Cottage pie is a classic comfort food recipe from the UK and Ireland made with ground beef and vegetables topped with white cheddar mashed potatoes. It is a great budget main dish dinner for a crowd that is easy to make ahead.
I love the versatility of a dish that can be made with whatever I have on hand. You can easily swap the meat or the veggies in this to use what is available. It’s also a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes.
Utilizing the slow cooker allows you to get a rich flavorful gravy without needing to babysit a pot. Another secret time saving hack- frozen mixed veggies to cut down on prep time!
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Cottage pie is popular across the UK and Ireland although there is debate on where it originated from- Ireland, Scotland or England. The consensus is that it was created by poorer families, mainly living in cottages, trying to better utilize leftovers and cheap potatoes.
Traditionally, leftover roast would be cut up and simmered with vegetables and sauce to make a gravy and the mashed potatoes would cover the sides, bottom, and top of the pan to create a crust. My version is simply mashed potatoes on top to reduce the amount of time needed to make it.
The result was shepherd’s or cottage pie and yes there is a difference between the two! Although made in the same fashion the main difference is that shepherd’s pie is made with lamb and cottage pie is made with beef.
Here are some other fun facts about shepherd’s pie: https://www.jamieoliver.com/features/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-shepherds-pie/
- Olive oil
- Tomato paste
- Beef stock
- Worcestershire sauce
- Ground beef
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- White cheddar cheese
Like mentioned above, you make this with ground lamb to make shepherd’s pie or you can also make this with ground turkey or ground chicken if you would like. You can also use leftover roast beef like from a Sunday roast.
If you need to save even more time, use leftover mashed potatoes or even boxed potatoes and just add the cheese.
You can also swap out the mixed veggies for fresh cut veggies but you’ll want to sauté them before adding to the slow cooker. Some ideas, use parsnips or a mix of root vegetables instead of just the carrot and add or swap peas for the corn.
What to serve with this?
- Irish soda bread, always a favorite quick bread to make that requires no yeast
- Salad, like this delicious apple bacon and goat cheese salad
- An additional side of veggies like garlic parmesan green beans or honey glazed carrots
You can easily make this ahead or make a double batch and freeze one of the casseroles for later. Use a foil pan for one of the batches and cover with foil before placing in the freezer. Don’t forget to put the date on it! It will keep for about 3 months in the freezer.
Top Tips for cooking with kids
This is a dish best made over the course of a day or with multiple children helping. If you have multiple children helping assign each child one stage to make.
Personally, I would assign the oldest child to help with the ground beef mix since it’s the most complicated. The middle child can help with the mashed potato part and the youngest can help assemble it for putting it in the oven.
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Ground beef mix:
- 3 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 cup chopped onion about 1 large
- 12 ounces frozen mixed vegetables corn, green beans, and carrots
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 3 Tablespoon flour
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 cups beef stock
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon thyme
For the mashed potatoes:
- 4 pounds baking or yellow potatoes chopped
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoon butter
- ½ pound sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
To make the ground beef mix:
- Brown the ground beef in a large skillet, in batches if needed. Drain off any fat and add cooked ground beef to a slow cooker.
- Add the onions, mixed vegetables, garlic, flour, tomato paste, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme to the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours.
To make the mash:
- Meanwhile, make the mashed potatoes. Boil potatoes in water until tender which usually takes between 16-20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes well. Add butter and milk and use a potato masher to mash them very well. Season with salt and pepper, add the cheese, and mix well.
To make the cottage pie:
- Spoon the meat from the slow cooker into a large casserole dish (about a 9 by 13 in size).
- Spread the cheesy mashed potatoes over the beef.. Top with additional shredded white cheddar if desired.
- Bake at 425 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until the mashed potatoes are slightly browned on top.