Cook with me: Cottage/Shepherd’s Pie for the Weeknight (1 hour)

To most Americans, Shepherd’s pie is a meat pie topped with mashed potatoes.  It’s usually ground beef in America, but for most people I know from the UK, Shepherd’s pie is lamb.  Cottage pie is beef, so what I’m really showing you is a Cottage pie. 

There are as many recipes for Cottage Pie as there are people that make it. One person may insist that Guinness is a necessity.  Another may say using ground beef instead of minced leftover meat from a roast is sacrilege.  To me, the right recipe is the one for which I have ingredients!  I change it nearly every time I make it, so this is one recipe you can’t mess up!  Seriously!  If you’re the type of person who wants exact measurements, but has always wanted to try winging it, this is a dish you can try winging.  I recommend reading through any recipe all the way before you start to cook.

This version is family friendly.  It’s easy enough for weeknight cooking.  Fairly quick (start to finish in an hour), and while it cooks in the oven, you can wrangle your kids up and get them to set the table and wash hands.  It comes out super hot, but cools pretty quickly once served onto plates, so not a lot of worries for little ones.  Serve with a green salad lightly tossed with oil and vinegar dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 med Onion, diced medium to small.
  • 3 med Carrots, diced small.  Should get approximately a cup more or less depending on preference
  • 1 pound ground beef—lean.
  • Optional: 2 slices of bacon cut into pieces
  • Tomato paste
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Low Sodium Chicken or Beef broth
  • Optional: Red wine
  • Flour or gluten free flour (I use Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix)
  • 6 large potatoes
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • Butter or margarine
  • Scallions/green onions, chopped white and green parts.
  • Optional: Parmesan or sharp Cheddar cheese

 Preheat oven to 375 

Place potatoes in large pot with water and boil until soft.  I leave the peel on while they cook to keep them from being too waterlogged, but pretty much cook them the way you normally do for mashed potatoes.

 Cook bacon on medium to render fat in large, deep fry pan or dutch oven.

Turn heat up to medium high, and add onions and carrots and cook a couple minutes until onion has softened. 

 You can remove the bacon bits at this time, or leave in.  I remove because my husband hates them, and my kids snatch them and eat them.  Add ground beef.  Cook whilst breaking up meat until mostly browned (since it will continue cooking, it doesn’t have to be cooked completely through at this time)

 This is the most important step and you MUST NOT SKIP IT.  Drain off excess fat.  If you don’t, your Cottage Pie will be very greasy, especially if you didn’t buy lean ground beef (which I don’t because I like to save the money).

Add about 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and brown it a bit.  About 30 seconds. If you don’t have tomato paste, you can skip this.  If you use ketchup like some people do, you’ll probably have to add more salt later to make up for the sugar in the ketchup.  Add a small handful of flour, about ¼ cup.  If you over do it, you can add more liquid to make up for it.  Cook until flour is browned a bit to eliminate the raw flour taste (about 1-2 minutes)

If you choose to add wine, do it at this stage and cook it until it reduced by half.  I often don’t have wine, so I normally skip this step.  Add broth and Worcestershire sauce—about 1/8 cup (or soy sauce if you don’t have the other, just use less since it’s salty)  I also add a generous amount of pepper.  I don’t measure, I just shake it on. DON’T ADD SALT.  The mixture will continue to cook, and as it reduces, it becomes more salty.

Simmer on medium until reduced to consistency of a meat pie (not to soupy, probably about 2/3 reduced).  Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

I leave it in the pan I cook it in, which is a deep fry pan, but you can transfer to an oven safe casserole dish, too.

Peel and then mash the potatoes with a beedle or put through a ricer, mix in evaporated milk half can at a time until consistency you want.  If not enough milk in the can, use more regular milk.  Evaporated milk tastes much better than regular milk in mashed potatoes, and I swear, people will wonder how you make your potatoes so good.  Add butter and salt and pepper to taste.  DO NOT OVER WORK THE POTATOES.  The more you mash and stir, the more sticky they become.  I mash first, then add liquid and seasoning and haven’t had sticky potatoes.  My dad uses a mixer and they are ALWAYS sticky!

You can leave peel on if you like “dirty” potatoes.  My kids will not eat them this way, so I always peel them.

Top meat mixture with mashed potatoes. You can pipe them on if you’re fancy (not something I will do for a weeknight dinner).  I put dollops of potatoes in a circle all over and then gently spread to seal in the meat, fluff a bit with fork so you have bits that can turn brown.  At this point you can sprinkle with one of the cheeses or not.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  One of my kids hates cheese, so she won’t eat it if I put it on.

Bake at 375 for about 20-30 minute until potatoes are lightly browned on the peaks.  If it’s taking too long, after 20 minutes in the oven, I’ll switch from bake to broil for 5 minutes to get those nice brown spots.

Serve sprinkled with green onions if desired.

 

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