be so successful actually.  If you're having a party and want to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen or away from your guests, then this Cottage Pie is certainly a contender as a main since it can be prepared ahead of time and put to bake when your guests arrive.

Give it a go at making this savoury, comfort-food classic.....who doesn't like meat and potatoes, right? ^_~

Serves 3 - 4 (mashed potato was enough for 4 ramekins but filling was enough for 6)


  1. This post is wonderful and brought lots of memories of my late mother who used to bake using beef yet she called it Sheperd's pie. Today I learn about the difference with Cottage Pie from you. I like this recipe of yours which increases the vegetables which would be more crunchy in texture plus the colourful looks.

    I am thinking now whether I could try using pork meat since my wife avoids beef and lamb. It might turn out just as good. Thank you!

    1. You can try using minced pork but just make sure it's lean pork as store-bought minced pork can sometimes be quite fatty. Perhaps, chicken might be a better choice as the meat is very lean :)

    2. Good idea to use minced pork. Thank you!

  2. Your mini cottage pies look very good. This is a dish that I had in mind to try out but somehow I never got down to it. It's a good idea to make mini portions. Yeah, I can imagine eating this cottage pie while watching TV. BTW, your pink ramekin is very cute. Is it from Daiso?

    1. Yes, it must have seen it in Daiso. Haha, you end up liking my cheap Daiso ramekin than my expensive Pyrex ramekin. I wasn't sure if the cheap Daiso ramekin would withstand the oven heat as I've never baked with them before but they turned out fine in the end.

  3. This is one of my favourite comfort dishes. I've also tried it with a lentil base and sweet potato topping.

    1. Hmmm, I'm not in favour of a lentil base but I am all for a sweet potato topping in my next one. ;-)

  4. Cottage pie or shepherd's pie sound really like a complicated dish to prepare but your recipe quite convince me to try out to bake it at home :P

    1. I was having the same thoughts as you too in the beginning but when I got down to doing it, I realised that it wasn't complicated to do. Best thing is they freeze very well, so you can prepare it ahead during the weekend and reheat for weekday dinners! ;)

  5. i won't say no to a good cottage pie, and yours looks excellent - i bet i could have two servings in one sitting. i like how you document everything in photos very comprehensively in your recipes btw - it's quite foolproof for folks who follow your steps! :)

    1. I bet you can have three servings. I can manage two if I'm feeling hungry. I'm a noob cook myself, so I try to show the detailed steps for other cooks out there like myself to follow easily.


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