A Simple Cottage Pie

Wednesday 31 October 2018

I grew up in a home where dishes like this were not really served very often.  My mother would make Pate Chinoise for my father from time to time, which we had to eat as well. Pate Chinois is a French Canadian version of Cottage pie, using minced beef, mashed potatoes and corn or peas.  My mom always used peas, and tinned ones.  She also used cheap ground beef, which I did not like at all. It was full of bits of gristle.  It was never my favourite meal, but my father love LOVED it! Perhaps I was just too picky.

People often confuse the two, Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie.  Traditionally both were dishes invented to use up the leftover gravy and veg from the Sunday dinner.  With beef being used in the Cottage Pie and Lamb in the Shepherds Pie.

Most people just use the names interchangeably for the both.  I can be a bit pedantic however . . .  it is one of my weaknesses . . .  for Shepherds Pie I use lamb and for Cottage Pie I use beef.  It can be leftover or fresh ground, though.  I am not quite that picky!

Basically both are casseroles with meat and a flavourful gravy on the bottom, a layer of vegetables and a lovely thatch of mashed potato on top! 

These types of meals are my Todd's favourites.  In fact today he had two helpings.  He normally doesn't exceed his one serving of anything, but he was really enjoying this.

I have a secret ingredient for the potato thatch.  I always add a tiny bit of cheese, which really helps it to brown to a nice golden brown and adds just a touch of flavour.  Sometimes  I will add a bit of horseradish to either the gravy or mash for a Cottage pie, because it goes so well with beef. 

I like to make a pattern in the potatoes with a fork. Today it was a basket weave. Not hard to do at all.  You don't have to do that, but do try to rough them up a tiny bit so that you can get some crispy golden edges! 

I also use frozen petit pois . . .  not tinned or leftover cooked.  And I don't thaw them out before putting it together.  I just layer them on frozen.  The heat from the filling and the mash will cook them perfectly.  (I have a real dislike of over-cooked peas.  I can't help it.)

The gravy is also very simple to make. Of course if you happen to have leftover gravy from the Sunday lunch that would also work, but it is very simple to make your own from scratch. 

I start by sweating a mirepoix of fresh vegetables  in some butter  . . .  carrot, swede, onions and celery . . .  aromatics and real flavour boosters!  Especially when you have sweated them in a bit of butter.

A good beef stock made from a quality beef stock cube or gel pack.  I like the Knorr ones.  Some Tomato puree (tomato paste in the US), or yes even ketchup will work.  If you are using ketchup leave out the HP Sauce.  Just use a splash or Worcestershire.

I use herbs as well . . .  to be specific, Summer Savoury . . .  its an Eastern Canada thing. You can use Marjoram or thyme . . . 

Today I made a delicious coleslaw to go along with it.  Salad is nice also.  Todd likes a slice of bread and butter with his.  You could serve any vegetable on the side.  Green beans and carrots are nice.  I like salad.

Its a great way of  stretching out leftovers.  I do like a thick gravy with mine.  I don't like it too soupy, but if you do, then you could certainly add more gravy, or make your gravy thinner, but do bear in mind that the potatoes will absorb some of the gravy, so you want your gravy to be a bit on the thick side and your potatoes as well.  You don't want a soupy thatch!

Yield: 4

A Simple Cottage Pie

prep time: 20 minscook time: 45 minstotal time: 65 mins
Simple, delicious, and a family pleasing comfort food.


400g leftover roast beef, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
1 TBS butter
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
1/2 carrot, peeled and grated
a cube of swede (rutabaga) peeled and grated
1 TBS tomato puree
1 TBS plain flour
1/2 TBS brown sauce (HP sauce)
400ml well flavoured beef stock (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp summer savoury
salt and black pepper to taste
100g frozen peas (1 cup)

For the potato thatch:
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
warm milk
a knob of butter
salt and pepper
2 TBS grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar) 
melted butter to brush (optional


Put the potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water and
bring to the boil.  Boil for 10 to 15 minutes until soft.  Drain well
and then return the potatoes to the pan. Shake the pan over the residual
 heat of the burner to dry them out a bit and then mash the potatoes
well until smooth with some warm milk, and a knob of butter. Season to
taste with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese. Set aside and keep
Melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the
onion, celery, carrot and sweet.  Cook, stirring frequently over medium
low heat until softened and the onion is translucent.  Stir in the
flour.  Slowly stir in the beef stock and bring to the boil. Cook,
stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens.  Stir in the
tomato puree, brown sauce, and summer savoury.  Season to taste with
salt and black pepper and then stir in the chopped beef.  Pour this into
 the bottom of a buttered 1 litre (1 quart) shallow baking dish. 
Sprinkle the frozen peas over top.  Spread the mashed potatoes on top to
 cover.  Rough up the potato a bit with a fork.  Brush with melted

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas
mark 6.  Bake the casserole in the heated oven for 45 minutes until the
potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Let stand 15
minutes prior to serving.  Serve hot with your favourite sides.
Note - sometimes I add a bit of creamed horseradish either to the gravy or the mash. It all depends on how I am feeling!
Created using The Recipes Generator

A Simple Cottage Pie

We are really going to enjoy the leftovers today for our tea!  Dishes like this have a habit of tasting even  better the next day!  Bon Appetit!


  1. What a lovely comforting dish. I grew up with Shepherd's Pie a lot, as lamb was a major protein for Sunday roast in my childhood home with the inevitable cold roast lamb and chutney sandwiches for school on Monday and a Shepherd's pie for dinner on Tuesday :-) I don't think I've ever eaten a Cottage pie, but there's always a first time for everything!

    1. This is a real favourite around here Marie. Todd's really looking forward to his leftovers today! I hope you give it a go and enjoy it! xo

  2. I grew up w/ pâté chinois and still make it..and all our lives we called it shepherd's pie in Engish..lol so it's a hard habit to break.And translation sites do too..so what the heck right?
    Lean ground beef browned w/ onions..some galrlic a dash of worcestershire(sp) sauce..s and p..fully browned..then cream corn mixed w/ kernel corn..then to perfect mashed potatoes thatched w/ butter:) And since you I sometimes basket weave cause it's so darn pretty.

    1. Oh yes, that is true and I wish I was personally not so pedantic about it myself! (I feel like Sheldon Cooper!) Ohh, cream corn, that is one of my weaknesses! I like pretty things! xo

  3. PS Jacques can eat this as leftovers every lunch for days lol.Oli puts ketchup on his..J puts..the ketchup I make that his mom made..so he's so thrilled eating it:)

    1. Oh that sounds yum, his mom's ketchup on it. Perfect! xo


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