Winter Comfort

Cottage Pie
Photographed by Benjamin Williamson.

A classic British dish is well suited to a cold Maine night.

By Annemarie Ahearn

From the March 2017 issue.

Cottage pie (traditionally made with beef) or shepherd’s pie (traditionally made with lamb) is great winter comfort food, particularly if you’ve spent the day working outdoors and need respite from the elements. The dish originated in northern England, where sheepherders ate steaming spoonfuls of this savory pie to warm their bones before heading back out in the wind and cold.

Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 8

For the filling:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 yellow onions, diced

4 carrots, cut into ¼-inch rounds

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pounds ground lamb or ground beef

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups beef stock

1 cup green peas

¼ cup roughly chopped parsley

For the topping:

3 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons butter

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a heavy-bottom pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Break up the beef or lamb and add to the pot, along with another pinch of salt, and cook until brown and cooked through. Add tomato paste, and with a wooden spoon, massage it into the vegetables and meat until evenly distributed, then let cook for 2­–3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and mix well. Add flour and toss evenly to coat. Add beef stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Let cook until the filling begins to thicken and condense, about 10 minutes — don’t let it get dry. Add peas and parsley and turn off the heat.

Fill a medium pot with water and stir in kosher salt. Add potatoes. Bring to a boil. Let cook for 5–10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Drain off the water and push the potatoes through a ricer into a clean bowl. Add butter, heavy cream, and nutmeg. Let the butter melt, then stir to blend.

Move the meat and vegetable filling into a 9-by-9-inch casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling. If you’re feeling indulgent, brush the potatoes with melted butter. Place in the oven for 25–30 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes and serve.