Cottage Pie Recipe

A traditional cottage pie recipe uses ground  beef, or mince, whereas a shepherds pie uses lamb. However, the basic method is the same.

This recipe starts from scratch but I also offer a cottage pie recipe made with cold, cooked meat at the bottom of this page. This is an ideal way of using up leftover roast meat and mashed potatoes.

The quantities in this recipe will feed four people, making it an ideal family dinner or a supper for you and a group of mates.

Don't panic because the page looks long. I will give complete step-by-step instructions making it simple to follow the recipe.

homemade shepherds pie

Ingredients for the base

  • 1lb (pound) or 500g minced or ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 Knorr Stockpot (or about half a pint of stock)
  • 1 tablespoon (tbsp) cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large white onion - finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tablespoon brown sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • I large carrot - peeled and diced
  • 3 medium/large mushrooms

For the mashed potato topping

  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • a splash of milk
  • potatoes**

**To gauge how many potatoes to use, lay them, unpeeled, in the bottom of the dish you are going to use, just one layer thick. Once you cannot fit any more in, you have the right number.

Kitchen tools you will need

  • Deep Pie Dish
  • Tablespoon and teaspoon measures
  • Measuring Jug

Cottage pie Recipe from scratch

Start by making up your stock. Put a stock cube or the Knorr stockpot into your measuring jug and pour on boiling water until it reaches the half pint mark. Stir well then add the Worcestershire sauce. Put the cornflour into a cup and pour on a little COLD water, then mix into a runny paste. Pour this into the hot stock.

Preheat your oven to 190oC, 375oF or Gas mark 5.

Peel your potatoes and cut them into small pieces (to ensure they cook more quickly). Place in the medium pan, covered with water. Turn on the heat and boil the potatoes until soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, take your large pan, and add the minced (ground) beef or lamb. Brown over a low heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, so that it is free-flowing rather than in lumps. If your meat is very lean you may need to add a little vegetable oil, but you will often find that the fat starts to run out of the meat as you brown it. As the meat begins to brown, drain off most of the excess fat.

Season the meat with freshly ground black pepper, mixed herbs, tomato puree and brown sauce. Mix well.

Add the onion, carrot and mushrooms to the meat in the pan and stir. Continue to cook until the onion starts to go transparent.

Add the prepared stock.

Remove the pan of meat from the heat and pour contents into your pie dish, and allow to cool for a while so that your mash does not sink when you put it on top.

When the potatoes are cooked, take the pan off the heat. Add a tablespoon of butter, a good pinch of black pepper and a splash of milk. Mash with potato masher.

Cover the cooled meat mixture with the mashed potato, ensuring that all of the meat layer is covered. Gently run a fork across the surface of the mashed potato, creating grooves which will enhance the finished appearance of your cottage pie.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for around 30 minutes.

Serving suggestion: minted peas or cabbage and extra thick gravy.

Variations on this cottage pie recipe

You can add wholegrain mustard to your mashed potatoes to give a bit of a kick. Another suggestion is to sprinkle grated cheese over the top of your pie before putting it into the oven.

Or why not ditch the potatoes and use sliced leeks with cheese grated on top for something a little different?

Cottage Pie recipe using leftovers

If you have cooked a joint of beef for Sunday lunch you may end up with leftover meat so I will now show you how to make cottage pie using this.

If you have a mincer or food processor it will make quick work of chopping the meat into small pieces for you. Of course you can do this by hand, but it will take longer.

If you have leftover mashed potato then that will cut down the time needed to prepare this recipe. If you do not, then you will need to follow the instructions above for cooking the potatoes and mashing them.

If you have any, you can also throw in leftover vegetables such as carrots into the meat mixture.

In addition to your leftovers you will need

  • 1oz butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 pint stock (or you could use milk)


Start by making a roux for the sauce. To do this melt the butter in a large pan. Stir in the flour, then gradually add the liquid. Continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. At this point add the minced meat and cook on a gentle heat for about 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour the meat mixture into your oven proof dish and leave to cool.

When the meat mixture has begun to solidify, cover with the mashed potato. You can dot the surface with small pieces of butter or sprinkle on grated cheese if desired.

Cook at the same temperature as above for about 30 minutes to ensure the meat is thoroughly reheated.

Serve as above

I hope that whichever cottage pie recipe you choose, you will have discovered that this tasty dish is not difficult to prepare and cook, even for the novice.