Traditional Cottage Pie

Serves 4-6

This family favourite freezes beautifully and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The key to great flavour is to really sear the mince in step 1 – add the beef in batches into a hot pan, and allow it to colour well for a rich, deep flavour that makes the most of this glorious, simple dish.  


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg beef mince
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery
  • sticks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • large glass red wine (optional)
  • 850ml beef stock
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 100g frozen peas
  • few thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly grated nutmeg

For the mash

  • 1.5kg potatoes, peeled & chopped
  • 225ml milk
  • 25g butter
  • 200g strong cheddar, grated



Step 1: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and fry 1kg beef mince until browned – you may need to do this in batches. Set aside as it browns.

Step 2: Put the other 2 tbsp olive oil into the pan, add 2 finely chopped onions, 3 chopped carrots and 3 chopped celery sticks and cook on a gentle heat until soft, about 20 mins.

Step 3: Add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 3 tbsp plain flour and 1 tbsp tomato purée, increase the heat and cook for a few mins, then return the beef to the pan.

Step 4: Pour over a large glass of red wine, if using, and boil to reduce it slightly before adding the 850ml beef stock, 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, a few thyme sprigs and 2 bay leaves.

Step 5: Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 mins. By this time the gravy should be thick and coating the meat. Check after about 30 mins – if a lot of liquid remains, increase the heat slightly to reduce the gravy a little. Add frozen peas at this point, if using. Season well, then discard the bay leaves and thyme stalks. Add a good grating of nutmeg.

Step 6: Meanwhile, make the mash. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes in salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.

Step 7: Drain well, then allow to steam-dry for a few mins. Mash well with the 200ml milk, 25g butter, and three-quarters of the 200g strong cheddar cheese, then season with salt and pepper.

Step 8: Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish. Pipe or spoon on the mash to cover. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Step 9: If eating straight away, heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and cook for 25-30 mins, or until the topping is golden.

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