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Cottage Pie (Shepherds Pie) with a Mashed Potato, Leeks and Cheese Crust


Cottage Pie – England
click on all images to enlarge them

A bubbling sizzling Cottage Pie is ready to be served. let me add to the age-old British debate, what’s the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherds Pie? From what I understand, Shepherds Pie is made with minced lamb, whereas Cottage Pie is made with minced beef.

Traditionally, a British housewife would make a Cottage Pie the day after the Sunday roast. Of course the roast was beef with vegetables. So, she would cut up finely all the ingredients, make a little roux or use gravy left overs, mix it all up, and then spread a layer of mashed potatoes over it and let it all brown up in the oven.

I decided to check up a variety of top British chefs, such as Delia Smith and others, pick out all the ingredients they offered (meaning, I actually stuck to the *overall* British recipe), and assembled my own dish. Thus, for example, one of the chefs I consulted, mentioned tomato paste, others tomato ketchup, or a tin of tomatoes others just chopped fresh tomatoes. I decided to use both fresh chopped tomatoes and a tin of chopped ones. However, previously I used freshly chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. What I am saying is, what I am offering here is what I and my dinner guests enjoyed, however it’s just a guideline. Just like, for certain, most British housewives made their own variation the day after the Sunday roast.

I took this mini micro video just before serving. Next time I shall use the camera in the horizontal / landscape way 😉 (if you increase the volume, you’ll actually hear it sizzling)


Click on the images if you like to see them full size.


(please note that I tend not to give measurements, on the whole, as people like their own individual strengths of flavours)

2 small onions
2 med carrots
swede (Delia Smith – 3oz/75g) (optional)
1/3 sweet red bell pepper (optional)
2 sticks of celery
minced beef or minced lamb (I prefer it very coarsely minced)
beef stock or lamb stock – stock cubes are fine – (to make the gravy or roux. I suggest not to make too much, as otherwise you’ll find the pie gets too sloppy, especially if you use a tin of chopped tomatoes.
tomatoes (I used a tin this time, plus two fresh tomatos). If you prefer you can substitute the tin with tomato paste. This makes it less liquid.
mixed herbs – if you have fresh herbs at hand, all the better. At other times, I add loads of fresh parsley and fresh thyme leaves with the dried, which I did not have this time).
mild sweet paprika
Worcestershire sauce I used a good splash. Some recipes recommend 4 tsp.
Wine (optional). I saw recipes both with red and white wine. I personally prefer white wine as it is not too over powering in the overall mix. Again, be mindful not to make the mix too wet and sloppy. Basically I used the white wine instead of the water when I made the roux.



Chop up all the vegetables and fry / sautée them in oil (I like extra virgin pure coconut oil). Sautée all above mentioned vegetables except the mushrooms (I add them later as I don’t like mushrooms over cooked). When veggies are partially cooked, remove them from the pan into a large oven dish.

Next, fry the minced beef / lamb, and then also remove it into the oven dish as well.




Next, make the roux:

Stir in 1 level tables spoon of plain flour into the remaining juices from the meat and veggies in the pan. Then gradually add about 10 fl oz / 275 ml stock (either a home made meat stock, or stock cube crumbled into the wine … experiment with what you like best. Also, bear in mind that the fluid amounts are a just general guideline, depending on other liquids such as from veggies and tomatoes.


Next, mix all the ingredients, herbs and spices, salt and pepper to taste, in with the veggies into the oven dish / casserole.







Mashed Potato, Leek and Cheese Topping:


potatoes about 2 lb / 900g
parnips (optional – I did not use any)
2 medium leeks cut into 1/2 inch / 1 cm slices (I cut mine so very thin that they were hardly noticeable when the dish was served. This is entirely according to your preference)
mature cheddar cheese at least 2oz / 50g. I used way more than that, simply because I like strong cheese topping
butter about 2 oz / 50 g
creamed horseradish (optional – I did not use any)
milk or cream (optional – I used some milk, again, please be mindful not to make everything too ‘wet’ and sloppy. The topping really needs to be firm!)
nutmeg a dash of nutmeg always gives the mashed potatoes a nice aromatic lift.
salt and pepper to taste.




Peel, cut and boil the potatoes and the parsnips (if you are using them). Once coked, drain off the water, add the butter and with the dash of nutmeg mash the potatoes to a purée. Check the taste if it needs some salt and pepper.
Only use some milk if the potato mash is really very dry, remember, the topping needs to be firm.

Then you have a choice, either mix the chopped leeks in with the mashed potatoes, which I did because I chopped them ever so finely, or alternatively add the leeks spread over the top of the mashed potato layer.

Next, take your mashed potatoes and spread them evenly over your mince meet mix in the oven dish, then layer the leeks over the potatoes, if you had not mixed them in already.

Next, scatter the coarsely grated cheese over everything.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C) and bake your assembled dish on a high shelf of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is crusty and golden.

The photo below (and the photos and mini video at the top happened on the ‘second round, as I made too much to be eaten in one go. Actually, the flavours matured nicely, so the next day it was even more sumptuous and yummy!


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Rating 4.00 out of 5


  1. Geli Heimann says:

    Feelgood food: English Cottage Pie:

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