Cottage Pie

I’m a negligent mum, taking off right at dinnertime thrice this Sunday-Monday-Tuesday to make myself presentable and go eat and call it part of my job. (Sunday and Monday is-was like a pub crawl, only with steak and no boom-box-bus. Tomorrow I’m going to dinner at Rouge. Don’t hate me.) And so I made a pot of something yummy the boys could dip into in my absence.

A cottage pie is a shepherd’s pie, made with beef instead of lamb. Which is how most of us make shepherd’s pie nowadays, but if I were to post this as shepherd’s pie I’d almost certainly open up my inbox to a barrage of emails saying “that’s not shepherd’s pie! Shepherd’s pie is made of lamb! Get it? Because of the shepherds and their lambs… which they apparently eventually eat.)

You could, of course, start with ground lamb and be perfectly safe in calling it shepherd’s pie.

You could also take liberties with the vegetables that go into it – sauteed mushrooms are sublime (unless you have a 6 year old who recoils at mushrooms), or parsnips with the potatoes that go on top. You can totally mess with the veggie elements without changing its identity.

Someone on Twitter just suggested I call it cow pie. Now there’s a good idea. Forget cottage pie – let’s call this cow pie!

Anyway. It’s a good thing to have in the fridge to dip into whenever you need to.

Cottage Pie


February 6, 2012

  • Makes: Serves 6.


1 lb. lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 can or 1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth

2 Tbsp. tomato paste or ketchup

a couple glugs of Worcestershire sauce

2 carrots, diced

1/2 cup frozen green peas

salt and pepper

4 large potatoes, peeled (or not) and diced

1/4 cup butter

1/4-1/2 cup milk

a big handful of grated cheese (old cheddar is fab)


1Preheat oven to 375F.

2In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef and onion until the onion is soft and the beef is no longer pink. Sprinkle the flour overtop and stir to distribute it, then pour in the beef stock, add the tomato paste and Worcestershire, and stir to blend well. Bring to a simmer and cook for a minute or two, until the gravy thickens. Add the carrots and peas, season with salt and pepper and pour into a baking dish that will accommodate it.

3Meanwhile, pour cold water over the potatoes in a medium-large pot and bring to a boil. When they're very tender, drain and mash them (rough or smooth) with the butter and milk and spread over the beef mixture. Scatter the grated cheese overtop. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and it's bubbly around the edges.


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20 comments on “Cottage Pie

  1. Erica B.
    February 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I grew up knowing this dish as “PΓ’tΓ© chinois” always made with a layer of sauteed beef, corn, and mashed potatoes. I’ll have to try this version soon, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  2. Cathy Norrie
    February 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    You know when I saw the title on my iGoogle page I immediately thought this was going to have cottage cheese in it… then I clicked into it and saw it was what I would, in my ignorance, have formerly (now I know better) called Shepherd’s Pie. Then I started thinking about cottage cheese again and I think it would be quite nummy to mix 2% cottage cheese into the mashed potatoes for a truly “cottage” pie πŸ™‚ … and delish too! What d’ya think?

    • JulieVR
      February 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Ooooh – I think you are totally brilliant! Then it would be a true cottage (cheese) pie!!

  3. kickpleat
    February 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    This is one of those dishes that reminds me of childhood. My mom’s flame Le Cruset and “pate chinoise” was a winter meal in our home. Yum. I think it’s time to bring back the love again. Looks delicious.

  4. Alexia
    February 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    My new favorite is to mix mashed turnips in with the mashed potatoes when I make the topping.

  5. LJR
    February 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Celeriac, boiled or steamed till tender then mashed is delicious with the mashed potatoes also delicious and a great way to try this narly looking veg!!!!!

  6. Laurie from Burnaby
    February 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I’m so glad to see someone who knows that shepherd’s pie is made with lamb (actually mutton, but never mind) never beef. It’s American to get everything wrong and it bothers me when Canadians copy them. I make cottage pie with onions, peas and carrots and mushrooms, gravy and mounds of mashed potato on top with extra gravy served beside it. It’s a comfort food of the nth degree. So’s shepherd’s pie – to be eaten on the knees in front of the fire. numm numm numm πŸ™‚

  7. Deidre
    February 7, 2012 at 6:57 am

    It’s weird because I just made a gardener’s pie (which is for vegetarians) the night before last. It substitutes ground soy and black beans for the meat and is really tasty!

  8. LisaMer
    February 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    It’s been ages since I last commented (though I read every post!), but I just wanted to come by today to say thank you for your consistently delicious and simple recipes! It’s really refreshing to find a food blog that focuses on healthy, nutritious, simple and *delicious* recipes. I always know that 1) I’ll have the ingredients on hand and 2) it will be a hit with my family! My cooking has really evolved since the advent of your blog, especially with the emphasis on the “theory” behind the flavours. A heartfelt thank you from our home to yours!

  9. Lisa
    February 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Have fun at Rouge!!!

  10. the other Al
    February 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    you do know what a “cow pie” is right? or am I the only girl who grew up near a farm. When completely frozen they made great frisbies to whip at the boys!

    • JulieVR
      February 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Yes! Totally know what a cow pie is.. I am Calgarian after all.. therein lies the joke! Doesn’t cow pie sound delicious? πŸ˜‰

  11. Nurse Jenn
    February 9, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Another lovely looking recipe. Perhaps I will toss this into the rotation next week instead of my usual winter standby of meatloaf (which I love). I have always made some sort of cottage type pie because it uses up so much of the stuff in my fridge.

  12. Etta's Mama
    February 10, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Made this last night – thanks for the fab recipe!! It was fast, easy and delish! This is def going into rotation, though, as an American, I was only able to do the best I could with it – hope I did it justice πŸ˜‰

  13. Rebecca
    February 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Julie-I once had the revelation to do my shepherd’s pie (yeah, I’m going there – I’m calling it shepherd’s!) upside down because I was tired of the bottom crumbly-beef-bits falling apart. It ROCKED! So now I put the potatoes down first (spray or wipe the dish with oil first) then the beef mixture THEN the cheese. Voila. Stays together in true pie-like fashion AND gets a nice crispy-potatoey bottom. If I’m feeling particularly spunky, and if there happen to be any potato chips in the house (HA! Good one!), I just might crumple them on top. Mmmmmm. Cowpie-licious!

  14. Susan
    February 13, 2012 at 7:29 am

    I made this the other night, but used chicken broth because I didn’t have any beef broth in the house. I also substituted the fresh veggies with a frozen bag of mixed veggies. It was delicious. I actually doubled the recipe and froze one of the dishes. Thank you, Julie!

  15. Lulu
    February 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Everyone I know knows that Shepherd’s Pie is a lamb dish. And surprise, we’re Americans! We even understand about shepherd and sheep aka lamb. And our Brit friends quail at the thought of using lamb when this is an everyday kind of dish, a way to use more common, more economical mutton.

    This is a great keeper recipe that many cooks have made for many years without a recipe, it’s that much a part of their family’s standard fare. newer cooks of this old favorite.

    Thanks for introducing newer cooks to this great dish – and for reminding those who have been around a while that it can also be made with ground lean beef. Just be careful what you call it. πŸ™‚

  16. Lulu
    February 12, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Sorry. An extra bit escaped the editing.

    newer cooks of this old favorite

  17. Inoa
    January 2, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Looks amazing! But NEVER call it cow pie! Cow pie is Cow s*it! lol

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