I don’t want to brag (actually I do) – this was the best Cottage Pie I’ve made, and so I feel it deserves being denoted as ‘ultimate’.
I didn’t set out to create the ultimate version. I set out to make a delicious comfort food main meal with beef, which I haven’t eaten for a while. This is a dish that for me, changes with my mood, which vegetables I’ve got knocking around, and whether there’s any wine left to splash into the mince as it cooks. On this occasion I didn’t have the latter, which I was sure would be felt to be lacking in the finished dish – but not so. This was no more difficult to make than previous versions, but the combination of veggies and pulses, and the fact that I used the best ingredients made this super yummy, super healthy and super filling. You don’t need to stick to the exact quantities below – like the Extra Veg and Extra Easy Spaghetti Bolognaise, this dish suits whatever’s in season, and whatever you’ve got in, which is how the dish was designed years and years ago.
Softening the onions, carrots and parsnips for a good while to bring out their sweetness is key to this comforting fodder, as is making sure there’s enough butter scattered over the top to make the top crispy. The crisp top is enhanced by a roughing up of the mash with a fork before the butter goes on, and being patient enough to leave it in the oven until it’s properly brown.
The ‘best’ ingredients I refer to came from my investigations into a local veg company I ordered from last week. Elizabeth’s lovely Scottish Food blog runs a ‘shop local’ food challenge, to encourage us all to make use of the produce we have growing all around us. Here, I used herbs, tomato paste and lentils from my supermarket delivery a few weeks back. But the rest came locally; the vegetables from the veg company’s farm about 2 miles away from my house, and the mince from Booths supermarket, who champion local British farmers. Have a look around your own town – there might be more local produce easily available than you think, and apart from tasting and looking fresh, it just feels good to be using what’s plentifully available around our homes.
And – as this is British Pie Week (thanks Charlotte!) – I’m entering this into MyRecipeBook’s Food Year Linkup – head over to find more recipes linked to the Food Blogger’s Calendar.
Ultimate Cottage Pie
For the mince:
splash olive oil
2 onions, chopped quite finely
2 carrots, chopped quite finely
2 parsnips, chopped quite finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
100g red lentils
100g green lentils
200g kale, chopped finely
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 beef stock cube
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
3 bay leaves
a generous seasoning of salt and pepper (adjust the salt depending on how salty the stock cube is – all brands vary, but the organic versions tend to have less)
300ml water (you might want to vary this depending on how long you’re cooking it for – add a splash more half way through if it’s getting a little dry)
For the mash topping:
2 kilos potatoes, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
25g butter, plus another 25g for flaking onto the top of the assembled pie
splash of milk
salt and pepper
1. Brown the mince on a high heat in a large pan in some olive oil for about 5 minutes. Don’t stir it around too much – leave it in clumps so that they brown and even blacken slightly.
2. Remove the mince from the pan and add another splash of olive oil to the pan.
3. Soften the vegetables in the olive oil for around 25 minutes – add a splash of water if they start to stick to the pan.
4. Add the lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes.
5. Add all of the other ingredients including the mince and bring up to a simmer.
6. I then transfer this to a slow cooker and cook on a low heat for 7 hours, but you could also transfer straight to a greased baking dish and pop it into the oven, covered, for 2 hours.
7. Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until soft.
8. Mash potatoes with salt, pepper, milk and butter.
9. When the mince is done and cooled slightly (to stop the steam making the mash soggy), transfer it to a greased baking dish (if not done earlier) and spread the mash over the mince. Rough up the top with a fork, and then flake the remaining 25g of butter over the top.
10. Pop in the oven for around 30 minutes – or until golden brown on top.
11. Serve with fresh green cabbage and gravy.