Shepherd’s pie (if it’s made with lamb) or cottage pie (if it’s made with beef) are pub favorites in Britain. They’re favorites in our house, too. The ingredients are straightforward, and the recipes are pretty simple. But they do take a lot of time and effort, especially with the mashed potatoes. You scrub, peel, cube, boil, and rice the potatoes. Then you mix them with butter and milk or cream. Finally you layer them over the meat mixture and bake.
It occurred to me that maybe there was a simpler way to deal with the potatoes. Another family favorite is smashed garlic potatoes where you boil russet potatoes in their skins and then mash them coarsely with butter and garlic so they still have lots of lumps, the bane of any self-respecting silky mashed potato. A little egg to bind them together and they might make a tasty – and easy – topping for cottage or shepherd’s pie. I thought I would give it a try. Here’s the result.
Lazy Man’s Cottage Pie
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 6 snacking peppers, seeded and sliced into thin rings
- 6 crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup beef stock + more as needed
- ½ teaspoon ground thyme
- ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup half-and-half
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- melted butter for top
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and stir, cooking until they are translucent but not browned. Add the ground beef, breaking up any large pieces. Stir frequently until the beef is lightly browned and all pink is gone. Stir in the peppers and mushrooms and cook for another few minutes until the peppers are wilted and the mushrooms are lightly browned and cooked through.
- Stir in the flour to cover all the other ingredients and cook for another few minutes until the oil is absorbed and the flour is cooked through. Add the beef stock and stir to make a gravy. Add stock until the gravy is the consistency that suits you.
- Add the thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Adjust the seasoning and cook a few more minutes. Then transfer to a well-buttered oven-proof dish (a large soufflé dish is perfect) and set aside until you are ready to add the potatoes.
- While you are preparing the meat filling, place the unpeeled potatoes in a large pot of well-salted water and bring to the boil. Boil the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a kitchen fork with no resistance. This may take as long as 50-60 minutes.
- Remove the boiled potatoes from the heat and drain. Cool enough that you can handle them easily. Mash the potatoes coarsely with a large fork or a potato masher, Leave large chunks. Stir in the butter, half-and-half, and eggs. Cool the potatoes enough that the eggs don’t scramble.
- Cover the meat mixture with the potatoes, brush the top with melted butter, and bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400° for about 45 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and bubbling.
- Remove to a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes. Serve while still warm. Should serve 4 persons.