Traditional Cottage Pie
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.