Make this classic cottage pie for a warming dinner, then check out our cottage pies with cheese mash, shepherd's pie, classic fish pie and more comforting pie recipes.

What is the origin of the cottage pie?

Cottage pie was originally an old English recipe invented as a way to make the leftover meat from a Sunday roast go further, chopping the meat into small chunks, mixing with veg and onions and making a stock from leftover bones. Topped with mash and baked this provided an extra meal for families. Modern recipes are more likely to start from scratch, cooking the beef from raw.

What's the difference between cottage pie and shepherd's pie?

Cottage pie and shepherd’s pie use exactly the same method and share many similar ingredients, the only real difference being cottage pie uses beef and shepherd’s pie uses lamb. In both cases mince is the most commonly used cut.

How to make cottage pie

The secret to a really good cottage pie is packing flavour into the base. Browning the mince properly gives a deep colour to the finished filling and extra flavour from the caramelisation on the meat. Adding a mix of gently cooked onion, carrots and celery gives a savoury depth to the filling. A little flour stirred into the meat and veg before the stock is added will make sure your gravy has a decent body. Extras like red wine and a splash of Worcestershire sauce will lift the finished sauce. Strong woody herbs are best in this recipe; thyme is quite classic but rosemary also works well.

How to add extra veg to your cottage pie

If you want to get more veg into your pie, then then you can bump up the amount of carrots and celery or use other root veg like parsnips and sweet potato or even a couple of handfuls of frozen peas.

Cottage pie is quite rich so it’s good to serve some kind of greens on the side. Peas, buttered spinach, green beans or shredded Savoy cabbage all go brilliantly (though kids might be more inclined to go for baked beans or sweetcorn!)


  • 750g beef mince
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 leeks, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml red wine
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 750ml beef stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 1.75 kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 75g butter
  • milk, for the mash
  • 2 egg yolks


  • STEP 1

    Heat a large non-stick pan then add the mince and fry it until it’s brown all over. There will probably be enough fat in the mince without adding oil, but if you need to, add a tiny splash.

  • STEP 2

    Add the garlic, leek, onion, carrot and celery, then fry for another 10 minutes until everything is soft. Sprinkle over the flour and stir in well.

  • STEP 3

    Add the wine and simmer for a minute, then add the Worcestershire sauce, stock, tomato purée and thyme. Cook until the sauce is reduced and thick. Season and cool.

  • STEP 4

    To make the mash, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender then drain really well and mash with the butter, a splash of milk and lots of seasoning. Beat in the egg yolks.

  • STEP 5

    Tip the beef mix into a large ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Cool, cover with clingfilm and and freeze until needed.

  • STEP 6

    To cook, defrost completely overnight in the fridge. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the mash is golden and the filling is piping hot.


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

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