The Best & Easy Cottage Pie Recipe (or Shepherd's Pie) in 45 Minutes
The cottage pie recipe is surely included in the comfort foods list.
This dish is satiable, comforting and delicious, savory, melts in your mouth and I’m pretty sure that any other adjective you might find can fit in the description.
It is obviously that you may enjoy it anytime you like, but I would advise you to give it a try during cold months. It is the perfect way to keep your mood and tummy warm.
What is a Cottage Pie Recipe?
It is a hearty and savory dish, of British and Irish origins. It is made out of some ground meat cooked in a gravy and it also contains celery, onion and carrots.
One of the best parts of cottage pie is the mashed potatoes crust. It can be placed on top of the meat or even both, top and bottom. It is impossible not to like it.
Where Did the Easy Cottage Pie Come From?
Let’s face it: nobody knows it for sure. The roots of this dish are shrouded in mystery which makes it even more appealing, if you ask me. However, the pie was first mentioned sometime in the 18th century.
Its original location was United Kingdom and Ireland. That was the time when potato was beginning to gain more notoriety as an edible and affordable crop.
Housewives were trying to avoid waste so they came up with this dish created mainly from leftovers. In other words, after roasting some meat for the weekend, they used the excess food and mashed potatoes to prepare a delicious pie.
It was a clever way to feed a family and not throw away food. Considering the fact that the dish was enjoyed by Irish peasants who were poor and lived in cottages, we can be almost sure that this is the origin of the name.
It is very possible that Irish didn’t afford beef, so the meat of the early varieties of cottage pie could have been mutton since it was more affordable.
In the 19th century, a new type of pie made its way into the local cuisine, called shepherd’s pie. Although for a while they were used interchangeably, over time the difference between the two was set to the type of meet used: cottage pie was made with beef while shepherd’s pie used lamb. Because sheep belong to the shepherds!
Of course that both Irish and British claim the origins of the pie and both love to prepare and enjoy it.
It is possible that cottage pie belongs to the British since they were wealthier and the Irish keep their shepherd’s pie because they weren’t so fond of beef.
Facts About Quick Cottage Pie
Similar types of pie can be seen in other countries too. For example, we can encounter this dish in Chile too. It is called “pastel de papa” and, besides the classical ingredients, it also contains raisins, hard-boiled eggs and olives.
In France, a similar dish is named “hachis Parmentier”. Parmentier was the one who brought potatoes into the French cuisine. “Hachis” comes from the English word “hatchet” which describes a dish with minced or chopped ingredients.
In India, the quick cottage pie was considered a light snack, or a tiffin, as they said some time ago.
If you use breadcrumbs instead of potatoes to create the crust, you will get a Cumberland pie, a close relative to the original dish.
Long time ago, people from Scotland topped their pie with pastry instead of using potatoes.
In the beginning, the pie was made with finely chopped meat since there was no mincing machines. I’m pretty sure it was equally delicious.
There are some other variations of this pie you will probably come across around the world:
Let’s analyze a bit the variations that can be made to the classic simple cottage pie recipe!
Simple Cottage Pie Recipe for Diabetics
It is true that this dish may contain a lot of saturated fat due to the butter in the mash. You can always change some of the ingredients to make it a bit healthier. Don’t worry, it will still remain comforting and tasty!
First of all, let’s talk about the crust. There are plenty of alternatives for the classical mashed potatoes.
You may also substitute the butter with olive oil which is a healthier fat.
While lamb or beef contain around 15-20% fat, turkey is a leaner meat with only 2-7% fat so you can also change the type of meat you use.
Vegan/vegetarian Cottage Pie
There is no reason why people who are vegan/vegetarians could not enjoy this dish. You will just need to replace the meat with lentils.
To make it even more appetizing, add more veggies and legumes such as peas or green beans.
In case you want to make it vegan, also use vegan butter or vegetable oil instead of regular butter. Vegetarians can go for the dairy alternative.
Variations for Filling or Crust of the Easy Cottage Pie
While the original dish has a simple filling made out of minced meat with onions, celery and carrots, cooked in a gravy, you may always improvise so that the final product will suit your taste.
Cottage Pie Recipe for Toddlers
The recipe is pretty similar to the classical one. However, since the kids’ digestive system is not completely developed, I would suggest to skip the gravy and use a leaner meat. Go for turkey or lean beef.
A great idea would be to prepare some mini pies for the children. Use ramekins and divide both the filling and the crust between the mini baking pans. Pair this with a blissful chocolate sponge cake and you're all set!
Your kids will love that!
Cottage Pie Recipe for 4
If you prepare the pie for your family or for only 4 persons, you will need about 1lb. minced meat and 2 lb. potatoes, in case you are using them both at the bottom and on top. Make sure you use a smaller baking dish.
Cottage Pie Recipe for a Large Group
When cooking in order to feed a crowd, it is obvious that you have to adjust the quantity of ingredients accordingly. For a large party or gathering (around 40 people), you will need about 11 lb. minced meat, ten onions, 2 lb. carrots and 18 lb. potatoes.
Of course, the work is harder but you will get praises from a lot of people for your culinary talents. You will feel perfect many days after.
For the Filling
- 1 lb. minced beef
- 2 pcs garlic cloves
- 1 pcs onion
- 2 pcs carrots
- ½ cup peas
- 1 pcs celery stick
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup water or vegetable stock
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the Crust
- 2 lb. potatoes
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 tbsp grated Cheddar cheese
- Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Finely chop the carrots and celery stick.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet and sautee the onion for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Bring in all the veggies and cook for about 5 minutes, to soften.
- Add the minced beef and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it. Stir well to combine. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.
- Add the tomato paste, flour and dried herbs. Pour the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. After the cooking time, the mince mix should have a thicker consistency and not too much liquid.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and chop into smaller pieces. Place them in a pot, cover with water and boil until they are tender, for about 20 minutes. You may prick with a fork to check if they are cooked.
- Drain and use a fork or a potato masher to crush them. Add the butter, milk, Cheddar cheese and nutmeg. Mix until well combined and creamy. Adjust the taste for salt.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Spoon the mince mixture onto a large baking dish. Level it up.
- Add the potato mash on top and use a spatula to smooth it. Make some lines with a fork so you will have a crispy top after it is baked.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden-brown.
- Serve it warm and enjoy!
- This simple cottage pie recipe is easy to prepare and you will get a delicious dish. Enjoy it immediately as it tastes best when warm.
- In case you can’t eat the whole pie, leave it at room temperature to cool down. After that, store it in the freezer, well covered with aluminum or plastic foil. Don’t leave the pie more than two hours at room temperature because the bacteria grow rapidly and it is possible for it to alter. You can keep the quick cottage pie in the fridge for 3-5 days.
- This pie can also be frozen. Wrap it the same way, using aluminum or plastic foil. Another option is to place it in a heavy-duty freezer bag. Properly stored, it will keep for 4 to 6 months in the freezer. As a general rule, after you defrost some food, use your senses to tell if it is good or not.
- There is also another alternative, in case you want to make it ahead of time. You can assembly the quick cottage pie and keep it in the fridge for 2 days prior to cooking. In case you choose to freeze it, you can also bake it from frozen. Cook at 350F for 60-80 minutes or until golden and crispy.
- To get a nice and crispy crust for your easy cottage pie, you need the right variety of potato. It needs a fluffy and floury texture. You could use Desiree, Maris Piper or King Edward.
- When you are following a gluten-free diet, don’t use all-purpose flour. Opt for any gluten-free alternative, such as corn or a gluten-free mix.
- You will definitely love this pie if you give it a try. It is easy and quick. The cottage pie will bring comfort and warmth any cold day. Enjoy it alone, with your kids or entire family. And don’t be afraid to cook it more than once!