This is a heart and belly warming classic British dish, however I’m sure other nations have their own variation of the same thing. Even in my native Finland we have something similar. I have added ingredients to the basic version, so it actually probably doesn’t even have any particular national background. For a long time, I always had to check with my British husband what the difference with cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is. The difference is very simple: cottage pie is shepherd’s pie, but with a cheese crust on top. This kind of food is proper, honest home cooking. I tend to make a large batch, which will give you couple of dinners, or dinner for the first night and lunch to take to work with you for few days. I like mine with slight heat from the pepper, if you would like yours mild I would suggest reducing the black pepper and white pepper to half (or just use full amount of black pepper and leave white pepper out).
1.5 kg potatoes
2 tsp salt
pinch of salt
1 medium onion
2 small or 1 large carrots, peeled
1 courgette / zucchini
4 chestnut mushrooms
500g mince beef (if you don’t eat red meat, you can easily swap this to mince turkey)
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
3 dl cheese
1. Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut in half or quarters, depending on size. Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Add the salt, and bring to boil. Depending on the size of the pieces, boil gently for about 20 minutes, or until soft.
2. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop the onion, carrots, courgette and mushrooms. I normally use standard brown/yellow onions for cooking, but I have a lot of very strong red onions in my cupboard, so I used that instead.
3. Fry the onions in the oil for few minutes, until starting to turn translucent.
4. Add the meat. Keep beating it with a wooden spatula as it’s cooking, to break it into small crumbly texture. During the cooking, add all the spices. This’s whole step will take you around 10 minutes.
5. Once the meat is cooked, add the carrots, courgette and mushrooms, and fry for 5 minutes, stirring.
6. Once the potatoes are soft, discard the cooking water. Mash the potatoes, and add the butter, milk and salt. I prefer my mash to be firmer when using it in a dish like this, otherwise it won’t hold the mince mixture in a separate layer.
7. Layer half of the mash at the bottom of an oven casserole dish. Then add a layer of the meat mixture. I usually pat it into a firm, dense, even layer. They add the remaining mash. To make sure you have an equal amount to cover the whole dish, I usually start by adding a dollop in the corners, then in the middle, and then plead it across evenly.
8. Finally, add the cheese. I normally tend to use a mixture of extra mature cheddar and red leicester, however this time I replaced the latter with gruyere. Cook in preheated oven 180°C / 355°F for 40-45 minutes until the cheese top has become slightly crunchy.