Saturday, 4 February 2017

Cottage Pie (with Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker method)

Delicious, homely, comfort food for the whole family.

Who doesn't have a fond memory of eating home-cooked cottage pie as a child, on a cold winter's day? It's one of those quintessentially English dishes that most of us probably grew up enjoying around the table with the rest of the family.

This is my traditional family recipe with a splash of ale in the gravy and delicious buttery mash, that we love to enjoy together, usually at the weekend. And not only have you got the recipe for the indulgent version, I've given you a suggested alternatives tip to make an equally delicious skinny version from only 313 calories a portion!

Serves six, 580 calories per portion (based on maximum amounts of ingredients below, butter and cheese in the mash, and butter dotted on top. Adjust calories if grating cheese on top). If you only ate a smaller portion, i.e. an eighth, it would be 435 calories per portion.

If you want to make a skinny version and reduce the calories on this, use 10% fat beef mince, omit the cheese, use semi-skilled milk and half the butter in the mash, don't put butter on top and substitute half of the potatoes for either celeriac or swede and it will work out at 418 calories per portion between six, or 313 calories for an eighth. I would boil the swede separately as it can take much longer to become tender. A 140g portion of steamed or boiled green fine beans per person would be 35 calories each to serve on the side.

[Calories in square brackets for those counting]
  • 500g beef mince (I use organic, 15% fat, available in Sainsbury's) [1,160]
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp oil [124]
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped* [6]
  • 1 large onion, chopped* [41]
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped* [18]
  • 2 large carrots, chopped as you like* (275g) [72]
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme [1]
  • 200ml dark ale (or use red wine for Gluten Free) [81]
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if cooking GF, check suitable) [51]
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree [15]
  • 1 beef stock cube (e.g. Knorr is GF, I like the Touch of Taste bouillon) [25]
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp cornflour [36]
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper [1]

*To make life easier you can chop the garlic, onions and celery into large chunks, then finely chop all together in a food processor (pulse, or Thermomix 2 seconds / Speed 5, scrape and repeat for a second if necessary), remove, then do the same with the carrot.

For the mash
  • 1kg floury potatoes (e.g. Maris Piper, King Edward - or substitute some/all for your favourite root vegetables such as celeriac, swede, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips or butternut squash) [810]
  • 100-200ml whole milk [130]
  • 50g butter, plus extra to dot on top (around 25g, unless you're into grated cheese on top, see below!) [368+184]
  • 1 heaped tsp dijon mustard (e.g. Maille is GF), or English mustard (or to taste) [22]
  • Optional 80g strong cheddar, grated (plus optional extra to grate on top - you will need to add extra calories if so) for those who like to involve cheese with cottage pies! [333]
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper [1]
 Suggested Equipment
  • Large ovenproof dish - mine is approximately 7 inches by 9 inches


1. Saute the onion, celery and garlic together with 1/2 tbsp oil for a few minutes, until the onion is turning translucent, then add the carrots, bay leaves and thyme and continue to cook for another few minutes. Set aside. (If using the Instant Pot, you can set to the Saute function to do this. Turn off once finished cooking everything before cooking at pressure).

2. Add the other 1/2 tbsp oil to the pan, season the minced beef (keeping in a block if possible) and add to the pan. Leave to sizzle until browned, and then flip over and brown the other side. Then break down the mince with your spoon, cooking for another couple of minutes, add the vegetables back and mix together.

3. Add the ale and the Worcestershire sauce, and cook out for about 5 minutes, until reduced, stirring occasionally.

4. If cooking using a pressure cooker, add the tomato puree, stock cube, and 300ml hot water with a good grinding of black pepper, and set to cook at high pressure for 20 minutes, then leave to natural release for 15 minutes. Prepare the potato topping whilst it cooks (see below). For conventional cooking, add the same, plus an extra 200ml hot water (so 500ml hot water in total) and simmer on the hob for about 45 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the meat is tender, then thicken with cornflour as in step 5.

5. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6 / 200c / 180C Fan Oven. To finish the meat sauce, release any remaining pressure before removing the lid. There should not be too much liquid but you will need to reduce it a little by simmering for a few minutes (Instant Pot - set to Saute again to simmer), around five minutes or so. Mix 1/2 tbsp cornflour with a little cold water to form a thin paste, and stir into the simmering meat sauce. Allow to cook out for a minute, then add the other 1/2 tbsp if you want the gravy thicker. Turn on to Keep Warm if you haven't finished your mashed potatoes yet.

6. For the potato topping, peel and cube the potatoes (about and inch and a half square) and boil in salted water for 15-20 minutes or until very tender (they will fall off a knife if you stab one in). My preference is to heat half the milk with the butter until melted, and mix into the drained, mashed potatoes with the mustard. For best results, use the fine plate on a potato ricer to avoid lumps. Add the rest of the milk if needed, and the cheese if using and season to taste.

7. Put the meat sauce into the bottom of the ovenproof dish and then top with the mashed potato: either put spoonfuls all over then rough up with a fork, or pipe it on if you prefer. Dot with butter, or finely grate over some cheese if you're a fan of the cheesey topping (my preference is just butter!) and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown on top, and hot all the way through. Enjoy with a serving of green vegetables, and extra gravy if you like!

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