Bologna to Bolognese: Adventures With Food

Food is necessary. Food is fun. Food is an adventure!

My name is Shannon and this is my adventure, my love affair with food.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comforting Cottage Pie

Just the name Cottage Pie stirs up memories of cozy pubs with a roaring wood fire and a good pint of local brew. In honor of St. Patrick's day I dusted off one of my all time favorite comfort foods and gave it a lovely Irish twist.

Cottage pie dates back to the late 1700s and was a way to use up leftover stewed meat. Typically this dish was found in more humble households where potatoes were used to make it a more filling and inexpensive meal.

You may know this dish as Shepard's Pie but that term didn't crop up until the next century. Since then there has been some tendency to affiliate Shepard's Pie with the dish when it is made with lamb or mutton and cottage pie when it is made with beef. Personally I like that way of differentiating and use it myself, though if you travel in Ireland you may find this dish referred to as either Shepard's Pie or Cottage Pie regardless of what it's made of.

Regardless of what you call it this comfort food is always wonderful and easy to make. The recipe I'm giving you today is the lazy man's version. If you have the time I encourage you to use fresh ingredients, but if not this can be easily whipped up in 45 minutes to an hour. What's the Irish twist you ask? A pint of Guinness of course!  I took a note from good Irish stew and used Guinness Stout to build my gravy instead of beef broth alone.

 Cottage Pie

(serves 8)

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 ribs of celery, chopped
1 16 oz bag of frozen vegetables
1 24oz bag of steam and mash potatoes
1 15 oz can of Guinness stout
1-2 cups beef broth
1 tsp crushed bay leaves
1 tsp ground sage
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
flour (for the gravy)
2 cups of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese


Make mashed potatoes according to package directions and set aside for later use. (I also added some cream to smooth out the texture and flavor). In a large saucepan begin browning the meat. When most of the fat has cooked out pour it off and add the chopped onion and celery and seasonings. Saute until the vegetables are clear. Add the frozen vegetables and some of the beef broth and some of the beer. (work in 1/4 cup increments tasting as you go. You are building your gravy so you will want to make sure it is not too thin and that the beer does not overwhelm the meat.) As you add the liquid occasionally dust some flour over the contents of the pan and stir well to thicken the gravy. I used about 1 tbsp of flour, 1 cup of broth and 1/2 of the can of Guinness. Once you have the gravy to your liking pour the contents into your baking dish and drizzle the Worcestershire sauce across the top. De glaze the pan with a bit more broth or beer (just enough to get the good browned bits off) and pour over mixture. Top with shredded cheese and top that with the mashed potatoes. Smooth the potatoes to the edges of the baking dish and run a fork across it in lines to make a nice ridged pattern. Bake in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and the dish is warmed through. Serve and enjoy!  (I should note that the cheese is not traditional but it is so well liked in my house that I often include it. Additionally, should you not care for the flavor of the stout you can use straight beef broth or even a nice red wine.)

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