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Cottage Pie for 2 People

Cottage pie, a traditional British mashed potato topped dish featuring mince beef, I make mine as single-serving pies for the smaller family.

My version creates a sauce from beer and tinned tomatoes to produce a rich and thick gravy to coat the minced beef.

Individual traditional British mince beef cottage pie served in a blue earthenware bowl.

The Classic British Cottage Pie

There are more than a few recipes floating around on my website that screams about my food childhood.

This cottage pie is definitely one of them and not just from home but at my grandparents’ house, school dinners and dinners at my mate’s homes. And guess what, all of them were different and all of them were glorious!

You may look at this and think that it is a Shepherd’s pie… well it ain’t I tell ya.

I have very few hills that I am prepared to die on when it comes to food. But I do have an irrational and quite silly thing from the “proper” etymology for potato topped pies.

Shepherd’s pie contains lamb, cottage pie contains beef and if there is no meat involved then it becomes a Shepherdess pie.

But my obsession runs deeper, no cheese in the mash, lest you want to call it a Cumberland pie. Like I say, it’s silly and I know it is but hey, my site my rules.

That does not mean that there is no room for playing with these ideas, I also have a glorious sausage and mash pie, haggis shepherds pie, and a wonderful fish finger pie!

This is my ultimate cottage pie and I love this and I hope that you will too!

If you like a minced beef pie with pastry, then don’t worry I’ve got one of them too!

Overhead traditional British mince beef cottage pie served in a blue earthenware bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of potatoes should I use?

The perfect mashed potato topping for a cottage pie recipe needs floury or mealy potatoes.

I use either Maris Piper or King Edwards potatoes, if you are in the US, look for something like a russet potato.

Do I have to pipe the potatoes on?

No, the reason for piping is to maximise the “sharp edges” on the mashed potato. You can spread the mash and then use a fork to create some texture.

The texture on the top of the potato gives lots of crispy edges to the topping and to my mind they are an essential part of a cottage pie.

I am certainly no piping savant, you don’t need to be it is super simple to do.

Can I make this in advance?

Yes, the meat filling will be fine in the fridge for 3-4 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.

I prefer the mashed potatoes to be made on the day of cooking or the day before at most. You can create the complete pie and then pop it in the fridge for a day or two.

What is an OXO cube?

It is the brand name of a British stock cube. It is mentioned by name as it specifically requires just 190ml of water.

If you use another brand of stock cube check how much stock it makes, if it is 500ml just use one third to half of the stock cube. Using more will result in a very salty cottage pie.

What beer should I use?

Go for anything you like, I have been making this of late with Newcastle Brown Ale. But it works with anything from a pale ale through to Guinness and all of them give a slightly different flavour to this recipe.

Spoonfull of a traditional British mince beef cottage pie.

Serving Suggestions

All a good cottage pie needs as a side is some veggies as far as I am concerned.

Here they are served with some simply roasted tenderstem broccoli. I eat this stuff all of the time, it is so simple to chuck in the oven with the pies.

You could serve it with this simple grilled broccoli or even some simply cooked cauliflower.

It would be equally good with some air fryer asparagus or even roasted cabbage.

You could also serve it with this braised cavolo nero kale if you wanted something a little different.

Close up traditional British mince beef cottage pie served in a blue earthenware bowl.

Equipment Used

I only name-check brands of equipment if I think they make a material difference to a recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask them ion the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • Oven.
  • 20cm or 8″ saucepan.
  • 18cm or 7″ saucepan.
  • 15cm or 6″ saucepan.
  • 2 x baking dishes that hold around 375ml (1½-1⅔ cups) 12.5cm in diameter by 5cm deep (5″ by 2″).
  • Weighing scales and or measuring cups and spoons.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Vegetable masher or potato ricer (that latter is my preference).
  • Piping bag and large star nozzle (optional).
  • Sieve or colander.
Traditional mashed potato topped British mince beef cottage pie.
Yield: 2 Servings

Traditional British Cottage Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

A traditional British cottage pies contain minced beef and root vegetables in a gravy and they are then topped with mashed potatoes before being baked until they are crispy.


  • 75g (½ Cup) Onion
  • 75g (½ Cup) Carrot
  • 50g (⅓ Cup) Celery
  • 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 300g (10oz) Minced Beef
  • 250ml (1 Cup) Beer
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 225g (7oz) Tin of Tomatoes
  • ¼ Tsp Dark Brown Sugar
  • ½ Tsp Dried Thyme
  • ½ Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 OXO Beef Stock Cube *See note in frequently asked questions*
  • 400g (3 Cups) Potatoes
  • 75ml (⅓ Cup) Milk
  • 75g (5 Tbsp) Butter


  1. Cut the carrot and celery into a 3-4mm dice.
  2. Peel the onion and cut it to the same size as the carrots and celery.
  3. Heat the oil in a 17-18cm (7") saucepan and fry the onion, celery and carrot over a medium for 5-10 minutes to soften.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and add the minced beef and cook until brown all over.
  5. Pour in the beer and allow it to reduce by 75%, this will take around 10 minutes.
  6. Add the Worcestershire sauce and the tomato puree and stir for 1 minute.
  7. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and add the sugar, thyme, pepper and crush the stock cube into the pot and stir until the stock cube is completely dissolved.
  8. Reduce the heat to low, add a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 35mm cubes (1½). Then boil them in a 20cm (8") saucepan generously salted (1 teaspoon for every 2 litres of water) boiling water for 20-25 minutes or until they are cooked.
  10. When the beef has had its cooking time transfer it to two baking bowls. The bowls that I use hold around 375ml (1½-1⅔ cups) of water and they are 12.5cm in diameter and 5cm deep (5" by 2").
  11. Just before the potatoes are ready heat the milking a small saucepan 15cm (6"), it does not need to boil it just needs to be hot (50-60°C or around 125°F).
  12. Drain the potatoes and mash them with the butter, then add enough milk to get the texture that you like. I like to use a potato ricer for mashed potato, and I then stir through the butter and finally add the milk.
  13. Top the beef mixture with the mashed potato, I like to use a piping bag with a star nozzle. But you can spread it with a spoon and then rough it up with a fork.
  14. Finally, bake them in an oven at 180°C or 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until the potato is crisp and the gravy is bubbling.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1087Total Fat: 65gSaturated Fat: 30gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 217mgSodium: 1000mgCarbohydrates: 67gFiber: 9gSugar: 14gProtein: 52g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!

thomas rosser

Monday 27th of February 2023

first class recipes good to see a brit on here . first class many thanks . hope the wife is doing well regards tom

Brian Jones

Monday 6th of March 2023

Thank Tom, we are getting there :)

Gina Strauch

Wednesday 4th of May 2022

Forgot to mention in my earlier comment, the beer I used was Guinness, a fine choice.

Gina Strauch

Tuesday 3rd of May 2022

I made this last night, but with venison, since I rarely have beef. Next time I will probably add some juniper berries, but other than that I wouldn't change a thing. Easy to make, very attractive, and the prep dishes could be washed while the pie was in the oven. I served it with kale, but I think chard, chiffonade cut and cooked quickly in a hot pan, would be a fine accompaniment.

Brian Jones

Tuesday 10th of May 2022

Glad you enjoyed it Gina, the venison sounds superb, sadly something I am seeing very little of here in the UK. Chard would make a fantastic side dish.

Brian Jones

Sunday 18th of February 2018

It's just food, I don't get it... Authenticity is for museums as far as I am concerned, food is to be loved, shared and enjoyed, so I stick with my atypical tut and move on ;)


Friday 16th of February 2018

I often make shepherd’s and cottage pies- I do prefer the lamb somehow but never piped the potatoes so nicely - what a nice idea! - will definitely remember this - has a proper waw factor - kids will love it even more ;-)

Brian Jones

Sunday 18th of February 2018

Haha, I'm really not a piping demon it is very easy :D

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