Internationally, British food often has a less than positive reputation but made in the right way, the stews and pies that form the foundation of British cuisine are healthy, satisfying and downright delicious. If you read my article on the food I ate in the UK on holiday last year (English Food - WOW!), you'll see that I was totally blown away by the fabulous fresh food we found there - so the bad reputation could soon be a thing of the past! Cottage pie is not a light meal, it is a hearty one that provides you with your meat, potato and numerous vegetables so it's perfect in cooler weather when you want to eat something substantial. Using lean mince (they call it steak mince here in Dubai) and including lots of vegetables also means that this is a very healthy meal - I've even made it with sweet potato mash on top instead of regular mashed potato which makes it even better for you since sweet potato is full of antioxidants.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
600g lean mince (I reckon on roughly 150g meat per person)
1 x onion (optional)
3 x medium potatoes (you can put more potato but I try to keep our starch levels down)
As much and whatever type of vegetables you like (whatever amount you would usually make for 4 people)
Bisto gravy granuals (this is optional and you could just use flour to thichen the sauce but I find Bisto easy and it adds a nice bit of taste and colour)
Red wine (optional)
Enough water to cover the mince
Salt, pepper and herbs as per your taste
Grated cheese (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Heat a pan with no oil, tip the mince in and brown it all over - drain off any juices that come out so the meat doesn't boil at this stage but keep the juices to put back in later.
3. Once the meat is all browned, add the chopped onion and some of the meat juices that you drained off.
4. When the onion has softened, add a mug of Bisto (300ml hot water and 2 teaspoons of granuals), any juices that you had drained off and enough red wine to cover the meat (or a mixture of red wine and water or just plain water).
5. Add herbs, salt and pepper, cover with a lid and bring to the boil.
6. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat so it is simmering and leave to cook for 30 minutes (or up to an hour if you have time). Keep the lid on or the liquid will boil off and you won't have any sauce.
7. Chop the potatoes into large chunks, put in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil - lower the heat to a simmer once it's boiling or the potatoes will all break up and become watery.
8. Once the potatoes are cooked through (if you can put a fork through them easily then they are done - usually about 15-20 minutes), drain them, return them to the pan and mash them with some butter, milk (if you want them more creamy) and salt to taste.
9. When the potatoes are almost ready, cook the vegetables in a little oil and some water in a large pan - as they cook they will release liquid so cooking them in with the meat dilutes the gravy which is why I cook them separately.
10. Tip the meat into a casserole dish (check the seasoning and adjust if necessary), drain the vegetables and then mix them into the meat, finally cover everything with the mashed potato and put in the oven for at least 30 minutes.
11. If you like cheese, you can sprinkle some grated cheese on top just before serving and then put it under the grill for a minute.