Heartwarming Cottage Pie

Do you call a Cottage Pie a Cottage Pie or a Shepherd’s Pie? Did you know that there was even a difference? Traditionally, a Shepherd’s Pie is made using lamb mince (hence shepherd…) whereas a Cottage Pie is made using beef mince. However, it is extremely common for us Brits to refer to the beef version as a Shepherd’s Pie even if it isn’t quite correct! But, it’s good to know if you are planning on ordering one of these in a Pub or restaurant so you know what meat to expect.

With a Cottage Pie, it was once the pie that used all the cheapest cuts of meat that households could get hold of, thrown in with some vegetables and topped with potatoes to create this wholesome meal. Perfect if you’ve out in the fields all day working! These days a Cottage Pie is made with mince meat and every family with have it’s own spin on it!

I therefore wanted to share my version with you! I’ve taken the Cottage Pie my Mum would make us (which we are actually guilty of calling Shepherd’s Pie!) and added some extras in there. I could be wrong, but I think the reason my Mum never included these when I was a kid, was more because we didn’t like some of the ingredients, so she played it safe and kept it very basic.

I love adding sliced carrots, mushrooms and peas to my Cottage Pie and where I once used Worcestershire sauce (which is great!) I have found myself in a position one too many times where I have needed to find an alternative as it wasn’t always available. That’s where the Balsamic vinegar comes into play! I find that you get a delicious balance of sweet and sour with the Balsamic and it elevates the filling! My advice here is to use your best judgment and start with 1-2 Tbsp and then taste it near the end of it’s cooking time to see if you want to add more. You can run the risk of overpowering the filling if you add to much, especially if you’re adding at the end!

For the mash potato, I love hearing how my friends and family make theirs. Honestly, everyone has their own special way of making mash. Some add roasted garlic, crème fraîche, coconut milk, dairy free butter. Some rice the potatoes, others use an electric mashr (which was incredible and produced one of the best mash potatoes ever!). Some add cheese, chives, skin on, skin off. Honestly, the list goes on! So with the mash topping, do what you love…I would just say to make sure it isn’t too smooth and silky as you want it to hold its own on top of the mince meat and to bake nicely! Now you can also go all fancy here and pipe your mash onto your dish - this is great if you’re making individual ramekins, but I often don’t have time and just want to get it in the oven, onto the table and into my belly! But, you go and have fun!

In terms of what to serve with, we have always had ours with baked beans…and of course it has to be Heinz and extra Bisto gravy..there’s just nothing better! But, many people will serve with extra greens, again this is a personal preference as the pie is a whole meal in itself. Whatever warms your soul…for us..it’s baked beans and gravy.

Heartwarming Cottage Pie

Serves: 6 People

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes + 30-40 minutes in the oven

Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes



2-3 Tbsp Olive oil

1 White onion, diced

3 Medium Carrots, halved & sliced

1 Garlic clove, finely chopped

375g Beef mince

200g White mushrooms, cleaned & sliced

1 Tbsp Tomato paste

4 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp Bisto gravy + 600ml boiling water

100g Frozen peas

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/4 Tsp Pepper

Mash Potato

1kg Maris Piper potatoes, peeled & halved

100-200ml Whole milk

50g Salted butter


  1. Preheat your oven to 200℃/ 180℃ Fan. In a large frying pan, add olive oil and heat on medium for a couple minutes. Add the onions and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-low until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute until fragrant.

  2. Push the onion and carrots to the edge of the pan and add the beef mince. Use the back of your wooden spoon to break up the mince and increase the heat to medium high to brown off the meat. Stir to combine with the onions and carrots.

  3. Add the salt, pepper and tomato paste and give it another good stir until the paste has coated all the meat before adding in the mushrooms. Carefully mix everything together and with the heat increased slightly higher, pour in 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and leave to cook for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Pour in your 600ml of Bisto and ensure everything is well covered, reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you feel the mixture is too dry, add another splash of water but don’t add extra Bisto.

  5. With 10 minutes to go, add the frozen peas and check the seasoning. At this stage, if you want to have an extra sweetness, you can add an additional 1-2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. This should be to taste, but I love adding in both Tbsps!

  6. Meanwhile make your mash potato. Now every family will have their winning mash, but if you are a novice, then read ahead. In a large sauce, add the peeled and halved potatoes. Don’t cut them too small as they won’t mash well. Cover with boiling water from the kettle and season with a good pinch of salt.

  7. Boil until fork tender - this could be anywhere between 15-20 minutes depending on the potato size.

  8. Drain thoroughly and pour back into the saucepan. Add your butter bit by bit along with splashes of milk and using a potato masher, go in and mash those spuds! Continue to add butter and milk until your reach a fluffy consistency - you don’t want it too runny and if you like lumps then keep them there. Check the seasoning and add salt if needed, but if you’re using salted butter this might not be necessary.

  9. Take a deep oven proof dish and carefully pour the mince mixture into the bottom, creating an even layer.

  10. Spoon over your mash and ensure the entire dish is covered. Smooth out the top, then use a fork to create the groves - these will get lovely and crisp in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and slightly charred in places.

  11. Serve with additional greens, or how I love it…with baked beans and even more gravy!



  • You can prepare the Cottage Pie ahead of time, allow everything to cool and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. If you do this, you may need to allow 45-50 minutes for the Pie to be ready and to ensure the filling is completely cooked through and bubbly.

  • Leftovers taste delicious the next day and can be reheated in the microwave if it was originally baked straight away. Ensure the meat is piping hot before serving.

  • Switch out the Balsamic for Worcestershire Sauce, but go easy at first and adjust to taste!

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe to get recipes and more straight to your inbox!

© 2021 by The Rosemary Thymes. Cooked with a pinch of love from Italy & the UK 🇬🇧🇮🇹