To use the formal British terminology, the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie is substituting beef for lamb. Basically, both are ground meat and vegetable stew covered with mashed potatoes and baked. Researching posted recipes shows a tendency to add more to the flavor profile when using beef. The use of flavorful Chanterelle mushrooms in this Cottage Pie recipe fits the bill. Make this in one large dish if you would like, or divide it into multiple dishes and refrigerate or freeze some for later. Like a stew, it only improves overnight.
Notes on Ingredients
Ingredients for a simmer
In my testing of Cottage Pie, I determined that cooking first with a long, slow simmer improves the test. In this case, a can of chopped tomatoes cooks down nicely into the stew. This is combined with the stock for the simmer.
While the chopped tomatoes cook down nicely, a bit stronger taste comes from adding a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste along with red wine and Worcestershire sauce. The use of the Worcestershire sauce is optional, in fact, quite frequently many recipes from the U.K. leave out the Worcestershire sauce. But, it just doesn’t taste right to me without it.
Mushrooms are not the most common ingredient found in Cottage or Shepherd’s pies, but they are a nice variation. In the fall, in the U.S. Chanterelles are available from the Pacific northwest making them a perfect ingredient for when the temperature drops. But frankly, any mushroom will do.
Learning to salt, while so basic to cooking, is not as easy as one would think. It is not an accident that Samin Nosrat makes it one of her four pillars of cooking in her book Salt Fat Acid Heat. This pie is a classic example of the issue. If the salt is not right, the dish does not have the flavor desired. And it cannot just be added later. Each step salt needs to be considered. The meat stew should be tasted before the simmering is completed to make sure it is right. Same with the potatoes. The water for boiling the potatoes should be salted. Ms. Nosrat suggests it should taste like the sea. That is a good standard. Lastly, the mash should be tasted before assembly and the amount of salt adjusted if needed. Each has to be tasted before completion.
Notes on Technique
Basically foolproof with one exception
Cottage and Shepherd’s pie are incredibly easy to make and very forgiving. As discussed, I like the Cottage version better with a low simmer, but it is not a necessary technique.
However, what is important is the choice of pan (or pans) to use in the oven. If your pan is too big, the stew and potatoes will be too spread out to bake properly, and the is true same if the pan is too small and the stack is too thick. You want the final product to be about 2 – 2½ inches (5 – 6 cm) thick. Spread about 1 – 1½ inches of stew on the bottom and top with about ¾ – 1 inches of potatoes. Remember you can use multiple small pans to save some for later in the refrigerator or freezer.
Multiple combinations of vegetables and herbs are used in Cottage Pie – particularly, peas. I find the taste of the peas to not work with Chanterelles in this Cottage Pie. However, they are great with a more earthy tasting mushroom. If you would like, you can serve your peas on the side.
Cottage Pie - With Chanterrelle Mushrooms
The Mushrooms give a completely different taste profile to Cottage Pie.
- Vegetable Oil
- 1 Large Onion, chopped
- 1 lb (500g) Ground Beef
- 2 - 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 to 2 ounces (25-50ml) of red wine, or to taste
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves only) or dried (about ½ teaspoon)
- 14.5 ounce (441g) Can chopped tomatoes
- 1.25 cup (300 ml) beef broth or stock. (Chicken or vegetable stock will do)
- 6-7 ounces (about 185g) Chanterelle Mushrooms
- Salt and Pepper
- Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
- 2 lb (900g) Russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped.
- 6 Tablespoon Butter
- ½ cup milk
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- In a medium saucepan add a little oil and saute the beef and the onions until beef is lightly browned all over, stirring often. Add the carrots and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Drain off excess fat. Add the flour, the wine, and tomato paste and cook for a minute or so until the wine is reduced, stirring constantly.
- Stir in the canned tomatoes, the stock, the thyme, salt, and pepper. Simmer slowly for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When there is still plenty of moisture left stir in the mushrooms and continue to simmer until the mixture thickens. (about 20 more minutes.)
- While the mixture is simmering, start the potatoes to boil. Boil for about 12- 15 minutes till soft. (This should allow time to finish the potatoes before the beef mixture is fully reduced. You can start the potatoes after that step if you do not want to feel rushed.) Drain the potatoes well and allow to cool some, releasing steam to reduce the amount of moisture.
- Add the stock, the tomato paste, and the thyme to the stew. Simmer until the juices thicken. When almost finished stir in the cooked onions and vegetables. Lastly, when ready, remove from heat and stir in the Worchestershire sauce, to taste. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.
- Pour the meat mixture into a baking dish. The size should be such that the mixture should be about ¾ - 1 inch deep (2 to 3 cm). You may use multiple baking dishes if you would like to bake some for now and freeze some for later.
- Drain the potatoes well, add to a bowl and allow to sit for a bit to release steam. While the potatoes are still hot, mash the potatoes while mixing in butter and milk.
- Spread the potatoes over the meat mixture.
- Bake in the oven until golden and bubbly About 30 to 35 minutes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 471Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 357mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 6gSugar: 13gProtein: 12g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.