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Pub-style cottage pie is a variation of traditional shepherd’s pie. Cottage pies have been a staple meal in English and European culture since at least the 18th century. Both cottage and shepherd’s pies have a ground meat and vegetables layer topped with mashed potatoes. All of which then bakes together. Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with ground lamb and cottage pie features ground beef.
This hearty dish is easy to make, quickly comes together and, has loads of veggies and meat all in one pan!
- Getting Started
- Ingredient Recommendations
- Ingredient Alternatives
- Finishing Touches
Once the veggies are washed, trimmed, and chopped, the potatoes get started first. While those cook, the rest of the recipe gets underway. The recipe calls for an ovenproof pan since the whole dish will be broiled just before serving. A Lodge cast iron skillet is a great option. That is my go-to pan for this recipe. It’s great for bringing the main layer together and can then go right into the broiler.
A quick tip for when the potatoes are done boiling: drain the water into a large glass measuring cup to reserve for the mashing.
Pub-Style Cottage Pie Ingredient Recommendations
I use fresh, whole carrots or pre-chopped frozen. It’s hard to use a whole bag of fresh carrots for this recipe. So if I don’t have another planned use for the leftovers, I chop up more when I have time and freeze them in 3-ounce bundles for the future.
When I use my frozen, pre-chopped carrots I don’t defrost them. I just set them out when I get all of the vegetables together at the start of this recipe. And then toss them in as-is when it’s time.
Just like the carrots, I use fresh or pre-chopped frozen celery. Whenever I have leftover fresh celery I chop it up for this recipe, store it in 2.5-ounce bundles, and freeze for next time.
Same as the carrots, when I use frozen, pre-chopped celery I just get it out of the freezer when I’m getting the other vegetables together. And the celery gets tossed in as-is when the recipe calls for it.
Onion & Thyme
This recipe offers both fresh and powered options for these ingredients. I almost exclusively use the powdered options. Sometimes I will chop up an onion but always use ground thyme. I think the powdered alternatives are more convenient and taste the same, if not better.
I use store-brand tomato paste. The small can. And no matter how small the cans of tomato paste are, I don’t think I’ve ever used a whole can and always have extra that I don’t want to waste. I finally tried tips I’d seen about freezing extra tomato paste. Now I freeze it in an ice cube tray, like this one. Each cube is .75 ounces.
When I use frozen tomato paste for this recipe I just pop out two cubes. I do try to get the cubes out when I’m getting the vegetables out at the start of the recipe. I place the cubes in a small ramekin to begin thawing before I need them later in the prep.
I recommend using fresh, locally sourced ground beef whenever possible. And whenever I go to the local butcher, I try to pick up an extra pound of ground beef and then freeze it so I’m sure to always have some on hand. When I resort to my frozen ground beef backup for this recipe, I start defrosting what I need in the microwave before I start on the veggie prep.
Pub-Style Cottage Pie Ingredient Alternatives
Ground turkey is a good alternative to ground beef for this recipe. Especially if you’re looking for a leaner meat option. If a cottage pie uses ground beef and a shepherd’s pie uses ground lamb, then I’m not sure what it’s called to use ground turkey but I do know it still tastes good!
All but one ingredient in this recipe is gluten-free. To make the whole recipe gluten-free, just use gluten-free flour in place of the regular flour.
Pub-Style Cottage Pie Finishing Touches
The broil at the end of the recipe is a great finishing touch. The cheese on top gets all melted, golden brown, and bubbly. Again, be sure to use an ovenproof pan, like a Lodge cast iron skillet, for this part. And it only needs a few minutes to broil so be sure to keep an eye on the oven so it doesn’t burn.
Be very careful when handling the hot, hot pan. Divide the pie out onto warmed plates or bowls to serve.
Pub-Style Cottage Pie Pairings
This pub-style cottage pie is great any night of the week. Especially during the colder months. Since it has a lot going on in terms of prep and is a heartier meal, I prefer to make it on the weekends when I have more time. In addition to cold, winter nights, this dish pairs really well with crescent rolls and hard cider.
Pub-Style Cottage Pie Leftovers
When this dish comes out of the oven, I use a wooden spatula to divide the pie into quarters. Two servings are enjoyed right away. And two servings are put away for leftovers. The leftovers can be microwaved or baked.
Pub-Style Cottage Pie
- 16 oz Yukon Gold potatoes
- 3 oz carrots
- 2.5 oz celery
- 1 yellow onion or 1 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp chopped thyme or 1 tsp ground thyme
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 oz tomato paste
- 10 oz ground beef
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 1/2 c water
- 1 tsp beef stock concentrate
- 1/2 c white cheddar cheese, shredded
- kosher salt
- Wash and dry all produce. Dice potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Trim, peel and halve carrots lengthwise then slice crosswise into 1/4-inch thick half-moons. Finely dice celery. Halve, peel, and finely chop onion (if using). Strip thyme leaves (if using) from stems and roughly chop leaves.
- Place potatoes in a medium pot with enough salted water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving some of the water, and return potatoes to pot.
- Mash potatoes with sour cream and 2 Tbsp butter until smooth and creamy, adding splashes of the reserved water as needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- While potatoes cook, heat a drizzle of oil in a medium, preferably ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes.
- Add celery, onion and a large drizzle of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until veggies are just tender, 5-7 minutes.
- Stir in garlic powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Heat broiler to high (if using middle rack) or low if using an upper rack position.
- Add beef to pan with veggies and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up meat into pieces, until browned and cooked through, 4-6 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and flour. Cook, stirring, until thoroughly combined, 1 minute.
- Gradually pour 1/2 c water into pan with beef mixture.
- Stir in stock concentrate and bring to a boil. Cook until mixture is very thick, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. NOTE: If your pan isn't ovenproof, transfer mixture now to a baking dish.
- Top beef filling with an even layer of mashed potatoes, leaving a gap around edge of pan. Evenly sprinkle with cheddar.
- Broil until browned, 3-4 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning.
- Serve directly from pan.