Cottage Pie A Recipe From My Childhood

A Cottage Pie is a wonderful homely British recipe of braised beef mince and root vegetables in a gravy topped with a crispy potato top.

A Cottage Pie is a wonderful homely British recipe of braised ground beef and root vegetables in a gravy topped with a crispy potato top.

The Classic British Cottage Pie

This recipe is one of the most enduring food memories from my childhood. Not just from home but at my grand parents house, school dinners, friend houses.

No matter where I went you could guarantee that this was never too far from the ‘menu’.

It is essentially a really simple dish of beef mince, vegetables in a gravy all topped with mashed potato. Then baked in the oven to crisp up the mash.

You can play with it as much as you like but it should always remain a good old fashioned winter warming dish.

References to it date back to the 18th Century but they have always been rustic dishes. Traditionally they were a way to use up leftover roasted meat, but have become a frugal recipe using minced meat.

It joins a long list of British pie recipes here on Krumpli, everything from a traditional pork pie to the great beef and ale pie get a look in.

Of course, we also have lemon meringue pie too!

A Cottage Pie is a wonderful homely British recipe of braised ground beef and root vegetables in a gravy topped with a crispy potato top.

The Perfect Mashed Potato Topping.

The perfect mashed potato topping for a cottage pie recipe should be just that, mashed potato.

It is important that the topping has some structure and should not be ‘pureed’ potatoes.

The addition of an egg yolk lends the most beautiful colour and silkiness too.

This is slightly different to the mashed potato that I use as a side dish, which uses both butter and cream to the tune of 25%. That is seriously indulgent, you should check out that in my faggots and mash recipe!

I’m very much an advocate of using a potato ricer for mashing potatoes you eliminate all lumps. As for cooking, either boil or bake your potatoes I switch freely between the two.

I promise you I am not being all pretentious by piping on my mashed potato.

I am certainly not a dab hand with a piping bag as you can probably tell, but I love a nice crispy topping on my pie.

The crispy parts of the mashed potato all occur at the ‘sharp’ edges of the mashed potato. By piping on the mash with a star-shaped nozzle you increase both the surface area of the mash and the sharp edges.

Mor surface area and more sharp areas mean more crispy bits, which are my favourite!

However feel free to just spread over the mash and then use a fork to break up the surface. You will get some nice crispy bits, just not enough for my liking!

I have seen many people add cheese to the mashed potato.

As far as I am concerned it is a travesty, cheese and gravy should never be mixed! But if it is your thing then knock yourself out you crazy person…

A Cottage Pie is a wonderful homely British recipe of braised ground beef and root vegetables in a gravy topped with a crispy potato top.

Isn’t This Just a Shepherds Pie?

No, this should definitely not be confused with a shepherds pie. They are in many ways the same recipe, but a shepherds pie is made with lamb.

Beef and lamb are fundamentally different ingredients, requiring very different flavours.

I do have a little confession to make… A little part of me dies inside when I see a cottage pie recipe “incorrectly” called shepherds pie.

It is quite laughable and a little bit daft, I am sure we all have little things that irrationally get under our skin, this one is mine.

It’s OK, I don’t turn into a raving psycho or one of them crazy keyboard warriors. I tut and then roll my eyes and mutter to myself before moving on.

A Cottage Pie is a wonderful homely British recipe of braised ground beef and root vegetables in a gravy topped with a crispy potato top.
Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

A Cottage Pie is a wonderful homely British recipe of braised ground beef and root vegetables in a gravy topped with a crispy potato top.


  • 1 kg Potatoes
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 100 g Butter
  • 75 g Onion
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 500 g Minced Beef
  • 100 g Carrot
  • 100 g Parsnip
  • 1 Tsp Dried Thyme
  • 200 ml Red Wine
  • 150 ml Tomato Passata
  • 250 ml Beef Stock
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt to Taste
  • Black Pepper to Taste


  1. Peel and chop the potatoes roughly to the size of a golf ball.
  2. Boil the potatoes in well salted water until soft drain and allow to dry,
  3. Mash adding in the butter, set aside until you are ready to build the pie, ensure you check for seasoning and add salt as required.
  4. Cut the onion into a medium dice and thinly slice the garlic.
  5. Roughly chop the carrots and parsnip.
  6. Cook the onion in a frying pan over a medium high heat for 5 minutes with a splash of oil.
  7. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Turn the heat up to high, add the minced beef and fry for 5 minutes.
  9. Preheat your oven to 180°C or 350°F.
  10. Add in the carrot and parsnip, dried thyme, season with salt and black pepper and then pour in the red wine and allow to reduce until almost dry about 15 minutes.
  11. Add in the tomato passata and beef stock and reduce by half.
  12. Remove from the heat and then add in the Worcestershire sauce, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste and layer into your serving bowl or bowls.
  13. Stir in the egg yolk to the mashed potato until thoroughly combined.
  14. Pipe on your mashed potato (you can layer it on any other way you like).
  15. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.


Use Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, everything else is a poor imitation!

You don't have to pipe the potatoes if you do not wish, I like to as it means I get lots of peaks on the mashed potato to go crispy.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 869 Total Fat: 44g Saturated Fat: 22g Trans Fat: 2g Unsaturated Fat: 17g Cholesterol: 211mg Sodium: 635mg Carbohydrates: 67g Fiber: 8g Sugar: 9g Protein: 44g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

16 thoughts on this Recipe:

  1. 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 😉

  2. Love the piping, much better than boring fork patterns and much more crispy! Definitely a family favourite as we couldn’t afford lamb anyway. In our house peas were added or baked beans but your recipe looks much classier!

  3. Did you mention food Nazi? Hello! I must say though that Italian food is lambasted all the time, pizzas that are not pizza, carbonara that are not carbonara. Not to talk about Alfredo sauce, which in Italy we have no idea of what it is. I am with you, don’t confuse the Sheppards with a Cottage pie. Luckily I have lived in England long enough and I have learned to refrain my dramatic emotion, so moving along. I love your idea of piping the mash to make it more crispy and since my husband likes it soft, I will cut all the tops and eat them.

    • 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 😉

  4. You learn something new everyday right? Well consider me educated! Thanks for the great recipe and the foodie knowledge as well 🙂

  5. This is home-cooking comfort food at it’s best. My mother always called this Shepherd’s Pie. She never used carrots or parsnips, but corn instead. This recipe sounds so good! I’ve printed this one out to try myself.

    • Thanks Tina, the name thing seems to be a common theme… I think that the name has become the generic name for a ‘mash’ topped stew like this… I am sure my Grandma is rolling in her grave 😉

  6. So you mean to tell me that every time I have made a “shepherd’s pie” with beef, I am really making a cottage pie? Good to know! And this looks delish.. .next time I make some I’ll have to try your crispy potatoes trick 🙂

    • Yup sorry… I am sure it is a British thing and that globally the name has become the name for a potato topped pie, but you can take the boy out of Britain but you can’t take Brit… 😉

  7. i think the piping’s brilliant! What size tip did you use? (I also have to confess to having the same attitude toward “shepherd’s” pie that don’t have lamb.)

    • Cheers Peter… It is a bit of a giggle and reminds me of one of my haircuts from the 80’s 😉 It is functional too though, the more surface area the more crispy bits there are and the crispy bits are my favourite!


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