Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping

Monday 1 November 2021


Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
I wanted to make my sister and brother in law something for supper the other night.  My dad also eats there every night.  

My sister was going to be working all day and I know that it can sometimes be a struggle for her to come home after work and then have to think about cooking a meal. It is an age old struggle for the working woman I know!

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
I decided to surprise her with a ready made meal so that all she had to do was to come home, pop it into the oven and voila!  A bit of veg or a salad on the side and dinner would be ready.

I had some extra ground beef thawed out from having had our Eileen and Tim for supper the night before. I cooked meat loaf for them.  I used the recipe for meat loaf in the Hopeful Things Cookbook.

It was very good.

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
My dad and Dan can be a little bit fussy and so I decided to make a Cottage Pie.  I adapted a recipe of Mary Berry's that I found in her book, Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook. 

Its a very good cookbook by the way. It reminds me very much of the Hamlyn All Color Cookbook that I had to leave behind in the UK.  She did edit that cookbook back in the day so that's not really a surprise!

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
One thing I really like about Mary's recipes is that they are completely reliable. You can depend on them to work out, and they are also very family friendly.

I am only sorry that I could not show you this cottage pie dug into, but since it was going somewhere else for supper, that really wasn't an option!

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
What you have here is a really great basic minced beef filling, perfect for a family cottage pie, topped with a lovely delicious thatch of cheesy mash!

You really can't go wrong. Its simple, tasty, easy to make and delicious.  I did make myself a cottage pie stuffed baked potato from some of it, so I did have some supper myself as well.  

The filling was very generous to say the least so I knew a few tablespoons of it would not be missed, and it wasn't.

The cottage pie stuffed potatoes were very easy to make. I simply baked a russet potato in the oven until it was tender, cut it in half  lengthwise and scooped out the insides. 

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
I added the potato I scooped out to the cheesy mash I had made to top the cottage pie with and then filled the empty jackets, each half with about 2 TBS of the filling, and then topped with a small amount of cheesy mash.

This got baked in the oven along side of the cottage pie. Everyone was happy!

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 

Simple ingredients put together in a most delicious way. You really can't go wrong.

For the filling:

  • a bit of oil
  • one large onion
  • one large carrot
  • one stick of celery
  • 1 1/2 pound of beef mince (I like to use lean and quality)
  • a bit of flour
  • beef stock
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • tomato paste (puree)
  • salt and black pepper
I buy my ground beef at the local farmer's market, Goucher's.  It is, hand on heart, 100% better than anything you can find in the grocery store. It is the same color on the inside as it is on the outside.

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
The cheesy mash was equally as simple ingredients-wise.

For the topping:
  • potatoes suitable for mashing
  • butter
  • milk
  • mature cheddar cheese (extra sharp)
When I am talking about a potato which is suitable for mashing I mean a potato that cooks up light and fluffy. Something like a Russet in North America or a King Edward in the UK.

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 

You start by making the meat filling.  A trinity of taste, celery, carrot and onion are first sautéed in a bit of canola oil. You will find that this trio of flavors is the basis of many savory dishes.  You want to make sure you have them finely chopped. 

This is called a Mirepoix and makes for a very aromatic base, injecting plenty of flavor to the sauce. It is also known as Sofrito in Spanish and Soffritto in Italy!  

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 

You then add the ground beef and continue to cook everything until the beef has begun to brown all over.  A bit of flour for thickening then gets stirred in. Not a lot really.

 A quantity of beef stock and some additional flavors are then added. I use the Knorr Gel stock pots to make my stock. You will also be adding some tomato puree/paste, Worcestershire sauce before seasoning it with salt and pepper.

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 

If you are like me you won't need a lot of salt.  Some of the ingredients are quite salty anyways, like the stock and the Worcestershire sauce.  So do taste before you add.

This mixture gets simmered, covered, for about 45 minutes, until all of the flavors are beautifully melded together and that sauce/ filling is rich and thick.  Spoon this into the bottom of your baking dish.

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
While your sauce/filling is simmering away you can get on with the business of making the cheesy mash thatch topping.  (Thatch as in thatched roof.)

Cover your peeled and chunked potatoes with cold lightly salted water and bring them to the boil.  Cook until they are fork tender and then drain them really well. You don't want soggy potatoes. I give them a couple of shakes in the pot I cooked them in over the heat from the burner to make sure they are really dried out.

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping 
They then get mashed together with some hot milk and butter, along with a bit of seasoning. Again, be judicious with the salt as you will be adding cheese and cheese is very salty.

Once you have the right consistency for your mash, stir in the cheese to melt.  This mixture gets spread over top of the meat filling. 

The easiest way to do this is to dollop it on in a few places, and then spread those dollops over to meet and cover the filling. You can make a fancy pattern on it with a fork if you want. 

Its actually really nice if you rough the topping up a bit as this creates lots of tasty crispy bits that are most enjoyable.  That's it!  

Pop it into the oven, bake until bubbling and golden brown and then enjoy, nice and hot with some veg or a salad on the side!

Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping
This can also be made and baked in six smaller individual casserole dishes or in empty potato shells as above!  Its delicious any way you make it.  

You can also make it a day ahead of time. Cover and keep in the refrigerator overnight.  I would take it out about half an hour before cooking it to take the chill off the dish and then cook as the recipe states.

It still make take a few minutes longer. I don't really recommend freezing this.

What you have here is a hearty family style one dish supper which is a real belly warmer and a comfort food dish through and through. 

I know my sister, brother in law and father really enjoyed it so it got thumbs up all round the table!  I can say it was also excellent as a jacket potato filler!

Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping

Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping

Yield: 6
Author: Marie Rayner
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 1 H & 35 MTotal time: 1 H & 45 M
This is one of Mary Berry's recipes for a delicious cottage pie which can be baked as one large pie, or several smaller ones. Or a large pie and a couple of stuffed Jacket potatoes.


For the meat filling:
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds (750g) minced beef (I like to use a lean one)
  • 2 tsp plain all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (300ml) beef stock
  • 1 TBS tomato puree (tomato paste)
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
  • salt and black pepper to taste
For the cheesy potato topping:
  • 1 1/2 pounds (750g) potatoes for mashing, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 2 - 3 TBS hot milk
  • 4 ounces (125g) mature cheddar cheese, grated


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, carrot and celery.  Cook for a few minutes, then crumble in the beef.  Cook, stirring frequently until the beef has browned.  
  2. Sprinkle the flour over top and cook, stirring for about a minute, then add the stock, tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce. Season with some salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally.
  3. While the filling is cooking, prepare the potato topping. Put the potatoes into a saucepan of lightly salted water to cover.  Bring to the boil.  Cook at a quick simmer for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain well and return to the saucepan. Shake the pan over the residual heat of the burner for a few minutes to dry the potatoes out.
  4. Mash the potatoes with the butter and milk until soft and lump free.  Stir in the cheese until it melts. Season to taste with some salt and pepper. (Remember cheese is quite salty.)
  5. Spoon the meat filling into a deep dish or into 6 smaller deepish dishes.  Spread the cheesy potato mash over top to cover, roughing it up a bit.
  6. Bake in a 400*F/200*C/ gas mark 6 oven for 20 to 25 minutes for small pies, or 35 to 40 minutes for a larger pie.  When done the meat filling will be bubbling and the potato topping will be golden brown. 
  7. Serve hot with a vegetable or salad on the side.


I used some of the filling to stuff a jacket potato. I baked the potato in a hot oven for about 50 minutes (400*F/200*C) When done I cut it in half lengthwise and scooped out the flesh with a spoon. I added this to the cheesy mash. I filled each potato half with 2 TBS of the meat filling and then spooned a portion of cheesy mash on top of each and baked them along side of the main casserole, until bubbling and golden brown.

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Mary Berry's Cottage Pie with Cheesy Topping
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  1. This is very similar to a Shepherd's Pie that I make. So nice to eat on a chilly November day. Yes, happy 1st day of November. Did you get lots of little goblins knocking at your door? Our street was pretty quiet this year. Despite no light on, no decorations, no lit pumpkin we got about 20 kids in groups of four or five. Good thing I had bought some Halloween candy for us. Have a good week. Love and hugs, Elaine

    1. Happy first day of November Elaine. Bring on the Christmas preparations! I did get a lot of little goblins. It was very exciting! I gave out almost all of our candy. I had prepped for 95! I hope you also have a good week. Love and hugs, xoxo

  2. I have never tried a cottage pie in my life. This is not a dish that we know in France, however, I think we have a version that's called "hachis parmentier" with meat and mashed that looks a bit like this. I've just discovered your blog, and it has made me miss London so much!! I live between London and Rome, and now's the time I'm in Rome... UGH. Can you believe I even miss Greggs?! Thank you for sharing this with me! :)

    1. You are very welcome! This is very much like Hachis Parmentier! I think every culture must have something different. How wonderful to be in Rome. What a beautiful city and the food is fabulous. I have been following Female Foodie this last month who has been staying and eating in Rome. Mucho deliciousness! I can well believe you miss Greggs! I miss them too! There is nothing like that here in Canada! I hope you will come again! xoxo

  3. I totally agree about Mary Berry's recipes being great and always reliable. Much like yours! Did you know that she has a new show starting on BBC2 on November 11th. It's called "Love To Cook" - I can't wait to see it :)

    Cottage Pie is always a wonderful, warming meal. I love the pretty pattern you produced on the pie topping - there would be lots of crunchy bits there when it is cooked (they are my favourite part). And what a clever idea with the stuffed potato. I love that idea and am going to try it soon.

    1. Oh, I hope we will get that show here, but somehow I doubt that we will! I love Mary Berry's shows! I hope you try the stuffed potato and enjoy it! xoxo

  4. Marie: Here is your Hamlyn Cookbook that you had to leave behind. Great price!

  5. Reads like another great recipe. Would a “deep dish” in the instructions be an 8x8x2.25” or 2.4 Liter foil baking dish based on the photo?

    1. Either or! The foil dish was used because I was gifting the meal to another. Normally I would use a deepish casserole which is at least three inches in depth. A 9 or an 8 inch square casserole of that depth would work perfectly. I hope this helps!

  6. My wife made the Cottage Pie exactly per your recipe, including the decorative marks on the mashed potato topping. It was VERY GOOD and it will be made again in future. She made it in a 2-Liter/9x9” ceramic baking dish, which filled the dish perfectly.

    The only change, for next time, will be to double the amount of tomato paste from 1 Tablespoon to 2 Tablespoons.


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