In honor of British Pie Week from Monday, March 7, until Sunday, March 13, I will be featuring a few savory and sweet pies this week. And I am starting my personal pie week off with a lovely Perfect Cottage Pie.
Proper English Cottage Pie, a popular British pub-food staple, is a delicious, very traditional mince pie made with ground beef and topped with leftover mashed potatoes to form the top crust. For this version, to make the mashed topping you will use baking potatoes that have been pierced with a fork, put on a bed of a bit of rock salt and baked for about an hour, keeping the flesh nice and dry. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop them out and pass them through a ricer.
Perfect Cottage Pie
(inspired by James Martin, from James Martin: Home Comforts)
- 8 baking potatoes, medium-sized
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 600 grams (1lb 5oz) beef mince (lean ground beef)
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely diced
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- a dash Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- 1 carrot, trimmed and finely chopped
- 100 ml (3½fl oz) red wine
- 500 ml (18fl oz) beef stock
- a few peas (frozen are fine)
- a bit of chopped Italian parsley and minced chives
- 50 grams (1¾ oz) caster sugar
- 125 grams (4½ oz) butter
- 150 ml (5fl oz) milk
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190° Celsius (170° Celsius, fan-assisted or 375° Fahrenheit).
- Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, then rub with a little oil and bake for 1 to 1½ hours, or until tender.
- Heat a large pan until hot, add the vegetable oil and fry the beef in batches until just browned.
- Add the onions, garlic, thyme and celery and fry for a couple of minutes until softened.
- Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 to 2 minutes then add the Worcestershire sauce and the finely chopped carrot.
- Add the red wine and cook until reduced in volume by a third.
- Then add the beef stock and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened.
- Add some peas and chopped parsley and chives at this time.
- Once cooked, tip the beef mixture into a bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and as much Worcestershire sauce as you like. Set aside to cool while you make the topping.
- When the potatoes are cooked, take them out of the oven to cool.
- Turn the oven up to 220° Celsius (200° Celsius, fan-assited or 430° Fahrenheit).
- When the potatoes are just cool enough to handle, slice them in half, scoop out the flesh and pass through a potato ricer into a bowl, or mash them with a fork.
- Add half the remaining butter to the potatoes and warm the milk in a saucepan until just simmering. Pour onto the potatoes and beat until the mashed potatoes are smooth and creamy.
- Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Pour the cooled beef mixture into a baking dish and spoon the hot mashed potatoes over the top, fluffing it with a fork. Scatter a few dots of butter over the top then place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown and piping hot through.
- Serve with some cooked carrots.
James Martin's Perfect Cottage Pie has lots of lovely rich flavor with red wine, a homemade beef stock and a bit of Worcestershire sauce, for some spice. This Cottage pie is the ultimate comfort food, the perfect dish to warm you up on a cold day. And a great way to celebrate British Pie Week!