During lockdown I’ve found that it’s even more important to make an occasion of meal times. We may have enjoyed weeks of sultry BBQ weather but there’s nothing quite like a bowl of comfort food. This cottage pie is super easy to make and is even better the next day.
650g good quality beef mince
2 celery sticks
3 garlic cloves
1 ½ tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 large glass of ropey red wine
425 ml beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
For the mash
100 ml milk
Knob of butter
300g strong cheddar
The success of any meal comes from enjoying cooking it, so start by creating the right conditions. For me, it’s putting on a good playlist and pouring myself a glass of red wine (cook’s privilege as my mum always says). Then we can get going.
- Heat a large saucepan with a splash of olive oil and fry the mince until browned. I once made the mistake of getting reduced fat mince. Don’t do it – splash out a few more quid to get yourself something decent. Set aside once it’s done.
- Roughly chop the onion, carrots and celery sticks and add to the pan. Cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes until the veg softens.
- Add the chopped garlic, flour and tomato puree and turn up the heat for a few minutes before returning the mince to the pan.
- Pour yourself another glass of red and throw half of it into the pan. Add 450ml beef stock, a big glug of Worcestershire sauce and two bay leaves.
- Bring the pan to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. Check in on it every 10 minutes or so and stir occasionally. Don’t worry if it looks a bit liquidy at this stage, you can turn up the heat later on to help reduce and thicken. Season with salt and pepper and remove the bay leaves.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and turn to the mash. Peel and dice the potatoes into small chunks and boil until soft (stick a sharp knife through to check that they’re done).
- Drain the spuds and allow them to dry for a while. Add a generous knob of butter and mash, adding the milk as you go until you get to a nice fluffy consistency. I like lot of cheese but add to taste (I also like to add a tablespoon of paprika into the mix, but you can take or leave it).
- Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish and add the mash. Fluff it up with a fork so you get some nice spiky bits that will crisp up. Sprinkle more cheese.
- Pop into a pre-heated oven of 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and cook for 25-30 minutes. Stick it under the grill for an additional five minutes so that the topping gets nice and brown.
- For sides, I steam sliced leeks for a few minutes before adding a dollop of crème fraiche and mixing in. And voilà. Tuck in.