There’s nothing as warming or hearty as a good cottage pie. It’s a recipe that lends itself to be improvised and is always satisfying to make and of course eat.

When it comes to Shepherds pie vs Cottage pie I think we can all agree that it makes logical sense, for the first to refer a dish made with lamb, and that by long custom, the second has come to suggest beef, but it seems both of these dishes appear in print with allsorts of variations of ingredients, but essentially they always produce a meat pie that that is swathed in a rich gravy and entombed beneath a thick layer of mashed potato.

From a food history point of view Shepherd’s pie appears to have been quite the new kid on the block in the battle between Cottager and Shepherd, making its print debut in the late 19th century, while that great chronicler of the inconsequential, Parson Woodforde makes reference to a Cottage Pye made with beef in his diary of 1791.

When it comes to making a traditional cottage pie you can forget about popping to the butchers and asking for a 1lb of best beef mince, for originally, cottage pie was a way of stretching out the Sunday roast leftovers. It’s well worth enjoying a joint of roast beef for your Sunday dinner, for not only will you be able to enjoy cold cuts for sandwiches and salads, but you’ll be able to make a warm and comforting cottage pie for when you get home on a miserable Monday.

Top Tip

We tend to think that Cottage Pie should be made with minced beef and this is down to a misinterpretation of old recipes; originally in English cookery ‘mincing’ , meant to chop something with a knife. So no more grey, watery mince we want gratifyingly chopped pieces of beef. We don’t want to go for hunks, just nice pea sized morsels.

When it comes to Mash


A smooth mash partners better with the meat filling, so it is a must to peel those spuds! Keep the mash plain and smooth, just some simple seasoning is enough, there is no need to lavish it in cheese or Mediterranean seasoning.

Perfect Cottage Pie Recipe


1kg floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled
150g butter
Knob of beef dripping
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
600g cold leftover beef, chopped into small pieces
350ml good quality beef stock
1 tsp corn flour

2 tbsp. red wine
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce or mushroom ketchup

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Cut your potatoes into evenly sized chunks, and put in a large pan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
  • Meanwhile, heat the dripping, in a pan over a moderate heat, then add the vegetables. Soften, but do not brown.
  • Add the thyme, and then the beef. Brown it all over, and then add half the stock. Whisk the remaining stock with the corn flour, and then stir into the meat mixture.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce and wine and allow to simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and mash with a generous knob of butter. Season to taste. (Do not be tempted to add milk to your mash as if the mash becomes too moist or rich it will ‘melt’ into the gravy laden filling underneath.)
  • Taste and season the meat, adding more Worcestershire sauce or wine if necessary. If it looks dry, pour in a little water.
  • Put the meat into a large oven-proof baking dish and top with the potato. For a nice crispy top, run a fork over the top. Dot with small pieces of butter.
  • Put into the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the potato is crisp and slightly brown, then serve.

Bon appétit! The good old fashioned classics really do make the best of leftovers!

About Seren Charrington-Hollins

Food has always been of great importance to Seren and despite her being renowned for her historical recipe recreations, her culinary skills were not honed, in the kitchens of top restaurants, but in the home kitchen from the age of being able to hold a wooden spoon. When Seren was born her mother was taken ill and so she spent her early years being cared for by her grandmother, Minnie. This was to prove instrumental in the development of Seren’s love of cooking, for her grandmother was an accomplished cook, who’s kitchen was always awash with terrine’s, home-made pastry and traditional puddings. Minnie’s love of good food and her zest for life meant Seren’s childhood was filled with days of hedgerow picking, baking, traditional preserving and cooking recipes from the depths of a family copy of, Mrs. Beeton. She learned from an early age how to make Victorian puddings alongside elaborate noble pies and perhaps this explains her love of pastry making and the reason she won an accolade from The Great British Pie Awards this year. Today Seren has great skill in bringing historical food to life and making it accessible and understandable to the modern cook and diner. Her enthusiasm and love of historical food and British cooking is evident in her presentations and she loves to revive forgotten recipes. She recently took part in ITV1’s Country House Sunday and has given live cookery demonstrations across the country at food festivals, historical houses and castles. Trained as a herbalist and nutritionist, she has a deep understanding of improving health through food. Her interest in historic remedies and herbal folklore eventually extended to researching British food history, and reignited her early passion for cooking. Fifteen years on and Seren has amassed extensive knowledge and is now renowned for her historical food recreations and interpretations. Seren’s interest in food history does not just extend to old recipes and cooking techniques, but to ingredients and manufacturers. From the age of fourteen Seren has collected food and drink packaging from early Victorian to the 1960’s. Her collection is now extensive and provides a wonderful snapshot in time that accompanies her vast knowledge of the development of British food and drink companies throughout history. She also has a huge collection of antique kitchenalia and moulds which she uses to replicate historical recipes and portray past eras. Her training in herbalism and nutrition has not been wasted for despite her merits as a food historian and period cook she also delights in creating British Classic dishes for those with food allergies and intolerances (such as gluten and dairy intolerant). Her botanical knowledge has made her a keen wild food educator and forager that lends unusual as well as historical twists to all her cooking. There are also many points at which food and medicine intertwine throughout history and Seren is able to portray these developments and has also undertaken a lot of research into the British spice trade. To Seren historical food is not a job, but a way of life. Visit Seren's blog: Serenity Kitchen