This classic cottage pie is sure to become a family favourite and it's ready to eat in under an hour.
Cottage pie is definitely one of our favourite comfort food: a lovely minced meat base with chopped vegetables in a glistening, rich gravy, topped with buttery mashed potato and baked to a golden crisp finish. It's also pleasingly budget-friendly, in fact this dish is one of our most popular cheap family meals. It's versatile too - you can vary the topping by mashing in carrots or sweet potatoes, and add extra veggies to the filling (a great way to sneak them past the kids). You can even replace some of the meat with finely chopped mushrooms to make it go further.
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 med onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 500g minced beef
- 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 2 level tbsp plain flour
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 beef stock cube
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- 450g mashed potato
- Knob of butter
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan or large frying pan, add the onion and carrots and cook over medium heat for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have started to soften.
- Add the beef to the pan and cook for about 5-10 mins, stirring to break up the meat, until it browns. Once the meat is crumbly, stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking and burning, but don’t keep stirring it, otherwise, it just cools the mixture, rather than letting the meat brown.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for a few mins.
- Sprinkle over the flour, then mix it in well and heat for 3-4 mins to cook the flour. The flour will absorb the fat that comes out of the meat, which will then thicken the sauce.
- Pour in the can of tomatoes, sprinkle in the stock cube, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continually, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 mins, until it thickens slightly and the vegetables are tender. If the sauce seems very thick, just add a little boiling water.
- Set oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
- Stir the Worcestershire sauce into mince, then spoon into a dish and level the surface.
- Beat the potato to soften it and spread over the mince. Score the surface with a fork and put butter on top.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 20-30 mins, or until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling. For a crisp, golden finish, sprinkle your cottage pie with lashings of cheddar cheese and pop it under the grill for a few minutes longer. Serve straight from the oven.
Watch how to make this easy cottage pie recipe
Top tips for making this cottage pie recipe
If you want to give this easy cottage pie recipe a twist you could swap classic potatoes for sweet potatoes instead. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fibre, as well as being a good source of vitamin B and C.
You could also swap the meat for a vegetarian cottage pie using Quorn mince or doubling the amount of veg used to make a vegetable-based cottage pie instead.
How do you store leftover cottage pie?
Leftovers, once cooled, can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Not sure how to freeze food like this? Freeze this cottage pie recipe either in portions or as a whole meal, which will last about three months in the freezer.
Make sure you leave plenty of time for defrosting. To defrost thoroughly leave in the fridge overnight. Make sure the cottage pie is completely defrosted before reheating again. You can reheat in the oven using the same temperature and cooking times.
What should you serve with cottage pie?
Cottage pie is such a hearty meal you don’t have to serve it with anything if you’re happy with just the pie, however, if you’re looking for a side, a steaming bowl of freshly cooked greens is a good choice. Opt for Tenderstem broccoli, runner beans, or peas, of if you want something a little more decadent, try creamy spinach with cheese.
If you’re serving cottage pie in the summer months you might opt for a lighter side of a freshly prepared salad. Some people also serve bread and butter with their cottage pie to mop up leftover juices from the pies' gravy.
How can I make this cottage pie healthier?
There are several small tweaks you can make to cut the fat content in this pie. When frying off the onions in step 1, replace the oil with several sprays of low calorie cooking spray. Use beef with a lower fat content - 5% or less. Leave out the butter in the final step before cooking. You could replace a third of the meat with finely chopped mushrooms, or make it meat-free using low-fat Quorn (if you're serving to vegetarians, be aware the Worcestershire Sauce contains anchovies).
Why is my cottage pie runny?
It's likely the meaty base was too runny when you added the potatoes on top. Make sure you add enough flour to thicken up the sauce and make it nice and glossy. If it seems too thin before you add the potatoes, just bubble it for a few more minutes so that it thickens up.
It's also possible the potatoes were too wet when you added them. Make sure to drain them well, and leave them to sit for a few minutes before mashing. If they are too wet when you add them, the water will seep down into the sauce as it cooks.
What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?
The main difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is the meat. Cottage pie is traditionally made with minced beef, whereas shepherd’s pie is made with minced lamb.
Both are made with minced meat, packed with veggies like onions and carrots and both are topped with mashed potato and a sprinkling of cheese.
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Jessica Dady is Senior Content Editor at Goodto.com and has over 10 years of experience as a digital journalist, specialising in all things food, recipes, and SEO. From the best food hampers to cookbooks, from the best cake stands to baking sets, Jessica has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to must-have food products. A passionate baker, she spends much of her time creating celebration cakes for friends and family - particularly for her two lucky children.
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