I first had Cottage Pie (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) many years ago as a small child at Camp Segunakadeck (Seggie) on the south shore of PEI. I came home from summer camp raving about this yummy dish and trying to describe it to my mother. As a seven or eight-year old, my descriptions of culinary delights would not have been enough for even a seasoned professional chef to be able to concoct some resemblance of the meal. The description would have went something like this…there was hamburg and ‘stuff’ on the bottom and mashed potatoes on the top and it was made in a large pan. Many years later when I would recall my camping experience, I was always reminded of this dish which I have since come to realize was likely a version of Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie, most likely the latter.
In the years since, I have tried many recipes for Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie but none were very flavourful and I was never satisfied with the result. One thing I learned not so long ago is that, while both have a cover of mashed potatoes on top of the meat, there is a difference between the two: Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground (or minced) lamb and Cottage Pie is made with ground (or minced) beef, more commonly known as hamburg. So, while many of us use the generic name “Shepherd’s Pie” when referring to this dish, if we are using ground beef, then it’s really Cottage Pie we are making. The great thing about Cottage Pie is that you can add any veggies you like (or eliminate any you don’t) or you can make it primarily with meat and very few vegetables.
The recipe I have created for my tomato-based Cottage Pie contains a lengthy list of ingredients and, I will forewarn, it does take a bit of time to make. However, the end result is worth the effort and this comfort food freezes well (unbaked) so it’s a great dish to have on hand in the freezer for busy nights when everyone arrives home hungry for dinner and no one has the energy to make a fulsome meal from scratch. Serve the Cottage Pie with string beans, asparagus, or a green salad.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup diced carrots
2 tbsp diced parsnip
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped green pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp flour
2 ½ tbsp tomato paste
½ cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
½ cup tomato soup
¼ cup red wine
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup beef broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tsp. molasses
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen corn
2 lbs potatoes
½ cup milk
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp soft butter
¼ cup grated cheese of choice
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large frypan. Brown meat over medium-low heat. Drain off any excess fat. Set aside.
In large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Sauté onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, green pepper, and garlic for 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, and ketchup. Cook 1-2 minutes.
Add canned tomatoes, tomato soup, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, beef broth, salt, pepper, molasses, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low.
Add cooked ground beef and spices. Cook 3-4 minutes until mixture is heated.
Add frozen corn and peas and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Cook potatoes. Drain. Mash. Transfer mashed potatoes to bowl of stand mixer and whip for apx. 2 minutes on high speed with milk, egg yolk, salt, pepper, butter, nutmeg, and grated cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano).
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spray casserole dish or individual ramekins with cooking spray.
Remove and discard bayleaf and spoon meat mixture into dishes, filling each a scant ¾ full. Top with spoonfuls of whipped potatoes to the top of the casserole or ramekins. With knife, gently spread potatoes so meat mixture is entirely covered. Using tines of a fork, create a decorative pattern on the potato topping. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes, until topping starts to brown. Remove from oven and let stand 8-10 minutes. Serve with steamed green beans, asparagus, or a green salad.
Makes 8-9 servings
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