I have to confess I love a one dish meal, especially in the winter. Though there is prep time for all the components, being able to cook everything together, scoop it out for serving in one helping reflects the relaxed feel I love about family dinners. Since we are featuring Irish dishes inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, today’s recipe is for a classic Savory Cottage Pie. It is a dish with peasant roots featuring meat, vegetables and potatoes that combine to be quintessential comfort food.
In the U.S., Shepherd’s Pie is probably more well know. I shared one as a means to use turkey Thanksgiving leftovers however rather that sticking to the traditional version I spiced mine up as a Southwestern Turkey Shepherd’s Pie. Classic Shepherd’s Pie would use mutton or lamb for the protein though beef is tolerated as a swap out. Onion, carrot and peas are typically added to the meat then added to a baking dish, topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. The name is derived from those who tend the sheep as that is the meat in the dish.
Cottage Pie actually predated Shepherd’s Pie back to the 1700’s and was a dish intended to use up roast meat adding a potato crust on the top. In Ireland potatoes were very affordable offering them a starring role in most classic Irish recipes of the time. Truly a dish of Great Britain not just Ireland, the name was derived from the country folk who lived in cottages, credited with devising the savory pie.
The core of the Cottage Pie remains the same today; minced or ground beef cooked with onions, carrots, garlic and often peas, into a gravy like sauce, baked with the topping of mashed potatoes and usually cheese. It is a filling dish with rustic flavors and presentation. In my recipe adaptation I used Yukon Gold potatoes which tend to be creamy when mashed and have a beautiful golden hue. Combined with the orange cheese, the top of the Cottage Pie looks to be glowing!
Savory Cottage Pie
- 2 pounds lean Ground Beef
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 medium Yellow Onion , chopped
- 2 large Carrots , scrubbed and chopped (yield about 1 ½ cups chopped)
- 2 large Shallots , chopped
- 2 large cloves Garlic
- 3 tablespoons Flour (gluten-free or regular depending on your preference/needs)
- 1 tablespoon Ketchup
- 4 ounces Red Wine
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
- 28 ounces Beef Stock
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari (if gluten-free)
- 1 Bay Leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried Thyme
- 1 cup frozen Peas
- 1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese , grated
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
- ¼ cup Milk , room temperature or warmed slightly in a microwave
- 4 tablespoons Butter
- Kosher Salt and fresh Ground Pepper to taste
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook just until the pink color has disappeared. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and add the onion, carrots, shallots and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft; 15-20 minutes. Add the beef back to the skillet and stir to fully combine.
- Dust the flour over the skillet mixture and add the ketchup; stir to combine.
- Add the wine and vinegar. Bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to medium. Add the beef stock, soy sauce/tamari, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a sturdy simmer and allow to cook for 45 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. The mixture should have formed a gravy with the ground meat and vegetables making the mixture somewhat creamy.
- While the beef mixture is simmering, prepare the Mashed Potatoes: Peel the potatoes and steam them for 25 minutes or until soft. When done pour out the water from the pan. Put the potatoes through a ricer back into the warm cooking pan. Add the milk and butter and stir to combine into creamy mashed potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir the frozen peas into the beef mixture and discard the bay leaf. Spoon into a 2 1/2 or 3 quart baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bakes for 20 minutes until heated through.