This cottage pie recipe is just one of probably hundreds of variations
Cottage pie and its close relative shepherd's pie has been around for a couple of centuries and is a firm family favourite.
Useful in three ways. Firstly, because it can be made ahead of time and heated later. Also, because it can be a great way of using up leftovers. Thirdl, you can make it up and then keep it hot in the oven until it's time to eat. In other words, you don't need to time it exactly to coincide with mealtime.
As a young girl I was led to believe that shepherd's pie was just meat gravy with mashed potato on top, maybe some onion too, and that cottage pie was the same with vegetables added to the meat and gravy.
Since then, I've also heard people say that cottage pie is made using beef, and shepherd's pie uses lamb or mutton, which seems to make more sense. But I suppose it can be whatever you want it to be - as long as it's some sort of minced (ground) meat mixture topped with delicious mashed potato
.....as shown in the photographs
200g minced beef (ground beef)
50g diced carrot
50g green beans or peas
cornflour or gravy granules for thickening
There is some debate over how to cook this meal. The general consensus seems to be that you should brown the meat first and maybe also the onions. What many people also do is to then drain off excess fat for health reasons. Then add the water the veg, the stock and seasoning and finally thicken with the cornflour to make a gravy out of the liquid.
Personally, I find this a bit of a waste of time. It's quicker to just throw it all in and cook everything together, then to thicken it. It seems none the worse for it - I certainly can't tell the difference.
Also, if you want to drain off the fat, you will also be draining off the meat juices. Better, I think, to cook everything together, then if you want to get rid of the fat, let it cool and pick it off when it's solid.
So, either way - it's up to you.
The usual seasoning is salt and pepper - but it's your meal, you serve it how you like it - even make your own crazy version such as chilli, spiced, curried. or use minced (ground) turkey, pork or chicken.
If you've never used cornflour (cornstarch) to thicken before, the main thing you need to remember is not to add it straight into hot water. It WILL turn lumpy if you do that.
Begin with a couple of teaspoons of cornflour and mix with a little cold water. (If you do this in advance the cornflour will sink and turn stiff - just give it a stir when you're ready to use it)
When you are ready to thicken the mix, pour it in slowly while stirring and keep stirring until it has thickened - again this is to prevent lumps forming. If it doesn't thicken enough, repeat until it does
If you like, you could just cheat and serve up with mashed potato immediately. But to make it into the pie that it's supposed to be, put the meat mix into an oven proof dish and top with the mashed potato. Then heat it up in the oven.
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