Ultimate Cottage Pie

A brown dish of cottage pie with a spoon serving a portion to show the meat filling.

While I love trying out new recipes, flavours and cuisines more than most, sometimes only the classics will do. Classic Bolognese Lasagna, Sweet and Sour Chicken, and this, my Ultimate Cottage Pie. Beef mince, carrots, onions and celery, cooked down in a rich tomato, Worcestershire Sauce and red wine sauce, with crisp topped, rich, cream mashed potatoes piled on top. What could be better for dinner on a freezing cold January day?

I know my American readers might be wondering why this is called a ‘cottage pie’ rather than a ‘shepherd’s pie’, because lots of American shepherd’s pie recipes use ‘ground beef’ (what we call beef mince!) Put quite simply, because shepherd’s herd sheep, not cows! A classic shepherd’s pie recipe is made with lamb mince, so put correctly, this is a cottage pie!

I know you probably already have a recipe you love. But seriously, try this one. It’s so rich, so cosy, it is more like the cottage pie from your favourite pub rather than your favourite cookbook. You could of course use lamb mince instead to make an authentic shepherd’s pie, but until I work on my own as the flavourings are slightly different, can I suggest that you head over to this Mary Berry recipe instead?

Close up of a spoon lifting a portion of cottage pie out of the baking dish.

When it comes to serving, depending on what mood we’re in, we either have it with a nice glass of red and some sort of autumn / winter green such a Tenderstem broccoli or kale on the side, but if it has been a particularly long day, we do sometimes eat it by itself, J always with a dab of HP sauce on the side (I can’t stand brown sauce myself!)

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Close up of a spoon lifting a portion of cottage pie out of the baking dish.

The Ultimate Cottage Pie

2 from 1 review
  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: British


This rich and indulgent recipe for the Ultimate Cottage Pie is the perfect British classic to enjoy on a cold and blustery evening. 


  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 stick celery
  • generous glug light oil
  • sea salt
  • 400g (14 oz) beef mince
  • 1 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • pinch golden caster sugar
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cups) beef or chicken stock (made with 1 stock cube)
  • 150ml (2/3 cups) red wine
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 750g (1.6 lb) floury potatoes
  • large knob butter
  • generous splash milk
  • large handful frozen petit pois
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Peel and finely chop the onion, carrots and celery. Heat a splash of oil in a large shallow casserole dish or saucepan over a medium high heat. Add the vegetables with a generous pinch of salt and gently fry for 6-8 minutes until soft and the onions are just starting to turn golden.
  2. Add the beef mince and fry, breaking the meat up with your spoon until all the meat is browned. This should take a further 6-8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the flour, followed by the tomato puree. Cook for a further minute until the mixture is thick and the puree has turned brick red.
  4. Stir in the stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce and thyme. Season with a little more salt and a lot of black pepper. Allow to bubble away for 20 minutes until the mixture is rich and thick, stirring occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the mashed potato topping peel all the potatoes and cut them into chunks as if you were making roast potatoes. Add them to a large saucepan, add a generous pinch of salt and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over a high heat. Cook until tender, drain, and mash with a generous knob of butter and a splash of milk. Add more milk as required to get smooth, spoonable mash, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees (430 farenheit).
  7. Remove the beef sauce from the heat and stir in the frozen peas, seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Spoon the beef mixture into a deep baking dish (you may need to make more mash next time if you find your pie does not quite fit into your baking dish, mine is 8 x 8 inches if that helps!) and smooth over to create a flat surface. Then, spoon over the mashed potato, using a rubber spatula to smooth it into the edges. Using a fork, create ridges in the potato; this will help it get a nice crispy topping in the oven.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden. Serve alongside seasonal greens.