My earliest memory of Cottage Pie was when I attended grade school in New Jersey. This was back in the sixties, and it was called Shepherd’s Pie, which is the name I knew it by for many years.
But the truth is a Shepherd’s Pie Recipe calls for ground lamb, not ground beef. The beef version of this Irish Classic is called Cottage Pie and has been a favorite in our house since our trip to Ireland a few years ago. But no matter what you call it’s true comfort food.
Just don’t confuse this dish with an Irish Meat Pie; that’s an entirely different recipe.
Ingredients to make Cottage Pie
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make the beef filling of the Cottage Pie. In Chef Speak this is called the “Mise en Place” which translates to “Everything in its Place”.
Not only does setting your ingredients up ahead of time speed the up cooking process, but it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
This recipe contains ground beef, (thawed) frozen peas, Guinness Stout, tomato paste, onions, carrots, olive oil, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, sea salt, chopped garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and all-purpose flour. (you can use gluten-free flour)
Do I have to use Beef to make Cottage Pie?
No, you don’t. You can use lamb to make the original shepherd’s pie or substitute ground chicken or ground turkey. The type of meat used is up to you. It can be made with a combination of ground beef, ground veal and ground pork if you like. It is after all your dinner.
You can even swap out the mashed potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes.
Do I have to use Peas and Carrots in Cottage Pie?
No, you don’t. My wife hates both of those vegetables, so when I make it for home, I usually leave out the peas (she has to deal with the carrots) and add mushrooms and sometimes cooked chopped spinach or broccoli rabe to the mixture. Corn is also an excellent addition.
Use your imagination and have fun with the beef mixture.
How do I make Cottage Pie?
Add the olive oil to a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion to the pan and saute for 5 minutes allowing the onions to fully cook and begin to caramelize.
Add the minced garlic and continue to saute for an additional minute.
- Add the diced carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add the ground beef and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the beef is nicely browned. Stir as needed and break up the pieces using a wooden spoon or wire whisk.
- Add the Guinness to deglaze the pan and scrape all the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan. If you’re not a fan of Guinness, you can substitute red wine or your favorite beer.
- Add the flour, mixing well with the ingredients. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, to get the raw flavor out of the flour.
Add the tomato paste, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sea salt and black pepper. Stir well to incorporate fully and let simmer for 2-3 minutes, until liquid is reduced.
Add in the peas and remove from the heat. Mix well.
What ingredients do I need to make mashed potatoes?
There are many different ways to make mashed potatoes. I love this upscale version that was taught to me by the owner of the tavern, where I learned how to prepare this dish.
Feel free to adjust the recipe to your favorite, but if you give this version a try, it just might surprise you!
How do I make mashed potatoes?
- Start off by adding the potatoes to a large sauce pan of cold water. Dump the water and refill the pot, adding a teaspoon of sea salt to the water. Bring potatoes to a boil.
- Cook the potatoes until they are fork-tender, no longer!. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the hot pot over low heat. This will remove any excess water from the potatoes.
- Add the unsalted butter to the pan and using a potato masher, mash the butter into the potatoes.
- Using a fork whip the egg yolk with the milk. Then add the milk/egg mixture and cream cheese to the potatoes and mix until well combined. Use a potato masher or wire whisk to mix.
- Season with sea salt, black pepper to taste.
- Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese to the potatoes, folding it into the mixture.
*Variations can include sour cream, Greek yogurt, parmesan cheese or your favorite cheese.
How do I assemble Cottage Pie?
- Transfer the meat filling into a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish (or casserole dish). Spread the mixture evenly in the pan. Pat with paper towels if greasy. *You can also make individual servings in smaller baking dishes. This is how we would have made it in the restaurant.
- Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the beef mixture. Use a spatula to even out the potatoes.
- Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.
- Carefully remove the cottage pie from the oven and sprinkle the ¼ cup of the shredded cheddar and the chopped parsley on top of the potatoes. Return to the oven and continue to bake for 10 minutes.
- Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving
After letting this delicious dish cool, so it properly sets up, you can cut it into portions and serve it on a plate or bowl.
A traditional cottage pie is made consists of a rich meaty filling as the bottom layer, topped with vegetables (rather than mixed in), with the final layer of shredded potatoes. It’s made with leftover roast beef or ground beef.
Both England and Ireland have laid claim to Shepards Pie and Cottage Pie. The name “cottage pie” was first used at the end of the 18th century and was named after the poorer residents of Britain that lived in cottages..
The only difference is in the meat used. Shepherd’s pie should only be named as such if it contains lamb, and “cottage pie” applies to one made with beef.