How to Make Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie (made with beef) and Shepherd’s Pie (made with lamb) are classic British dishes, made of a rich, meaty filling topped with creamy mashed potato.

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a wok or deep saucepan with lid
  • a saucepan with lid

  • an oven-proof dish

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • A little oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 500g beef, lamb, or Quorn mince (a.k.a. ground meat)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • tinned chopped tomatoes or passata
  • tomato puree
  • mixed herbs
  • salt
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • butter or margarine
  • a splash of milk
  • hard cheese such as cheddar
  • frozen peas or broccoli

My favourite way to make cottage pie is by combining savoury mince (you can find last week’s recipe here), and mashed potato. It’s a lot easier to make sure everything is cooked properly, because you can’t really stir a cottage pie! You can also make this recipe using leftovers, but I’ve written out the full process here.

Start by chopping your potatoes into chunks (tutorial here), and putting them on to boil in your saucepan. If you want really smooth mash it helps to peel your potatoes, but you don’t need to.

Photograph of a saucepan containing chunks of potato, roughly covered by water

While your potatoes cook, make your savoury mince.

Place your larger pan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and dice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions)

Add your diced onion to the pan, along with a generous sprinkle of mixed herbs. (Adding a little garlic can help bring out the flavour of the meat, but it’s optional.)

Photograph of a wok containing diced white onion and mixed herbs

Add your mince, and stir it gently while the meat browns.

23.4 mince

Grate your carrots, then add them to the pan. (Remember to leave the top on while grating to save your fingers – you can find more tips in my tutorial here.)

Photograph of a wok showing mostly grated carrot

Add a tin of passata or cooked tomatoes. Remember to rinse out the tin to get all the flavour out of it. Stir everything together and leave it bubbling gently while you make the mash.

Photograph of a wok containing savoury mince

 

Now you can check on your potatoes. If they’re ready for mashing, they should feel nice and soft when you poke them with a fork. Drain off any water, then use a fork, masher or even a food processor to mash them. You can add a splash of milk to make the mash softer, butter or margarine for richness, and a little salt for extra flavour.

Photograph of a saucepan containing mashed potato (and a masher)

Your savoury mince should be ready by now, so taste the sauce. If it tastes like it’s lacking something, try adding some more tomato puree (or ketchup), or a little salt.

Now it’s time to assemble the pie!

Pour the savoury mince into your oven-proof dish, and smooth it roughly level with a spatula. (You may want to preheat the dish; you can pop it in the oven for a few minutes, just remember to wear oven gloves!)

Photograph of an oval glass dish filled with a smooth layer of savoury mince

Add the mashed potato on top of the mince.  Make sure you add it a little at a time, or you’ll make a big dent in your mince. If you smooth out the mash with a fork, it gives you little ridges that go all crispy in the oven. Plus they look nice! Finally, add a little sprinkle of grated cheese.

Photograph of an oval glass dish filled with a layer of mashed potato, topped with grated cheese

Finally, crisp up the top of the pie in a hot oven (Gas Mark 6 or higher), or under the grill. Once all the cheese is melted, it’s ready to serve!

Photograph of a generous serving of cottage pie and peas on a white plate
Serve with a generous helping of peas or broccoli!

Like all my recipes, there are a lot of ways to make variations on cottage pie! You could try any of the different variations on savoury mince for the filling, or why not top with sweet potato instead? Or, if you want to impress your dinner companions, why not bake individual cottage pies? Just use a small oven-proof dish for each person (and a baking tray to make them easier to take in and out of the oven!)

Photograph of a small, oval, glass dish topped with sweet potato on a white plate with a serving of peas

If you make cottage pie with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Make Friday Fish Supper

The market near where I live has lovely fresh fish, which makes for a great meal. But the thing I find tricky when cooking fish is timings – getting everything on the table at the same time. This recipe combines the oven-baked fish technique from last week (link) with some good, basic, potatoes and veggies.

You will need:

  • aluminium foil
  • a baking tray
  • an oven
  • oven gloves
  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a saucepan

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 4 fillet(s) of fish
  • a little lemon juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • half a head of broccoli

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180° (160° fan).

Wrap each fillet of fish in foil, with a little lemon juice and salt. Start with oily fish – they take longer to cook. (More detailed instructions here: oven-baked fish) Place the finished fish parcels on a baking tray.

Photograph of three foil parcels on a baking tray

Cut your potatoes into chunks, and your carrots into slices. (You can find more detailed instructions here: potatoes, carrots) Place them in a saucepan, and mostly cover with cold water. Put the lid on, then heat gently on the hob.

Photograph of a saucepan half-filled with carrots and potatoes; water covers most of the vegetables but some are still poking up above the water line

If you’re use oily fish, put them in the oven now. (They take about 20-25 minutes to cook.)

While your other vegetables are cooking, cut your broccoli into florets. (More detailed instructions here: broccoli)

If you’re using white fish, put them in the oven now. (They take about 10-15 minutes to cook.)

 

Five minutes before serving, put your broccoli in with the carrots and potatoes. You can either put it directly in the saucepan (it doesn’t need to be covered by the water), or use a metal sieve inside your saucepan as a steamer.

Photograph of a saucepan (containing carrots and potatoes) with a metal sieve full of broccoli inside
If you line up the handle of your sieve with the handle of the saucepan, you’re less likely to knock it over

Make sure to check your fish and vegetables are cooked through before serving!

Photograph of a piece of smoked haddock; boiled potatoes, carrots, and broccoli; and fried leek and pepper on a white plate
My family loves veggies, so I added some fried peppers and leeks to this dish!

This meal is a bit harder than the one-pot recipes I’ve written so far, but it’s a great staple meal in our house! You can use a wide variety of fish, and for a bit of vegetable variety try replacing the broccoli with frozen peas or tinned sweetcorn.

If you make fish supper with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Make Pot Roast Vegetables

Whether you’re making Sunday lunch, Christmas dinner, or just a warm winter treat, pot roast vegetables are melt-in-the-mouth delicious!

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • an oven-proof dish
  • an oven
  • oven gloves

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 4 medium carrots (about the length of your hand)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 potatoes (about the size of your fist)
  • ½ large or 1 small swede
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 parsnips
  • dried mixed herbs
  • salt
  • oil

 

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180° (160° fan).

Chop your carrots, onions, potatoes, and swede into chunks. (You can find more detailed instructions here: carrots, onions, potatoes, swede)

Put your chopped vegetables into your oven-proof dish.

Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, and swede

Add salt, oil, and herbs to the dish. You just need to cover the vegetables in the dish, like in the picture below.

Pot Roast Vegetables 2

Stir or shake your seasonings and vegetables together. Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, and swede, lightly coated in herbs and oil

Place the lid on your dish and put it into the oven. It will take about two hours to cook from here.

Chop your sweet potato and parsnip into chunks. (More detailed instructions here: sweet potato, parsnip)

After your dish has been cooking for about an hour, add your sweet potato and parsnip chunks. Give your veggies another good stir or shake together, but be careful – it’s hot!

Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, swede, parsnip, and sweet potato, lightly coated in herbs and oil

After another hour in the oven, your dish will be ready to serve! Serve it alongside whatever source of protein you fancy – it goes fantastically with a huge range of meat and veggie options!

Photograph of a brown serving dish filled with roasted carrot, onion, potato, swede, parsnip, and sweet potato

You can roast a huge variety of vegetables, this recipe is just the start! Feel free to play with the seasonings too – try adding pepper, or using sage, rosemary and thyme instead of a pre-made mix of dried herbs.

If you make pot roast vegetables with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Make Sausage Casserole

Casserole is one of my favourite winter dishes. It does take a couple of hours in the oven, but it doesn’t take much preparation. This is a good, basic recipe to get you started with casseroles.

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • an oven-proof dish
  • a measuring jug
  • a kettle
  • an oven
  • oven gloves

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 4 medium carrots (about the length of your hand)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 potatoes (about the size of your fist)
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 8 sausages (meat or vegetarian)
  • stock cube
  • frozen peas (I like petits pois)

 

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180° (160° fan).

Chop your carrots, onions, and potatoes into chunks. (You can find more detailed instructions here: carrots, onions, potatoes)

Boil the kettle and make up about half a litre of stock. Different stock cubes vary, so make sure to read the instructions!

Put your chopped vegetables, and meat sausages if you’re using them, into your oven-proof dish. Pour in the stock. Your vegetables and sausages should be more or less covered by the liquid. If they’re not, add a little more hot water from the kettle.

Photograph of a glass dish filled with chopped onions, carrots, and potatoes, and sausages. The ingredients are mostly covered by liquid.

Place the lid on your dish and put it into the oven. It will take about two hours to cook from here. Because of all the liquid, casserole is unlikely to burn. It’s best to stay where you can smell it, but you don’t need to watch it the whole time.

Chop your sweet potato into chunks. (More detailed instructions here: sweet potato)

After your dish has been cooking for about an hour, add your sweet potato chunks.  If you’re using vegetarian sausages add these too. You can stir everything together if you want, but be careful – it’s hot!

Photograph of a glass dish filled with cooked chopped sweet potato, onions, carrots, and potatoes, and sausages. The level of liquid is lower than in the first photo.

About five minutes before you want to serve your dish, take it out of the oven and stir in the frozen peas. The peas will cook from the heat in the dish, and then you’re ready to serve!

Photograph of a brown dish filled with sausage casserole, on a brown plate with a brown bread roll.
Sausage casserole is a complete meal by itself, but it also goes great with a nice brown bread to soak up all the gravy!

You can create a lot of yummy variations on a good sausage casserole. You can add all sorts of different root vegetables, herbs such as sage or rosemary, and spices such as paprika. You might also want to add salt – I haven’t included any in this recipe because the stock and sausages can be salty enough by themselves.

If you make sausage casserole with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Chop a Potato – into chunks

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, and there are a lot of different ways to cook them. The chunks we’re making in this tutorial are really versatile, so they’re a great place to start.

Hand drawing of three potatoes

Like with carrots, a lot of the minerals in a potato are right underneath the skin, so it’s best to avoid peeling it all off if you can. Do wash your potatoes though; use clean water and a clean washing-up brush for scrubbing.

 

Next, check your potato over for any discolouration or blemishes. Pay special attention to green discolouration of the potato – the green colour itself won’t hurt you, but it can indicate there’s something else there you don’t want to eat (more information here and here). Also cut out any ‘eyes’ – these are black spots surrounded by an indentation, that can grow into sprouts. Potato sprouts themselves aren’t good to eat either – cut them out and check that the potato around them hasn’t gone squishy.

Hand drawing showing three things to cut out of potatoes - black spots known as 'eyes'; sprouts (which look like pale buds coming off the potato); and green discolouration

There are a couple of good ways to cut out blemishes from a potato. The first is, just like we did with carrots, to cut a small ‘V’ shape around the spot. Since a potato is round, it’s a little harder to deal with than a carrot, so you might need to make three or more cuts. Alternatively, you might find it easier to cut out things like eyes after you’ve cut the potato a bit smaller.

Potatoes come in a lot of different sizes. The size of chunks we’re aiming for is about 2cm (a little under 1 inch) on each side, so if you have baby or new potatoes, they may not need to be chopped any smaller. For larger potatoes, start by chopping them in half. This gives you a flat surface to rest the potato on while you chop it, which makes it safer. You can then simply keep on halving your potato until the chunks are roughly the right size (see picture).

Hand drawing of a potato with cutting guideline (grey dotted line)

Hand drawing of a halved potato with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice, even-sized chunks will cook at about the same time, and absorb any flavours from herbs, spices, or sauces evenly too.

These potato chunks are perfect for roasts and casseroles, which take about 2 hours to cook in an oven at Gas Mark 4 (180°C, 160°C in a fan oven). They’re also great boiled, which takes about 20-30 minutes. Like carrots, once they’re cooked, they should be soft enough to easily poke a fork into.

A photograph of roast potato chunks on a blue-grey plate