I tried every possible excuse to put off having Cottage Pie from the Hairy Dieters, but after an overexuberant supermarket shop I happened to have every ingredient in to make this. So, what was the problem? I dunno, it just didn’t excite me, plus the notion that this would serve 6 to 8 people seemed somewhat fanciful. 6 is a stretch, but 8 is just not funny when you’re hungry.
“You’ve turned into a food snob,” said my wife. “It’s not that, I just can’t be arsed spending up to two hours in the kitchen,” was my retort. Ok, 2 hours is me being flippant as most of the cooking time is done on the hob and finished off in the oven.
But what about the taste? Do you know what, this is actually a really good, hearty meal. If someone served me this, I’d be delighted, however the prep and length of cooking time is a bit of a slog so I won’t be in a hurry to endure this again. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives on ‘traditional’ pub classics, I’d opt for Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne or Sausages and Rich Onion Gravy which require less fuss to rustle up and offer more generous portion sizes.
Recipe: Cottage pie
Calories: 322 per portion (if serving 6); 242 per portion (if serving 8)
Book: Hairy Dieters – How to Love Food and Lose Weight
Prep time: Approx 30 minutes
Cooking time: Approx 1 hour 30 minutes
- 400g lean minced beef
- 2 medium onions (chopped)
- 2 celery sticks (finely sliced)
- 2 medium carrots (diced)
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 500ml beef stock (made with 1 beef stock cube)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 4 tsp cornflour
- 1 tbsp cold water
- Flaked sea salt
- Ground black pepper
Leeky potato topping:
- 750g floury potatoes
- 2 tsp sunflower oil
- 2 slender leeks (trimmed and cut into 1cm slices)
- 150g half-fat crème fraiche
- Flaked sea salt
- Ground black pepper
Cost per portion: Approx £1.21 per portion (if serving 6); Approx £0.91 per portion (if serving 8)
Place a large non-stick saucepan or flameproof casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the mince and cook it with the onions, celery and carrots for 10 minutes until lightly coloured. Use a couple of wooden spoons to break up the meat as it cooks.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato purée, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and mixed herbs. Season with a good pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover loosely and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mince is tender.
About 20 minutes before the meat is ready, make the potato topping. Peel the potatoes and cut them into rough 4cm chunks. Put them in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat slightly and simmer for 18–20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the leeks for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring often. Drain the potatoes, then tip them back into the pan, season to taste and mash with the crème fraiche until smooth. Stir in the sautéed leeks and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/ Fan 200°C/ Gas 7. When the beef has been simmering for 40 minutes, mix the cornflour with the cold water to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the beef and cook for another 1–2 minutes or until the sauce is thickened, stirring often.
Pour the beef mixture into a 2-litre shallow ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, top the beef with the mashed potatoes and leeks. Spoon the mixture all around the edge of the dish before heading into the middle, then fluff up with a fork.
Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling. If making this ahead of time, let the pie cool, then cover and put in the fridge. Cooked from chilled in a preheated oven at 210°C/ Fan 190°C/ Gas 6 ½ for 40-50 minutes or until the pie is piping hot throughout.