There is always confusion about cottage pie and shepherd’s pie. People call a pie with beef shepherd’s pie and a pie with lamb cottage pie. But actually it is quite easy to remember: a shepherd herds sheep, not cows. When I realized that it was so simple, it wasn’t difficult any more to remember which pie contains which meat.
Cottage pie is real comfort food, it is a dish you want to eat on a cold day, cozy in a warm sweater. Some cottage pies contain stewing meat, but I love this quick version with mince. I use half pork half beef mince, not traditional, but it gives a good, hearty flavour together with the herbs and flavourings. The creamy mashed potatoes complement this perfectly, and the crispy top finishes it all. I use my trusty ovenproof Le Creuset Dutch oven to prepare the meat, so that I can top it with the mash and place it in the oven, instead of having to use another dish for this (less cleaning this way).
By cutting the potatoes in cubes they will cook faster than when leaving them whole. But take care not to cut them too small, as they will absorb a lot of water, which is not pleasant to eat. You can make this dish very well in advance, it will only get more tasty. If doing so, reheat the cottage pie on 150C in the oven, then turn it up to brown the top.
Cottage pie (2 generous servings)
500 gram mince
1 big onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme (or rosemary)
1 small can of tomato puree
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
splosh of red wine
1 beef stock cube
600 gram potatoes, peeled and cut
knob of butter
splash of milk
salt and pepper
egg yolk (optional)
Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft, drain.
Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in an Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Then add the mince, fry until browned. Add the other ingredients and cook until the acid of the tomato puree is cooked of and the mixture starts to caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a drop of water to dissolve the sticky bits, stir this through the mixture and turn of the heat.
Make the mashed potatoes. First, mash the potatoes, working of the heat to prevent burned bits on the bottom. By mashing before adding liquid you get rid of the lumps easily. I like to do this part with a masher. Stir in the knob of butter and some milk, using a fork. Then gradually add some more milk, while stirring, letting it absorb by the potatoes, until you have the consistency you like. Still using the fork, beat the potatoes vigorously, until you get a light and fluffy mash. Good mash needs some effort. Season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg if you like. Taste if you seasoned the mash enough, because underseasoned mash is really not nice to eat and hard to remedy after finishing the dish. If you are using the egg yolk, add it now. This adds a nice richness to the mash, but only use this trick for dishes with mash that go into the oven. Pile the mash on top of the mince, decorate with a fork (stop here when preparing in advance) and place in a preheated oven of 200C to brown the top of the mash.