OK, ok... I'm totally not saying that this is 'the best' cottage pie, ok ? It's just that this recipe or meal, Cottage Pie, reminded me of a show called "The Best" which aired in the UK in around 2008. It only aired for one season and starred the chefs Paul Merrett, Ben O'Donoghue & Silvana Franco. I loved the show, they were basically given a handful of ingredients, they all had to cook something different and they handed the food through a hatch to a herd (?) of tasters who decided which dish was "The Best".
No, this recipe is not taken from the book... in fact I haven't looked at the book for ages, and once I've finished this I will go and pick it up and have a browse... So, I was thinking to myself how versatile Cottage Pie can be and how you can make many variations on this meal, as I have done over the years.
For the last two years, I have even made a 'super special' cottage pie for Christmas Day, which has actually been for the children to eat, but the adults have all had a side 'dollop' as well, which is pretty amusing. I also make one of these to be ready and waiting when we get back from Labour of Love. As soon as we get home (which is usually in the early hours of the morning), I take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. We are usually pretty exhausted after the long drive, hit the sack and then later, having got on with the unpacking and washing, plop it in the oven. No cooking or fuss needed. It's totally perfect.
So, you might be thinking what's the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie.. ? Cottage Pie uses (minced) beef and Shepherd's Pie uses (minced) lamb. I'm not a great lover of lamb and find beef goes better with some of the flavourings I am going to mention here... but by all means give it a go.. Why not ?
Here's a photo to get the taste buds going....
Ingredients - serves about 4-6
450gr Minced Beef (or one large packet)
4 large potatoes (baking size)
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
Milk and butter (for mashed potato)
Extra veg (optional)
Carrots - diced
Onions - diced
Glug of red wine
Few drops of tabasco
1. Peel and chop your potatoes. Put them on to boil. Meanwhile, get on with the rest of the recipe..Once the potatoes have boiled, season them and add milk, butter and mash to your desired consistency. Set to one side.
2. Fry your minced beef in a non-stick pan, and once cooked drain off any excess oil. Grate a clove of garlic into the minced beef. Then if you are adding extra veg, add it now and saute for a few minutes. You don't need to add both, either will do. This is one of Cupcake's favourite meals, but with the diced onion it would be one of her worst. Enough said.
3. Add your flavouring. Now, if I was making this for a kid's tea, I would add the diced carrots, a dash of worcestershire sauce, some gravy browning and a small tin of baked beans, a dash of water from the kettle would loosen the mix if it was getting a little thick and that would be it for the sauce. However, if I was making this for an adult meal, I would lose the beans and carrots, add a tin of tomatoes to the meat and garlic, a glug of red wine, tomato puree, a dash of worcestershire sauce and maybe a splash of tobasco, with some gravy browning to thicken and deepen the sauce.
4. Whichever way you flavour your cottage pie. Once it has bubbled away for twenty minutes leave it to cool for a few minutes longer, whilst you take out your ovenproof casserole dish and grate your cheese (if using).
5. Pour all the meat into the casserrole and top with the mashed potato. If I was making this for the kids I would put grated cheese over the top, for a lovely meaty, cheesy, beany feast. Otherwise, I would just fork the top so that as it cooks in the oven it gets a nice crusty, crunchy top - as in the photo above. Once constructed, place in a hot oven (200 deg) for about 30-40 mins.
6. If you are not eating this straight away, then once it is cool you can wrap the casserole in foil, and put it in the fridge for eating later, or put it in the freezer for another day. Don't forget to defrost it throughly before you reheat it. If you are freezing, I would recommend leaving the grated cheese off, and adding that just before it goes in the oven when defrosted.
If cooking from defrosted, you may need to extend the cooking time to 50mins - 1 hour. You'll know it's done when it's scorching hot and bubbling- please be careful when serving !!!
If you've included vegetables in this, then you don't need anything extra. If not, or you want to stretch it further, you might want to serve it with a green vegetable like green beans or broccoli and maybe extra gravy. Acutally, thinking about it, although I eat this all year round, this can be quite a comforting winter meal. If you've added red wine, pour yourself a glass as you eat and dream of merry times yet to come..
I hope you enjoy this fantastic Engish recipe.