Cottage Pie… an essential British dish!

Is there any dish in the world more British than cottage pie? Perhaps steak and kidney pie, or jellied eels, but for sure cottage pie is one of those dishes that just screams Britain; and for good reason, it is delicious, and filling. In fact cottage pie is such a fantastic dish that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones almost cancelled a show because somebody cut into his cottage pie before a show in Toronto.

Cottage Pie versus Shepherd’s Pie

I have often wondered whether these two dishes were the same thing, and now thanks to the good people at Wikipedia I have the answer;

The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until the 1870s, and since then it has been used synonymously with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton. There is now a popular tendency for “shepherd’s pie” to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb, with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cattle, This may, however, be an example of folk etymology.


Traditional Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

There are probably thousands of variations of this dish, and it is easily adaptable, but this is the version I normally cook and it seems to be popular with adults and children alike.

  • Preparation time: 20 mins
  • Cooking time: 35 minutes
  • Skill level: Beginner


  • 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks.
  • 100 ml milk.
  • 1 tbsp butter or butter substitute
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed and chopped into small pieces
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 pinches dried thyme
  • 2 heaped tsp flour
  • 500 ml hot beef stock


  1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then mash the potatoes and whisk in the milk and butter. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep frying pan, or wide saucepan over a high heat. Add the mince and brown all over. Then transfer the mince to a colander to drain off any of the released fat.
  3. Return the mince to the pan and add the onion and carrots. Fry gently for about five minutes or until the vegetable are just starting to soften.
  4. Add the tomato purée, cinnamon, thyme and flour and stir over the heat for about a minute, then pour in the stock. Then season, stir and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
  5. Preheat the grill. Spread the mashed potato over the top. Use a fork to roughen up the top and then grill until the top is golden and crunchy.

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