Comfort Food: Cottage Pie
Back in April, I posted a recipe for a traditional Shepherd’s Pie using some lovely minced lamb leftover from a Sunday Roast. These days, what most people call Shepherd’s Pie is usually made using ground beef but, to be strictly accurate, this sort of preparation is more properly called ‘Cottage Pie’. As with the more traditional shepherd’s dish, a Cottage Pie is essentially ground meat baked casserole style with a topping of mashed potatoes but, again like the lamb variety, there are countless variations.
Onions are a fairly standard addition but, beyond that, carrots, peas and tomatoes are often included, and some even add cheese to the topping (although this is a variation I really don’t care for). Years ago, my mother came up with a modification that I have long since adopted and which uses the unusual addition applesauce to enrich the mix with a lovely tangy sweetness. This is how I will be preparing the dish for this post…
- 5 cups of cooked ground Beef
- 1 ½ cups of chopped Onion
- 1 cup frozen Corn
- ½ cup Flour
- 8 leaves of fresh Sage
- 1 tsp. dried Thyme
- 1 cup Apple sauce
- 4 Medium potatoes
- 2 – 4 tbsp. Butter (not shown)
- Salt and Pepper
Add the beef, corn, onion, sage, thyme and flour to a large bowl along with a tablespoon of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Now, mix everything together so that all the solids are evenly coated with the flour.
Now add the apple sauce and turn the mixture out into a suitable baking dish. Press down well, smoothing it all out to an even depth.
Next, peel the potatoes and boil until tender in salted water. Mash them with butter (and a little cream if you have any) and spread the mix evenly over the meat mixture in the baking dish. Smooth it out and then use a fork to make furrows or an attractive crosshatch pattern over the top. If you like, you can also brush the potato topping with a little cream or full-fat milk as this will help it brown nicely.
Now heat your oven to 375 degrees and cook the pie for about 45 minutes or so. If the top starts to brown a little too quickly then cover the dish with foil. When it is done, remove from the oven and let it rest for a good ten minutes before serving.
Well, I have made this dish so many times now I can almost make it in my sleep so there were no surprises here. Indeed, as always, I ate a bit more than I really should have. The only thing that was a bit different with this attempt was that I used fresh sage, which is not often available to me. Dried sage is fine, usually, but I really like the fresh and I suggest you use it yourselves if possible. If you have neither, a little thyme is nice by itself but sage really works well with apple
Anyway, I should probably confess, here, that we did not eat this exactly as you see it on the serving plate pictured above. When I was a kid, my mother always put HP sauce on the table when she served this dish because my father liked a little on top. She also put out ketchup, because my brother and sisters liked that particular condiment as an addition. As for me… well, I discovered that *both* go really well with either Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie and now I can’t eat them without the two of them as an added touch. I know that sounds like a horrible Philistine practice but, although I hang my head in shame, I have tell you… it’s REALLY, REALLY good! Heck… I even have my wife eating it that way now…