This is serious comfort food that is extremely open to various versions. It comes down to three things. The Filling, Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes. All of which can be tweaked to your preference for Cottage Pie.
This is one of the first dishes that I ever made when I was a kid. I always included Corn. I’m not sure where the corn idea came from but I never make cottage pie without it.
The casserole dish I used is a 2 1/2 quart glass casserole dish ( 12 x 7 1/2 inches) which this recipe fills to the top. If using a slightly larger casserole dish then more potatoes may need to be added to cover more of the surface area or if you like your Cottage Pie with a lot of Mashed Potatoes, then add more potatoes.
Cottage Pie vs Shepherds Pie
The distinction between the two is the type of meat used. Shepherds pie is specifically made with ground lamb and only ground lamb. While Cottage Pie is made from any ground meat or combination of.
Cottage Pie Components
It comes down to three main components. Filling which contains added vegetables and Seasoning, Gravy, and Mashed Potato Topping. Any of these can be altered with all of them coming together to create Cottage or Shepherds Pie.
The Filling uses 1 lb of Ground Beef & 1 lb of Ground Pork or just Ground Lamb for Shepherds Pie.
This is cooked to create a fond on the bottom of the pan before the vegetables are added. This adds more flavor especially when the gravy gets mixed in.
Pretty much any kind of ground meat can be used.
The Seasoning in this recipe works really nice together to deliver a Cottage Pie with some Real Flavor. Combine that with the rendered fat and other ingredients and it’s a real comforting food.
Combine all of the Seasonings together into a small bowl to add to the Gravy after it has simmered down and thickened.
The most important vegetable here is the Corn – for me anyway. This just works so well with Cottage Pie.
Onion, Garlic & Leek are used for the Umami aspect. I add Green Peas because they are a pick me up food.
To this Carrots and Celery can be added and are quite common additions.
All of the Vegetables are cooked briefly with the Meat and then further cooked in the Oven.
I use FAV Pork Gravy. This is such a delicious gravy with very few ingredients but a wonderful taste. Think Frasers Farm Gravy & Meatballs type of Gravy.
Make this Gravy while the Potatoes are baking in the oven so that everything can be thrown together when ready.
Simmer this gravy down a bit so that it is on the thicker side in preparation for adding it to the Meat and vegetable filling.
Because this is a reduced Gravy, the salt content comes from the Bouillon cubes. After making the Filling and it is ready to pour into the casserole dish. Taste and add more Salt if needed. This is crucial to have the correct balance of salt to bring the flavors out.
The rendered fat in this dish is really going to come through. It adds exceptional flavor throughout the dish. Lamb Fat is most preferable but beef Suet or even Pork Fat works too.
I use about 1/2 C of Chopped Lamb Fat and render this in preparation for the Gravy instead of the Pork fat.
Any good Mashed Potatoe recipe will work here. Quite common is the addition of Parmesan of Cheddar Cheese. The important thing is the consistency of the mashed potatoes. It has to be spreadable so add more liquid if needed.
I also use one egg and Baking powder in with the mashed potatoes so that when baked they lighten up a bit giving a beautiful mashed potato topping.
Additionally, I drizzle melted butter over top. Sometimes with added paprika for color contrast, but is completely optional.
You can peel and chop, then boil the potatoes but in my opinion, you derive far better flavor baking the potatoes and then mashing them.
Baked Mashed Potatoes
With Boiling Potatoes, the starches are released into the water and the potatoes absorb some of that water. Giving you, in the end, less flavorful Mashed Potatoes.
Where on the other hand if you bake the potatoes all of the Starch stays in the potatoes and the Mashed Potatoes are really dry and primed for added liquids to really increase the flavor of the mashed potatoes.
Plus there is no peeling and cubing the potatoes and the oven is already preheated. Just wash and prick the ends of the potatoes then bake. Cut in half and scoop out.
Don’t throw away those Potato Skins either. These can be frozen in Ziploc bags and deep-fried later as a side dish.
Topping with Mashed Potatoes
First ensure that the filling is cooled down before topping with the mash. You can clear some room in the freezer and place the casserole dish on a baking sheet and freeze to speed the process up.
Place the mashed potatoes a spoonful at a time to cover the casserole dish or form mashed potato patties and place them on top of the casserole to cover.
Then with a fork scrape gently to even out the mash layer. Then run your fork lengthwise and crosswise across the top to create a crisscross hash marking. Optionally melt butter and drizzle over top and sprinkle Paprika on top.
- 1 lbs Ground Beef or Lamb
- 1 lbs Ground Pork
- 2 Tbl Tomato Paste
- 1 portion FAV Pork Gravy – See notes
- 1 large Onion
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 1 C Corn
- 1/4 C Leek
- 1/4 C Green Peas
- 1 tsp Savory, Parsley, Black Pepper, & Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Thyme & Dry Mustard
- 1/4 tsp Ground Rosemary
- 3 lbs Potatoes
- 1 Egg
- 1 tsp Baking Powder & Butter Popcorn Seasoning
- 1/8 tsp Cream of Tartar
- Wash and Prick both ends of each potato 3 times with a fork. Place unto a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 400 F for 1 hour. Prepare the Vegetables going into the Filling and set aside. While the Potatoes are baking, prepare the Fav Pork Gravy. Simmer it down until it is a thick gravy and then add in the Seasonings. Set aside until ready to use.
- Over Max Heat brown the Ground Meat, breaking it up and Create a fond on the bottom of the Pan. Add Tomato Paste and the Vegetables and cook for a minute. Add the Gravy and scrape the bottom of the pan to lift the fond. Lower the heat a bit and Simmer until thickened, occasionally mixing. Add Salt if needed and pour into a casserole dish. Allow this to cool so that it is easier to top with the mashed potatoes.
- When the Potatoes are removed from the oven and allowed to cool enough to handle. Cut them all in half. Scoop out the potatoes and run through a ricer. Add remaining mashed potato Ingredients and mix well. Adjust the consistency by adding more cream.
- Top the Casserole dish with mashed potatoes and spread evenly. Then mark with a fork. Optionally drizzle melted butter over top and sprinkle with paprika.
- Bake in the oven at 400 F until the top has good color. About 25 minutes. Optionally Broil the last minute if needed for color. If the Casserole dish is quite full you may want to place the casserole dish on a baking sheet to catch any spillovers.Allow to cool 15 minutes or more before serving.