Cottage pie is a real classic recipe, isn’t it? It makes me think of rainy Sundays, even though I’ve probably eaten it in the height of summer as well as the very depths of winter. It contains all of my favourite things – potato, beef mince, cheese, hidden vegetables – and is the food equivalent of a big warm hug from your mum.
I’m writing this post because Beko are doing a whole series of posts around Mother’s Day in order to promote their new induction hobs. They wanted me to share a post that reminds me of childhood because my mum cooked it for me. I think most people have fond memories of their mum or dad cooking them a delicious cottage pie, don’t they? It’s something that popped up so often during my childhood, and indeed so often when I was first learning to cook for myself, that it’s basically a part of me. Cut me through the middle and you’d find “cottage pies” written on one of the rings in my mum’s neat, curly handwriting.
This is my mum’s basic recipe, with a few ideas I’ve learnt/stolen from other places. The idea of using tomato and brown sauce rather than tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce is actually from The Hairy Bikers, and the idea of adding cheese to the mash rather than just on top of it was from a cottage pie I had at BAFTA that was so heart-stoppingly delicious I still dream about it sometimes. And, of course, the use of Quark and addition of as much veg as I can possibly fit in to one pie is from my own vegetable-obsessed brain.
This takes a little longer than a regular cottage pie, which is why it’s a “luxury” pie. But it’s worth it. By ‘eck, it’s worth it.
Start by browning about 500g of lean beef mince. When it’s nice and dark, tip it onto a plate and set aside.
Whilst the mince is cooking, start dicing your carrots. I like huge carrots, so I tend to dice and then chop each round into fours. Go by whatever makes sense. Add them to the pan as you dice them; don’t worry about putting them all in at once. Then chop the celery, the onion and the garlic, adding to the pan as you go. Stir frequently, and add a little more oil if you need to.
Peel your potatoes whilst the vegetables soften. Put them in salted water and let them boil for 20 minutes.
When you’ve peeled your spuds, it’s time to turn your attention back to the vegetables. Add a tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of tomato ketchup and a tablespoon of brown sauce. Stir to coat. The vegetables will suddenly feel thick and delicious. Add the mince back to the pan.
Pour over 500ml of good beef stock (I use Knorr stock) and add a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Bring to a vicious boil, then reduce the heat right down and let it simmer for 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to see if you need to add more water, or turn the heat up. You want a nice thick gravy at the end.
When your potatoes are soft, drain. Mix a few tablespoons of Quark with one egg and 100g of low-fat mature cheddar. Pour this over the potatoes with lots of pepper, and mash until smooth and creamy.
Remove the bay leaf and the thyme from the mince. Put the mince and vegetables into an ovenproof dish and top with the potatoes. Smooth over, then drag a fork roughly across the top in long strips – this gives a bit of texture and allows the cheese to crisp up nicely. Finish by topping with the remaining 60g of cheese.
Bake at 200C for 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and golden, and devour with some green vegetables.
- 500g lean beef mince
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 3 large celery stalks, diced
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1kg of red potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 1 tablespoon of plain flour
- 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
- 1 tablespoon of brown sauce
- 1 beef stock cube
- A few sprigs of thyme
- A bay leaf
- A few heaped tablespoons of Quark
- 1 large egg
- 160g of reduced-fat grated cheddar
- Brown the mince in a large, deep pan. Remove from the pan and set aside
- Put the potatoes in a pan of salted water and boil for 20 minutes until very soft. Drain and set aside
- Add the carrots, celery and onions. Cook for 10-15 minutes until soft. Add the flour and the sauces, then stir well to coat
- Return the mince to the pan and stir to evenly distribute it. Use the stock cube to make up 500ml of beef stock. Pour this into the pan and add the thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 40 minutes until you get a thick gravy
- Mix the Quark with the egg and 100g of the cheese. Pour this over the potatoes and mash them well
- Remove the bay leaf and the thyme. Pre-heat the oven to 200C
- Put the meat and vegetables in an ovenproof dish, then top with the potato. Use a fork to create strips in the top of the mash (it doesn't have to be neat) then top with the remaining cheese
- Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly