Cottage pie is the perfect cool weather comfort food. Often mistakenly called shepherd's pie, cottage pie is made with ground beef while shepherd's pie is made with ground lamb. Feel free to play with the seasonings here and don't be shy about flavour. Bland hamburger is a mistake that's ruined many cottage pies.
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 medium finely chopped yellow onion
1 large diced carrot
1 rib chopped celery
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried oregano or 3 tsp fresh
1 tsp dried parsley or 3 tsp fresh
1 tsp dry thyme or 3 tsp fresh
1 cup unsalted beef broth
1 cup frozen peas
Salt, pepper (to taste)
5 medium russet potatoes
4 tbsp butter
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (divided)
1/2 cup milk or cream
Chop onion, dice carrots and celery and mince garlic (or use a garlic press) and put aside.
In a 10" cast iron pan heat the olive oil over medium beat until it begins to shimmer. Add the ground beef, break it up with a wooden spoon and brown it for 4-5 minutes. If you're using fattier ground beef, you can drain some of the fat — but not all of it or you'll sacrifice flavour.
Stir in chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the carrot, celery, garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. While everything's cooking, add the salt, pepper and herbs.
Add Worcestershire sauce and broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add frozen peas and cover again while you prepare the potatoes.
Note: if your meat mixture seems too saucy, continue to simmer until some of the liquid is cooked off. You want a similar consistency to sloppy joes, not spaghetti sauce.
Preheat the oven to 400F
In a large pot, boil whole potatoes until fork tender. Remove the skins, or if you like more rustic potatoes, you can leave them on. For a finer mash, press potatoes through a ricer or handheld food mill. Return the potatoes to the warm pot and add the butter, mozzarella, 1/4 cup of parmesan, salt and pepper. Add milk or cream slowly until you get the texture you like. Too much milk will make them pasty. Mix or mash until creamy and smooth.
Spoon the potatoes over top of the meat mixture and spread out evenly. Don't press too hard or you'll pick up the hamburger mix underneath and make a bit of a mess. Use a small spatula or fork to spread potatoes all the way to the edges.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned. Keep an eye on this, a hotter oven may burn the cheese on top.
Allow the cottage pie to sit and firm up a bit for 20 minutes and serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and a nice crisp winter salad.