Technically speaking this British pie isn’t a pie. Pies usually have a pastry case or pastry top but the top of this meat filling is a lovely thick layer of buttery, mashed potato. Whatever it’s called though, it’s always called delicious!
So Cottage Pie is always made with ground beef. The very similar Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, the meat most accessible to shepherds.
Tradition has it that Cottage Pie originated in England as a cheap, wholesome meal for poor cottagers living at the end of the 18th century when the potato became a staple food for Brits.
Since its origins, Cottage Pie has become a comfort food for many. That go-to food when the Autumn nights draw in. It’s a great dish that you can adapt to a Dutch oven. It’s even possible to create a lovely, browned topping of mash if you place some hot coals on the lid.
The ground beef for this recipe shouldn’t be lean. It needs to be full of flavor and ooze gorgeous gravy juices so a fat content of about 15-20% should be good. And the meat can be coarsely ground. If it’s too fine it will turn mushy.
I’ve used some traditional vegetables for my addition to the meat but feel free to add vegetables of your choice. Green beans, sweetcorn, butternut squash are all great alternatives. I often substitute half the meat for lentils producing a healthier option. Healthier still is to go totally meat free with lentils and mushrooms along with other vegetables and perhaps some beans, like haricot maybe.
Another thing to remember is that this a rustic dish, never intended to be made by exact measurements so don’t worry about the exact amounts of meat or vegetables. Be guided by what you would prefer. You can’t go wrong.
Another favorite of mine, but I don’t know how traditional it is, is to add a lovely layer of cheddar cheese on the top which melts into the mash as it cooks in the Dutch oven and forms a crunchy, cheesy top- mouthwateringly scrumptious!
If you are new to Dutch Oven cooking, you should check out this article. – Learn to use a dutch oven for camp cooking
Here are some more recipes you will love.
- 2 lb ground beef
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- A handful of peas
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 275mL beef stock (a good, pre-bought is fine)
- salt and black pepper
- FOR TOPPING
- 4lbs potatoes
- ¼ cup milk or half fat cream
- 1 stick of butter
- Grated Cheddar Cheese (enough to generously cover the top)
- Boil the potatoes until they are soft
- Mash with a fork or put through a ricer, making sure there are no lumps
- Add the butter and enough milk to make a soft mash
- The mash can be made in advance and added cold to the top of the meat.
- Place the Dutch oven above, not directly on the coals. Raising it about 5’’ above the coals will be a good starting point to see if the onions are frying too slow or too fast. They should be ready in about 10 minutes. Adjust the coals accordingly before you add the meat and try to maintain that temperature throughout the cooking.
- Add enough oil to the Dutch oven to fry the onions until soft.
- Add the ground beef and brown.
- Stir in the flour.
- Add all the other ingredients except the peas.
- Cook for about 20 minutes.
- Remove any excess oil if there’s any.
- Mix in the peas.
- Dollop the mash all over the top. Little peaks are great.
- Sprinkle on the grated cheese.
- Cover with the lid and add about 5 coals.
- Cook for about 30 minutes. Keep checking the top isn’t cooking too fast and rearrange or remove the coals if necessary to create an even crusty cheese layer.
- This is a hearty one pot dish that can be eaten by itself but If you have some corn chips on hand they are great to use as a scoop.