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Comforting Cottage Pie

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This simple dish with British roots is one that seems to inspire controversy — something along the lines of what is the “correct” way to make chili.

Is it shepherd’s pie or cottage pie? Should it be cooked roast meat or ground meat cooked from raw? Should there be or not be tomatoes in it? Is it made with lamb or beef?

In The Guardian, the Word of Mouth blog by Felicity Cloake addresses some of these questions. It seems that shepherd’s pie generally refers to minced lamb, or leftover roast lamb, while a cottage pie calls for beef. She prefers no tomatoes in her cottage pie, as well as no cheese. Her recipe for Perfect Cottage Pie can be found at this link.

The recipe below comes from a British chef, James Martin. The appeal of this version of Cottage Pie, to me, is that it does use tomatoes, and the mashed potatoes are made ever so much more wonderful with the addition of puréed parsnip (a good winter veggie to get acquainted with) and creamed horseradish.

Enjoy on one of these cold winter nights that will leave us all too soon.

Comforting Cottage Pie

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 ¼ pound ground beef
1 large (14-15-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes that you can cut or smash up with your hands, or use diced)
10 ounces beef stock
1 bay leaf
Fresh thyme leaves stripped from one sprig or a half-teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ pound potatoes, peeled and chopped
8 ounces parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons creamed horseradish
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons milk
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and carrot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until softened. Add the ground beef and cook for 3 minutes to brown. Add the diced or smashed tomatoes, purée, beef stock, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Season. When the mixture is cooked and ready to pour into the casserole dish, take out the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, to make the topping, boil the potatoes and parsnips in water until soft. Drain and mash with the butter and milk. Stir in the horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish. Top with the mash and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Note: Sometimes a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie recipe will call for green peas, plus a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce added to the meat mixture. Some like to top the meat mixture with shredded Cheddar cheese before spreading on the layer of mashed potatoes.

Makes 4 servings.

From BBC/James Martin



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