Cottage Pie is always called Shepherd’s Pie in my mother’s house, even though it was always made with beef and never with lamb. In fact, I find Shepherd’s Pie a bit too rich for my taste, and lamb mince is certainly quite unaffordable. Cottage Pie is real comfort food – it is comparatively inexpensive, easy to make, and a great supper. I like it with baked beans, or with peas, or cabbage, or sweetcorn. It is great the next day and freezes well. I even sometimes just put it in the frying pan to heat through – which makes a great warm mush that calls for a fried egg on top.
Even today, if I am going home to the Shires, mother will call and say “Shall I put a Shepherd’s Pie on?”
As ever, I never really follow recipes, so this is a bit of a rough guide, and it is no recipe for purists.
1kg of potatoes
500-750g of beef mince (not the really lean mince – this recipe is best with the standard 15% fat mince)
2 big carrots
A splash of Worcestershire Sauce
A squirt of tomato puree
Beef stock cubes – I suggest four Oxo, or two Knorr Rich Beef Stockpots
1. Peel about a kilogram of potatoes, cut up a bit, and put on to boil.
2. Chop two onions – quite roughly – we want a bit of texture, and soften in a saucepan with a little oil.
3. Dice two big carrots and add.
4. Add the mince. Keep stirring until brown.
5. Add the Worcestershire Sauce, tomato puree, and stock. Add a glog of water. Simmer for 20 minutes at least.
6. Drain and mash the potatoes. You can add butter and salt, but go easy on both.
7. Tumble the meat into an oven-proof deep dish. If there is too much juice (you should not be able to set it from the top), strain it off a bit and keep by to serve with the pie.
8. Top with the mashed potatoes. This is harder than it looks – if you pile on the potatoes, they will just sink in the mash. Instead, using a dessert spoon, drop bits of mash on the mince in various parts of the dish, until it is all there, and use a fork to even it, taking care not to press it down, and smooth to the edges, so no meat is showing.
9. Put it in a 180° oven for about 30-40 minutes, until it is nice and brown on top.
Enjoy it! It is also good made with left over bolognaise, left over beef chilli (top the potatoes with cheese) and left over ratatouille.
 I have got into these lately. They are quite lovely, and the vegetable ones are vegan and gluten free and ideal for soup.