Cottage pie for a rainy day

I love English food. Unfortunately, most English people I have met ,since I arrived in 1998, are completely dismissive of their heritage and I find this strange to say the least.

I cannot think of a better dish to lighten up a grey cold rainy day than a good old fashion pie and so, you will see quite a few of those popping up on this blog rather soon as it would appear that the weather has turn back to autumn mode.

The first one I want to cook is Cottage Pie. The name is related to the type of meat: beef. By the way, Sheppard’s pie, on the other hand, has lamb. Let this be lesson one on pies lovely (fellow foreign) people.

Years ago, I read a book by Adolf Loos which is called ‘Ornament and crime’. In this book, he praised English/ British cooking and style for its straight forward manner, comparing the roast beef with the creamy elaborated alternatives of his homeland… It is a good book so I encourage you to read it as although it is about architecture, architecture is everywhere.

As a foreigner I too can see the appeal of good ingredients and simple cooking and as a result, I cannot understand why the people of the land have insisted for so long on looking abroad for inspiration.

Since I first arrived a lot has improved, thankfully , and there has been a major attempt to encourage people to look at what they have around and appreciate it. If anything good could be taken from the recession, my guess would be that not having money to travel abroad, some may begin to enjoy the many opportunities that the country has to offer…and about time too.

Cooking time: 30 minutes + 30 minutes baking time
Quantity: This mix makes 4 portions


1. If you can buy the meat at a butcher. Choose the best cut you can for stewing and ask the butcher to mince it.

Be careful at the supermarket as you might get much more fat that you bargain for.

2. I like adding a bit of sherry to my version. I use oloroso for cooking but choose cold Manzanilla for aperitif with olives, Amontillado to accompany meaty dishes, and either Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez for dessert time.

Sherry (or Jerez in Spanish) is amazing. Don’t believe the myths of it been a granny drink. Try it and you will see for yourself.

3. A great English secret is the Worcester sauce, which will add a certain touch to the dish which will make it taste authentic.

4. I love English mustard, but i mix it with French in this recipe to keep the balance as I don’t generally have dry powder mustard around.


Meat mix
1 medium size onion cut in small pieces
3 garlic cloves sliced
2 table spoon of olive oil
3 table spoon of plain flour
1 tea spoon of grainy french mustard
1 tea spoon of English mustard
500 ml of good quality chicken stock (not too salty)

2 table spoon of olive oil
500 gr mince meat (beef)

1 tea spoon of pepper
2 table spoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 table spoons of Oloroso Sherry
Pinch of maldon salt, optional

600gr of small new potatoes
3 table spoons of olive oil
100 gr of double cream
4 spring onions chopped finely

Cooking Instructions:

Place the potatoes (whole) in a pan full of cold water and boil until you can pierce them with a sharp knife. Keep the lid on it as it will be a more efficient use of the heat.

Place 1 spoon of olive oil on a pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat until softened.

In a separate pan brown the mince by adding 2 table spoons of oil to the pan and then frying the meat until brown. 

When the onions and garlic are softened, add to that mix the flour and the mustard and mix together. Then incorporate the chicken stock slowly until the mix thickens. 

Once it is a smooth, lump less, gravy, cook for 3 extra minutes.

Add the meat onto the gravy and mix together. Add the pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Sherry and cook for further 3 minutes. Taste and , only if you need, add salt.

Preheat the oven at 190 degree Celsius, gas mark 5.

Roughly by the time you complete this, the potatoes should be boiled. Stop the fire, remove the water and peel the skin off. Be careful with your hands as they will be hot.

In a new bowl, mash the potatoes ad add 3 table spoons of oil, spring onions and 100 gr of double cream. Mix this well together.

I like to pass this potato mix through the blender as the mix will be silkier but I can bet that this would not be a success with the locals… So up to you.

Lay the meat on the base of an oven proof dish and top up with the potato mix. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top layer turns golden.

Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate 

Recipe by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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